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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Going AWAY to post-secondary school is a privilege, not a right.

In many middle-class families, there is an assumption that puts us on a dangerous financial path: going away to college or university is the logical step after high school.  This is often seen as a ‘right’, rather than a privilege, in certain circles, and you may feel like an outsider if you cannot afford it or if you choose to live at home for your studies.
Please do not feel bad.  In large parts of Canada, the norm is to live at home during college and university.  In Qu├ębec, for example, the culture is that as long as you can, you live at home during your studies.  I remember my mother saying: ‘there are four universities in Montreal: choose one!’  We did not even live on the island of Montreal, but in the suburb, and my commute while going to McGill WAS long: 30 min by car (if no traffic) to reach the island of Montreal, and then 45 min by subway to reach campus.  Twice a day.  Five days a week.  For three years.  And I survived!  I did not have to worry about meals much (Mom was happy to cook dinner for the two of us), laundry was in-house, the house was warm and I didn’t have bills to pay except for tuition, books, and my own expenses.  I could commute with my mom who went to Mtl every day for work – she would drop me off on her way to work – and later I purchased an inexpensive car and had to pay for gas, maintenance, insurance and the like, but it gave me much more freedom than commuting with Mom.
In many other Canadian cities and cultures, going ‘away’ to post-secondary education is rare.  In many families where children live at home until they marry, children also attend college and university locally.  Just like my attitude in Montreal was, many people feel that learning to live on your own is something you do when you can afford to do it on your own; i.e., without your family’s financial support.  I moved away for my master’s degree, for which I had financial support from the university, as a research assistant (RA) and a teaching assistant (TA).  Even though the university experience while living at home is different from that of students living on campus (or at least away from mom and dad), it is DIFFERENT, not better or worse. 
Every college/university experience is valuable and can be wonderful; moving away from home is just a very optional and small part of it.  Enjoy YOUR experience, wherever you live.

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