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Rowland Hall alumnus Chris Diehl ’15 told us about his experience at McGill University in Montreal, why he’s so happy to attend college internationally, and how his time at Rowland Hall is helping him succeed in his studies in the Great White North.
Chris Diehl started his college search like many Rowland Hall students: he looked at U.S. schools with good reputations, appealing locations, and programs that interested him. He initially focused on schools in the Northeast, but expanded his search slightly to include McGill University in Montreal. As Chris looked into McGill, the public research university’s stellar reputation impressed him. Plus, the favorable exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollars enticed this economics major—McGill would be less expensive than some of his stateside options. Now in his sophomore year, Chris said McGill is a great fit for him: he loves Montreal and has found many benefits in attending school outside the U.S. He enjoys that McGill’s student body is 27% international—his roommates, for example, hail from Hong Kong and Italy. And while McGill is an English-speaking university, many French-speaking international students attend the university since the Romance language dominates Montreal.
With an undergraduate enrollment of about 27,000, McGill fosters autonomy in its students. “There is a lot of independence and not a lot of hand holding,” he said. “You have to grow up and learn to be responsible.” As a freshman, the university required Chris to live on campus. This year, he’s required to live off campus. This appeals to Chris—he enjoys learning the skills necessary to live on his own before he graduates and ventures out into the “real world.” He shares an apartment with several roommates, cooks, and pays his part of the utility bills. McGill is also giving him the chance to further explore Canada: last summer, he thoroughly enjoyed living and working in Toronto and likened it to “a cleaner, safer, smaller New York City.”
Chris is pleased with the economics program at McGill, and is pursuing a minor in psychology. He said Rowland Hall prepared him well for college, and described a particular success story in an econ class designed for upperclassmen. The class focused on criminology and underground economies that exist in the world but aren’t officially counted in a country’s gross domestic product. Students learned about the underground drug-trafficking market, organ harvesting (both voluntary and involuntary), tax evasion, fraud, pirateering, and how people in the fishing industry can bypass fishing quotas for personal gain. For the class’ final research paper—worth 50% of a student’s grade—each student had to come up with an original subject and submit an outline for approval. The professor made it clear that paper topics had to be unique, not something he’d seen a dozen times before, Chris said. In his outline, Chris examined whether the LDS Church should be allowed categorization as a 501(c)(3) due to their vast network of financial holdings, and how the church could exploit laws for charitable organizations to increase its wealth. In his outline, Chris examined whether a church with substantial financial holdings should be allowed categorization as a nonprofit. After the professor reviewed the outlines, he told the class many students had failed and would need to revise and resubmit. Chris was both surprised and relieved when the professor publicly cited his outline as an example of success. Chris earned an A on his paper and was one of only a handful of students to receive an A in the course.
Chris attributes his success to excellent Rowland Hall teachers, many of whom helped him hone his writing. “Rowland Hall alums don’t stress about papers and essays the way other students do,” he said. “They are head and shoulders above their peers.” He’s grateful to his English teachers for helping him learn how to write research papers, and to teachers of subjects such as history for assigning cross-disciplinary writing projects. Chris highlighted the value of participating in praxis, an earlier version of what Rowland Hall now calls sophomore symposium. He is thankful for teachers such as Laura Johnson who emphasized the importance of correctly citing sources when writing research papers. At McGill, Chris channeled Ms. Johnson’s English class to help someone less familiar with attribution. While peer reviewing another student’s paper for class, he determined his classmate wasn’t correctly citing sources. Chris knew that could constitute plagiarism, even if it was inadvertent. So he taught his classmate how to correctly cite sources, which helped the student earn an A on the paper. In addition to writing papers, the econ major spends plenty of time poring over complex financial data. He’s thankful Brian Birchler’s statistics class and Diane Guido’s psychology class introduced him to this sort of work.
Chris appreciates the excellent foundation he built at Rowland Hall and encourages younger Winged Lions to look at colleges internationally. He’s had a wonderful experience and believes more of our alumni could benefit from the many opportunities offered by a school such as McGill that’s just a little farther from home.