Migration from Northern to Southern Canada

I was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, where I lived until after I graduated high school. Following a couple of years off school, I moved to Montreal to study at McGill University, where I’m finally about to complete my undergraduate degree.

When I think about the idea of “moving for economic reasons” I don’t automatically consider moving away from home to go to university to be one of them. For one thing, at McGill there are lots of people who have moved to end up here, all with their own reasons for and experiences of the process. The other reason I don’t think of my move as being particularly remarkable is that a lot of young people leave the Yukon – at least temporarily – after high school. There is no university in the territory, and the Yukon College has a relatively limited number of full degree programs, so to complete an undergraduate education most people travel south.

That being said, economics influence many of our decisions in life one way or another, so the decision to commit 4-5 years, tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of kilometers in travel across the country for a university diploma most certainly is as well. I don’t think that future career possibilities were at the top of my list when I started applying to universities but the whole “graduate high school with good grades and then go to university and get good grades in an important-sounding program and then get a good job and start your adult life” is so much a part of the narrative of growing up that it certainly affected my decision.

Moving across the country, to a university with an undergraduate student population roughly the same as the population of my entire hometown, was by no means easy. Getting used to living in a city full of tall buildings and busy traffic and strangers who have no interest in meeting your eye when they pass you on the street – all of that took some time. But after close to five years here, I’ve gotten to love a lot of things that Montreal has to offer.

That being said, jobs do not seem to be what Montreal has in large quantities, at least not for non-Quebecois twenty-somethings who have recently graduated with degrees in the humanities or social sciences. I’m fortunate in that I speak French fairly fluently, so that is one major hurdle facing my peers that I’ve managed to avoid, but the options still remain pretty uncertain.

Now, at the end of my Environmental Studies degree, I’m going to change directions a little. My intention is to go to trade school here in Montreal in the fall to study a program in industrial mechanics. Partly this is because I feel like it will be useful in my area of interest, which is the field of solid waste management. However, the fact that trades seem like a source of potentially more reliable and well-paid employment also makes it an attractive option.

Although I won’t be moving to a new city to do this, I do feel like it’s going to be a pretty big change in terms of my social location. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of the rest of the student population there, or what student life will be like, but I do expect to experience some disorientation. Particularly having come from being actively involved in radical feminist organizations and friend groups at McGill, I do feel some trepidation about the potential for sexism that could come up in a fairly male-dominated environment.

That being said, I’m also pretty excited about the experience. I feel like the trades remain such an under-explored option for young women, and I’m hopeful that there will be opportunities to talk to others about their experience and what kind of support we can provide each other in dealing with patriarchal bullshit in classes and then later on the job. I feel like it will be a different experience in terms of class location as well, particularly since the school is located in a working-class neighbourhood.

One way or another, I look forward to finding out where this next move will take me.

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