Nearly a decade ago, when I was in my final year of high school, the big question was “where are you going to cegep?” For students of my English-language, Jewish school, there were essentially four choices: Marianopolis, Dawson, Vanier or John Abbott.
The relative popularities and reputations of the schools tend to go in cycles, and in my year, Dawson was “in” and Vanier was “out”. Dawson, with its fancy new sports complex, coveted “Reflections” program with couches and coffee, and cool downtown location, was where it was all happening. Marianopolis was the other choice, for the “brains” or the “nerds”, but Vanier was having an “out” year for people bored with Ville St-Laurent and unimpressed with its aging building (since renovated). Abbott was too far out and, for most of us west-islanders, located in the wrong direction from the action.
I was undecided. Dawson or Marianopolis? Marianopolis or Dawson? I toured both schools (and toured Vanier as well, but if I recall correctly, that was just to get out of doing an oral presentation in Hebrew class that I’d forgotten to prepare for). March rolled around and I still couldn’t choose, so I flipped a coin. Literally. Marianopolis it was.
No regrets, either. I still consider cegep to be the best two years of my life. Many of my current friends today are people I met in cegep or people I met through them. The classes didn’t suck, the teachers actually seemed like they wanted to be there, and so did a lot of the students. And, unlike the students stuck in science, us commerce students put the school’s brainiac reputation to shame; we spent more time on the windowsills or in the coffee shop than in class, easily. Mostly, I had fun there.
But there was always an ongoing rivalry between Marianopolis, the “up the hill”, snobby, preppy private school, and Dawson, the “down the hill”, big, cosmopolitan public school. Really, they were only a few minutes’ walk apart, and we used to regularly go back and forth to visit our friends, or head down to Atwater to shop or use the metro. Dawson was very much a part of our lives.
So were jokes about Dawson. Ever ask a Marianopolis student how many first-year Dawson social science students it takes to change a lightbulb? The answer: that’s a second-year course at Dawson. And they had plenty of jokes about us, too. That we were run by nuns. That we hadn’t heard of lightbulbs cause we were too busy studying. The t-shirts at Dawson’s store read “Friends don’t let friends go to Marianopolis”. (The t-shirts at Marianopolis didn’t read anything at all, cause we didn’t actually have a store). Three years later, my sister chose Dawson and had a good time, and liked to tease me about having gone to Marianopolis and missing out on the unique opportunities offered by having a school located in a mall. Yep, the friendly rivalry between the two schools was as much a fact of life as assignments and exams.
Ultimately, though, the differences between our schools were superficial. Most of us enjoyed our cegep experience, we were all friends with each other, and many of us met up again in the same classes and programs at Concordia or McGill.
So to Dawson students and grads, I just want to say, as a Marianopolis alum, we’re really nothing but two sides of the same coin. And that today’s events could have happened to any of us.