Why uOttawa was right for me, even in a pandemic: Reflections of a recent graduate

Posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Madison Sim

By Madison Sim, BSocSc, minor in political science, French immersion and minor in French as a second language (2020)

As someone with a passion for languages and culture, growing up in a predominantly anglophone community in southwestern Ontario had always left me with an appetite for greater cultural diversity. The University of Ottawa opened that door for me.

Choosing a university was one of the easiest decisions I ever had to make. I had been telling my parents since the start of high school that the University of Ottawa was where I wanted and needed to be. My desire to be a Gee-Gee was fuelled by many things, but mostly by my bilingualism. uOttawa is the largest bilingual (French-English) university in the world, and I wanted to be a part of that.

The positive impact of language studies at uOttawa

As a bilingual institution, uOttawa offers students the unique opportunity to study in either of Canada’s official languages. I wanted to earn a degree in a field I was passionate about while continuing to enhance my knowledge of the French language. So, there was no question in my mind that after fourteen years of studying in French Immersion, I would continue at the university level as well. Little did I know that three-and-a-half years later, Spanish and German would also be added to my repertoire of languages!

In addition to promoting bilingualism, the University of Ottawa provides opportunities for global connections by offering a dozen other international language courses. Though the added stress of linguistic barriers can make for more challenging studies, I never doubted that I could succeed thanks to all the academic resources and social opportunities available on campus. Not only did I feel supported in language studies, I also felt actively encouraged.

Our nation’s capital also offers endless cultural activities and opportunities. There is no better language-learning experience than studying and living in a city where you can directly apply what you learn to your surroundings.

Multilingualism helps us communicate with people and gain insight into different points of view, which in turn improves our understanding of the world.

My time spent at uOttawa and my language studies have contrinuted to my professional and personal growth. It is not the knowledge nor the degree that I will cherish most, but rather the intangible, human experiences that will continuously shape the way that I live my life going forward.

About being a COVID graduate

If someone had told me at the start of my academic career, or even a few months ago, that we would be graduating from behind a computer screen, I would have never believed them. And I’m sure the rest of the Class of 2020 would agree with me. Graduating during a pandemic is obviously less than ideal and we have all had to make compromises—some of us more than others.

For many of us, as students and definitely as graduates, it is as if our life stories have been put on pause—a long pause. But life will resume and we will get to the next chapter of our stories. It probably won’t be exactly as we had planned, but we will adapt, and things will fall back into place. Even though my academic career ended in an unexpected way, it doesn’t diminish anything that I have accomplished.

Though some of my peers are calling this year a write-off and cancelled, I prefer to view 2020 as a turning point, a catalyst for our future. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are living in a time that will have a global impact for years to come. We do not need to have it all figured out.

My advice is to simply take things one day at a time, but to be intentional. We are just now heading out into the world where the possibilities are still quite literally endless.

Perhaps you are starting your time at uOttawa or, like me, your academic journey is coming to a close. Though the future appears uncertain, we will adjust to what is being so aptly coined the “new normal.” Inspired by the spirit of our alma mater, we will rise to the challenges and seize the opportunities to fulfill our full collective potential.

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