Jay Abi-Saad graduated from Jean-de-Brébeuf’s college and is pursuing his academic career in computer engineering at the prestigious McGill university.
What would be the main difference between CEGEP and university?
The main difference is the availability of teachers. At Brébreuf, teachers would always meet with you if you schedule a meeting. Also, the help that they gave you was biased, because they are the ones who write their exams. Now, at McGill, teachers barely have time for us, because they have lives, personal projects and even second jobs sometimes, so it’s hard to meet them. On top of all that, they’re not the ones who write the exams, so the help isn’t always as useful as you’d like it to be. Once you leave CEGEP, you are on your own.
For someone that studied all his life in French, is suddenly changing to English an extra difficulty and challenge?
The capacity of one to adapt is specific to the person. Personally, I was terrified at first, but after a week I felt way more comfortable in English. The terminologies are different and it is an extra challenge, but the translation is a one-time job. Once you get your diploma, having studied in English will be so useful for your future. Don’t be scared, it’s easier than what it seems like.
What would be a mistake that you did during CEGEP and that you regret?
Comparing myself to others and not helping myself enough. Instead of setting myself personal goals and focusing on reaching them, I was trying to reach the most popular goal - to be the best student- because of the ‘brain wash’ we all got at the beginning of CEGEP. Everyone told us we had to fight for our place and that we had to beat everyone at all costs. It felt like the Hunger Games, until I realized that if I focused on personal goals and compete with myself, I’d end up where I wanted to be. Also, I saw a lot of students lie to themselves. Stop it right now before it’s too late. If you’re forced into a program and your grades aren’t good enough, you must admit to yourself that it’s not for you. Take control of your future and do the thing that you like, and the thing in which you will feel valued, important and will succeed. No one wants to come back in 10 years to start all over.
Is there anything you’d like to say that could help current CEGEP students?
Your ITAs (Individual Teaching Aid) are here to help you, but they are three for a thousand students. They can’t give you a lot of their time. Don’t base your future on the 10-15 minutes they give you at the beginning of your semester. Help yourself! If you need information about what you need to get in your program, just call some universities and ask. That’s what I did and there was always someone who answered the phone and gave me all the answers I needed. I don’t know if it’s psychological, but I felt safer knowing that my information came directly from an university. Consider CEGEP as the best experience to develop a time-managing ability and self-discipline, so use it! Start studying a little everyday. Also, close your cell-phone when you study, and you will see the magic that it will do. Sadly, only one out of three students will graduate from the faculty of engineering of McGill. To increase your chance of being in that minority, you should start working on your study techniques now. Good luck to everyone, I hope to see you in the next year or two on McGill’s campus!