A Love Letter to My Alma Mater

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This week I stepped down as the co-president of the McGill Alumni Association of Toronto (MAAT). I don’t live in Canada let alone Toronto anymore, so it made sense to pass the mantle to the next capable pair of hands (Joya and Umaid, you two rock!) after staying on an extra year due to the pandemic. Somehow I found myself quite emotional as I attended my last meeting as co-president with our amazing board online.

If you have spent any amount of time with me, you would know that McGill and Montreal are a huge part of my identity. I still have my 514 cell phone number, the only one I have ever had. Before the pandemic forced the longest lockdown worldwide on us in Toronto, I used to go to Montreal several times a year for events and of course the annual pilgrimage to Osheaga. With the MAAT, we had a variety of events throughout the years including a few epic McGill 24s and holiday parties. When I moved to Toronto in 2012, the MAAT welcomed me with open arms, and I loved it so much that became a board member and eventually joined the executive team alongside my favorite co-president Jamie Lee. I truly hope that throughout the five years in various roles in the alumni chapter, I passed it on better than I found it.

I arrived in Montreal as a goofy international student with a weird accent and lots of lessons to learn. It was the first year I was living on my own, and I was so unsure of my place in the world. Growing up as an unhappy teenager in Iran hadn't exactly given me the chance to discover the hidden social butterfly in myself. Insecure and timid, I arrived in Montreal a few weeks early to prepare myself for my first year.

It was love at first sight. What a truly magical place. Montreal is beautiful! The people, are some of the most welcoming, open-minded, and non-judgemental I have ever met. No one cared where I came from or whether I grew up in Canada. Everybody was from somewhere and it didn’t matter. One of my first memories is the time a biker with an epic beard I was playing pool with at a bar on St. Denis explained to me what “tabarnak” meant while he bought me a beer and simply said “Welcome to Montreal!” I had never felt more at home with a group of strangers up until that time.

The first week that I arrived at McGill, I attended the majestic clusterfuck that is known as Frosh. I met plenty of people from places where I had only read the name on a map. I made more friends I could keep track of. To this day, it is one of the fondest memories of my life. I remember during science frosh one of the speakers said that most people admitted to McGill are the top student in their high school class. He said that if you look to your right and to your left, one of them is likely smarter than you. Once classes started and things kicked into gear, I truly understood what he meant. McGill's students are brilliant. They are some of the smartest people I ever met in my life. To this day I’m not so sure how we partied so hard and still excelled in academics.

It is hard for me to overemphasis how much of my life trajectory I owe to the combination of McGill and Montreal. I cannot even imagine who I would have been otherwise. It was so formative in my life that I wouldn't be half the person I am without those fours years spent learning from everything and everyone. I learned that every Quebecer in a better skier than me. I worked in the best job I ever had in my life in the McGill Athletics gym. I became friends with some of my favorite professors (Hi Sujata and Larbi!). I met plenty of lifelong friends there, even some by accident. To this day I am glad that I joined the Sigma Chi fraternity thinking that the ΣΧ letters indicated some sort of mathematics society. rofl indeed! No one ridiculed me for having thought that. I had no clue going in. In that house on University Ave, I found a strong brotherhood I have cherished to this day. I also joined the mathematics society on another day :)

Montreal and McGill let me discover myself in a welcoming and curious environment. I truly found myself in those four years. Countless hours we spent talking to each other in Molson’s hallways, sitting in the lower field, or apartment crawls in the ghetto. The beer pong skills have won me more friends I can count, the dance moves at Café Campus, not so much I’m afraid! I am forever grateful to have had the chance to be a student in the best school in the greatest student city I have even heard of. My life has been enormously better because of the experience, both as a student and as a lifelong alumni.

To the board of MAAT, thank you for having me the last five years with all my heart. Through the pub nights, send-off events, welcome back patio nights, walking tours, holiday parties, networking series, career events, and a myriad of other events over the years, I have loved being part of our alumni community every second of it. I hope my contributions have been worth at least a fraction of what you have given me.

514 always and forever,