Final Refrains: An Essay, as Written on the First Morning of my Last Month on my Year Abroad
You know when you’re at the cinema, or a concert, or a play or musical and you’ve been there for long enough that you know the end must be coming sooner or later, and the music is coming full circle and you hear those final refrains, in a recurring melody or a repeated snatch of song, and you think ‘ah, here it is, then’?
Maybe that’s just me, but I woke up quite early this morning and I swear I can feel them coming.
To be clear, this is not the final curtain. I have one more month. However, my phone just popped up with a calendar reminder for the ‘Official End of McGill’, and that is my final refrain. I scheduled that event way back when I was gaping at McGill semester dates and wondering how on earth I was going to make it all the way through to the 29th of April. It feels, as most people I’ve talked to agree with, like a lifetime. An absolute lifetime ago I was saying goodbye to my home, and family and friends and feeling as if I was losing something. Yet here I am, 9 months later, feeling exactly the same, just in reverse.
That ‘Official End of McGill’ marks the end of many friendships that, sadly, I won’t be able to keep up. Relationships with fellow students, professors, academics, food, a whole way of life, even, that I probably won’t have again. There are still things I’m discovering, and I’m stunned to now know I may not have the time. If I thought leaving Edinburgh for a year was an ultimate tragedy; whew. It does not even come close.
I owe a lot of thanks to my university for making an academic year away absolutely worth it. McGill is a university very much deserving of praise, despite the 8.30am starts and tendency to do building works at completely inopportune times. The academic body is engaged and dynamic, and my courses have only widened my love and appreciation for my university degree and the study of history. Montreal, equally, is a city deserving of praise. It’s busy yet quiet, hipster yet mainstream, full of art and colour and celebration. This is a city where people care about things. What’s sad is that I don’t envision being back, and that only illustrates just how important a year abroad experience is. It genuinely is once-in-a-lifetime.
I don’t deal well with goodbyes, but even just for my own personal record, I feel all this does need to be said. I won’t miss my tiny, cluttered bedroom, or the silly road laws, or the homesickness, or the constant shifting between two of everything. I will miss McGill, Montreal, and who I have gotten to be here.
To anyone reading this because they want to know what a year abroad is like: DO IT. You’re combining the freedom of a gap year with it all still contributing towards your degree. Go anywhere that you want to go, use the time to fulfil some personal goals, become bilingual, make some new friends. And don’t care about how well you’re doing at it or that you haven’t made enough friends or that you’re not having enough fun. My year abroad made this whole year better than the last. And I expect, because of it, next year will be better too. And the year after that, and the year after that.
Isn’t that what life is about, in the end? Making each day better than the last?