I had quite a few posts scheduled throughout March and April. But things did not go according to plan for any of us this year it seems, because of the COVID19 pandemic. Nevertheless, I thought it may be a good idea to tell people how my life has actually changed since the pandemic, and how my host university responded.
Obviously, it came as a shock to everybody. At McGill, we had a week of spring break, during which people either travelled around, went home or tried to study for remaining midterms. After the break, everybody returned to class on the 9th of March…and on the 12th it was announced that classes were cancelled for the next day and a new decision would follow. Soon enough, McGill cancelled teaching for the next 2 weeks, including midterms, with the goal to transfer everything online by the end of the 2-week period. This was quite a lot to register, and only in a couple of days.
That was a change in academic plans, but soon a change in the way we carried ourselves day-by-day came. The campus became empty, and so did downtown. Students I knew of realised soon enough that this wasn’t time off, and insecurity, maybe panic for some, started to hit. Countries started to close their borders, exchange students were recalled back, and my accommodation started to empty. People were leaving at a day’s notice. At first, I was thinking of staying in my old accommodation, but the international situation, coupled with other personal reasons, made me rethink everything. No decision was easy, considering that I still had deadlines to respect for when teaching would resume.
The change was apparent not only in the lives of students, but also throughout the city, although I’m mostly referring to downtown Montreal. I was only leaving my home to go out for necessary groceries, but the change was hard to miss. The campus was empty, places were starting to close down, people were missing from the busy streets. You can imagine how different that was, compared to the city I got used to.
As for the way McGill handled the situation, I was happy that my semester wasn’t that much affected. Most of the course organisers were in touch with us several times (it was not always easy with teaching, as decisions about what could be done or not throughout the 2 weeks came gradually). Also, most of my professors were really understanding and extended the deadline for our essays too. Later, some of my courses resumed lectures through Zoom, whilst others opted to upload lecture videos on our platform and host a Q&A session later. Further, final exams went according to plan but changed format to become take-home open-book exams, which we had 72h to complete.
Now, I’m waiting for my exam results, and I’m trying to rethink my entire summer and approach to learning. My entire McGill experience was one of the most amazing I’ve had and I cannot yet believe that it is over, especially in this way. Saying goodbye to people is never easy, especially when you’ve became such great friends. I still don’t know how everything shall turn out but I hope that Edinburgh students will in the future get to experience what Montreal and McGill have to offer. Until then, I encourage everyone to stay home, stay safe and follow guidance from their authorities.
See you soon.
P.S. I thought long and hard if I want to still publish the posts I had planned before the pandemic, and I might, but only when the situation is improving. This is because although most of them relate how my life was on exchange before the pandemic, most of our attention should be centred around people who need it the most now.