Reflecting On My Time at McGill

Our work study communications assistant Sihan Wang reflects back on her time at McGill pursuing her MISt in Information Studies.

As I step into my final term at McGill in MISt of Information Studies (Project), I can't help but reminisce about the day I received that life-changing letter of acceptance to my dream university. It feels like yesterday when I was grappling with rejection letters, unsure career paths, and battling imposter syndrome. Being able to study and do research at McGill has always been my dream during my time as an undergraduate in Ottawa. As someone who was born and raised in China, I remember facing significant hurdles in my first few years in Canada, largely attributed to a complex blend of linguistic, cultural, and systemic challenges.

Language barriers are one of the primary obstacles; I was overwhelmed by Literature and philosophy classes since they are mandatory for Arts major students. It typically took me double the amount of time to read and write. Culturally, academic expectations and norms vary widely, which means I had to adapt to different styles of communication, argumentation, and interaction. I pushed myself very hard to practise my speaking, academic writing and even sacrificed significant aspects of my social life in Ottawa in order to achieve these improvements. Looking back, the past two years at McGill have been the richest of my life in terms of knowledge, appreciation, building confidence, and connecting/reconnecting with important people after the foundation I built during my undergrad.

student standing outside of building entrance
Sihan outside the School of Information Studies

The initial motivation for choosing the Information Studies program as my graduate study is that it encompasses the exploration, organization, and dissemination of knowledge across various fields. In an era dominated by information overload, the ability to effectively manage, analyze, and utilize information has become indispensable. Plus it equips me with the skills necessary to navigate the vast digital landscape, critically evaluate sources, and discern credible information from misinformation. Being surrounded by some of the finest minds in Information management and UX research and academia has been awe-inspiring for me. Each day, learning alongside peers from diverse corners of the globe, I'm reminded of the power of collective knowledge and shared experiences.

The beautiful and culturally vibrant of McGill has unleashed the real me in so many ways. During my two years in attending the university as a student in the heart of Montreal I can safely say that my spirit has come to a full bloom. Maybe it was because my former self was too eager to move here, so I kept the best in my study, work and life in general (mentally and physically). I appreciate my time in Ottawa and what I did with it, because it helped make me who I became here at McGill.

The Arts degree offers me a rich and multifaceted educational experience that can prepare me for a wide range of personal, academic, and professional pursuits. Studying in Arts and Social Science has transformed me into a complex and interesting person. I am not anxious about the discussion of "career path as an Arts student" because I have never stopped cultivating and pursuing multifaceted skills, including critical thinking, writing, researching, and leadership. I view my 20s as a decade where I acquire tools and become much more valuable as a proactive and reliable team player both in my academics and in my professional endeavours. Whether I am majoring in Communications and Media as an undergraduate or Information Studies (User Experience Design) as a master, the most important lesson my humanities background has taught me is that I need to apply the knowledge to serve my own self-growth, to be more focused on my own path and embrace possibilities as well as risks. Most importantly, to be open and tolerant towards multiculturalism because this is a strength in our community, to be curious about things, and not be afraid of challenges.

As another form of art expression, dance also added a very special dimension to my life at McGill. My journey into the world of Latin dance has been nothing short of transformative and has reshaped my perspective and lifestyle in profound ways. Before moving to Montreal, I've always felt too introverted or out of place in the world of dance. Later, I took salsa and bachata classes for an intense year and joined Salseros McGill as VP Communications. I was so grateful for this opportunity and treated this student volunteer role like a serious full time job (which went beyond my expectations!) I still remember at the end of August 2023, I submitted both my resume and cover letter explaining how I qualify for this role both in professional communication skills and high level dancing skills. And I must say, developing incredibly amazing friendships with Salseros VP teams is one of my best memories. Everyone was dedicated to their work and it was the first time I truly felt the power of collaboration and “doing things that liaise your passion” - we prepared different level classes for students and hosted so many successful social dance events. I personally believe latin dance is creating reality instead of escaping from reality. In other words, besides a series of steps and rhythms, it’s a gateway to self-discovery, cultural appreciation, and personal growth. It teaches me to communicate without words, to express myself with confidence, and to connect with others on a deeper level. I learned that it’s never too late to step out of your comfort zone and let your inner rhythm guide you.

I would like to say to myself who came to McGill two years ago that what you've wished to become a better version of yourself has come true. It includes better self-expression, creativity, confidence and your sense of self. You should feel prepared for this chapter following graduation and excited to see the different possibilities that lie ahead.

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