Tierney choses McGill for new experiences and personal growth

Keertana Gangireddy, Co-Managing Editor

Through crossing the United States-Canada border to head onwards to our northern’s neighbor’s distinct French-speaking province, 290.2 miles marks the distance between Westford and Montreal– a distance only further enlarged by their cultural and regional differences.

Senior Megan Tierney is embarking on her own journey to Montreal this fall as an international student at McGill University to study cognitive science. There, she hopes to meet new people and gain new experiences.

Although she wasn’t able to visit McGill’s campus, Tierney says studying abroad was something she had always wanted to do. She applied to four colleges, the University of Vermont, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Swarthmore College, as well as McGill University, and got into all of them. Although she was initially set on the University of Vermont, she ultimately committed to McGill in February once she looked more into the school and its programs.

“I’ve visited [the University of Vermont] two to three times. I liked it, but never thought ‘this feels right’. […] I did a virtual tour of McGill and I sort of fell in love with the campus. […] I started looking into [McGill] more and more, and I liked the idea of being an international student,” Tierney said.

Tierney explains that one difference between applying to Canadian universities as opposed to American ones is that a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts and Sciences mandates students to take exactly fifty percent arts classes and fifty percent science classes. Tierney specifically chose cognitive science as her major because of McGill’s first-rate program, her interest in linguistics, and the computer science aspect of the study.

Tierney was a part of the WA Nordic Ski Team for all of her high school years, as well as many other sports and activities such as volleyball, lacrosse, track, and theater. She says WA’s diversity in its student body and opportunities helped her grow as a person and step outside of her comfort zone.

She cites one specific learning experience in her sophomore year when she auditioned for a spring WATA production planning to obtain a small acting role, but instead was given the opportunity to play guitar for the play along with a speaking part. She says that she looks back upon her involvement in theater often as a time where she was able to mature.

“It was really cool to work with people that I had never really met before. [I learned that] it’s okay to not always feel comfortable […] in what you’re doing. If you stick with something long enough, you’ll find your way and [you’ll find] your people,” Tierney said. 

To expand her comfort zone is one primary reason for Tierney’s commitment to McGill. She plans to involve herself in the numerous skiing opportunities at the college, as well as join running and volleyball clubs.

Andrew Norander, the coach of the WA Nordic Ski Team, is thrilled that Tierney is continuing to explore her passion for skiing in Quebec. He recalls Tierney as an incredibly hardworking athlete, making the varsity team her freshman year having being a first-time skier, and qualifying for the MIAA State Championship Race during her sophomore, junior, and senior years.

As a role model to those around her, she was unanimously voted captain in her junior year. In addition to being a talented skier, Norander describes Tierney as an incredible teammate, putting her peers in front of herself and her goals.

“Despite the dedication that Meg put into making herself a good skier, the thing that stood out even more was the importance that she placed on making sure that those around her, her teammates, were not only improving, but also doing so in a fun and safe environment.  While her focus, energy, and competitiveness served to challenge and motivate the older skiers on the team, her warm, fun loving, easy going attitude made her very approachable to the younger athletes on the team,” Norander said.

Tierney’s friend and Nordic Ski teammate Meredith Warsen describes her as dedicated, open minded, and talented. Warsen recounts an incident when she was interested in a college Tierney’s older brother attended, and had questions regarding the college for him. Tierney called her brother to ask him about the college, and took notes on what he said for Warsen.

“[That circumstance especially] shows how Megan in willing to go above and beyond for people she cares about,” Warsen said.

As a German student at WA, Tierney had a great love for learning. Her teacher Timothy Welch distinctly remembers Tierney’s willingness to delve deeply into the material, as well as her interest in complex and mature issues around the world. Welch is especially excited about Megan’s path as an international student.

“As a foreign language teacher and exchange coordinator, there is no better feeling than when a student or former exchange participant chooses to go abroad after WA. Every teacher wants to have an impact on their students’ lives, and so when a student chooses a path like Megan’s it makes us so proud,” Welch said.

Although Tierney doesn’t speak French, she is learning the language through the online program, Rosetta Stone, for her senior capstone to prepare for the fall and immerse herself in Montreal’s culture. 

Tierney is particularly excited about McGill, as although it is only a four-and-a-half-hour drive away from Massachusetts, the college and region’s atmosphere feels as though it is in a European country. However, Tierney doesn’t think she’ll be affected by the homesickness, because of McGill’s student body.

“[McGill] is cool because a huge percentage of their student body is international students, so I don’t feel like [studying abroad] will be isolating or anything, because even though it’s not [really close by] like UMass, there’s definitely still a community I can find,” Tierney said.  

Although Tierney is currently planning on moving back to the United States after obtaining her undergraduate degree, she is most looking forward to experiencing a vastly different cultural setting from Westford and growing from it. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing the world from a different perspective than what we see here in Westford. […] [A large part of why I chose McGill] was because it wasn’t something I was familiar with. It’s definitely going to be a learning curve and a chance to grow,” Tierney said.