My Experience Moving Out of the States at 18

Did you know that 15 per cent of Concordia’s student population is made up of international students? That means 15 per cent of Concordia’s students come from countries all across the world, and each year are adjusting to the Canadian culture and Montreal lifestyle. Coming from the United States, I honestly didn’t think there would be a huge change. After all, Canada and the States aren’t wildly different. Everyone back home always told me “Well, it’s just Canada” when I expressed any unease about moving. But many fail to consider that it’s also around 600 miles from the people and city that I knew and loved.

I was lucky to spend my first year in a student residence. Although I had many negative experiences there, it made the transition from living with my parents to living on my own smoother. The dining hall food was extremely subpar, yet food and grocery shopping was one less thing I had to worry about. I had a private room, yet I could knock on my friends’ doors whenever I wanted someone to drink coffee with. The RAs were there to answer any questions we had about university or residence. Everyone I met in residence was either an international or out-of-province student, so I never felt alone with all the changes that were occurring in my life. I met a great group of friends in residence, many of whom I still talk to and hang out with today!

 

I was also lucky to be moving to a city where the culture was very familiar. The city I’m from is 30 minutes from the Canadian border, so Canada was no stranger to me. I had also visited Montreal many times, so I thought I was prepared to live there. However, moving there felt different. The first few weeks were wonderful: I walked to Indigo multiple times a week to buy new books for my bare dorm bookshelves. I explored all the local coffee shops. I eagerly studied for my new classes. But after a few weeks of settling in, Montreal lost its charm. The city I used to love turned extremely normal. Everything seemed average. I felt out of place and awkward and painfully American.

 

I tried to remain positive and remind myself that I was living the life I had dreamed of for so long. Exploring Montreal’s neighborhoods with a friend I met at residence helped immensely. We took on a new (and very expensive) hobby of exploring trendy cafes and parks. Since we were both from American suburbia, we both understood feeling a little out of place in the city. I also met a friend in class who I became very close with, and eventually convinced me to join a sorority. When I decided to go through the recruitment process in the winter semester, I found myself feeling much more at home. I instantly made so many new friends, and many of them had lived in Montreal their whole life. They were so happy to show me around their hometown, and while discovering new places and bonding with more friends, I fell in love with the city again. I think it’s the people you meet who make you feel at home.

 

Last spring when I was flying from Windsor to Montreal, the lady in the seat next to me said it was pretty “badass” that I moved to another country at 18. I instantly disagreed with her, thinking of how anxious I get when I grocery shop alone or how I still need to call my mom when I do laundry because I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. But then it sunk in, and I thought about what she said. It is pretty cool that I live and study in downtown Montreal, and that I have my very own apartment with a roommate, and I’m only 19. I get to wake up in my favourite city and study what I love every single day. There are still days I miss driving my car, watching the Michigan sunset, and the smell of the local Barnes & Noble cafe. Every day I miss being in the same country as my family, my cats, and my high school friends. Yet I wouldn’t trade my life in Montreal for the world.