Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Alumni Chronicles: Libraries, Lincoln, And Language in Montreal

This is the second post in the Alumni Chronicles series.  Deryn Cro, Verrazano Class of 2012, studied English Literature and History at the College of Staten Island before heading north to attend graduate school in Montreal, Canada.  Deryn shares what life has been like since moving to Montreal and starting her graduate program last summer.
Deryn enjoying a Canadian pastime.

What is a new college graduate to do when the job market is looking bleak, the government seems ready to implode, and the economy has not yet recovered? Why, the same thing hundreds of Americans do every year - escape to Canada! Oh Canada, our mysterious neighbors (neighbours) to the north; a land of free healthcare, poutine, weird British spelling, and plastic money. 

I first began considering my move to the great white north when looking into Library Science programs. I applied to several schools in the US as well as McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, (some would argue this is not “real” Canada, but that’s another post entirely). I wound up picking McGill for a lot of different reasons but mostly because it was in Canada and it was cheap. I would go into detail about the cost of tuition in Canada and how their student loans system works, but honestly you would just get depressed. Unfortunately, though, when making my decision I didn’t think to factor in winter weather conditions. Despite the frigid temperatures and seemingly endless snowfall, I have been enjoying my time in Montreal and at McGill immensely. 

McGill Campus

View from Mont Royal

McGill has a gorgeous campus right at the foot of Mont Royal yet still well within the heart of downtown Montreal. This means that one can take advantage of Mont Royal’s expansive park and recreational activities or just as easily head down the hill for some shopping. There always seems to be something going on around the campus. On my first day as an official McGill student, I walked past the McGill Quidditch team practicing for an upcoming match and immediately knew this was where I was supposed to be. While I must admit that library school classes are sometimes boring, I was able to get a job in the Rare Books and Special Collections department, which has been a nice break from the tedious classes. Their collection is immense and quite eclectic and I love coming across weird items while working. In fact, the department has a large collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia donated by an alumnus who happened to be a Lincoln enthusiast. This includes several quite creepy looking busts of Lincoln. Working in the Rare Books department has allowed me to get more practical experience while in school. This is something I would definitely encourage anyone interested in getting an MLIS to do.     

When not in class or studying (which, let’s face it, is a lot of the time) I have been exploring Montreal and everything it has to offer. What struck me the most when I first moved up here is how much it is like NYC. I have heard Montreal referred to as the Paris of North America, but besides the very touristy, very overrated Old Port, Montreal is a true modern North American city. Culturally speaking, though, Montreal definitely has some European flair to it - it has to be that French influence, I suppose. In fact, the ability to speak French comes in handy when living in Montreal. Personally I have a love/hate relationship with the French language. The fact that I can now say bonjour to a store clerk and not have them immediately switch to English is a pretty big deal. However, my lack of fluency means that it would be difficult to find a job in Montreal after graduating, so I am trying to take advantage of everything Montreal going on while I can. Of course Canada is a big country so I may stay up here and “canuk” around a little longer. 

Montreal City Hall

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