In the third year of my Engineering degree, I had the good fortune to spend six all-too-short months in Montreal, attending McGill University. Before going on my exchange, I had spent only a handful of days in Montreal but it was more than enough to convince me a return journey was in order. This fascinating, vibrant city has a little something for everyone and the delicate blending of English and French culture creates a unique atmosphere. Witnessing the changing seasons firsthand was a welcome novelty and exploring the surrounding Laurentian Mountains as they were ablaze with fall colours was a truly unforgettable experience. However, do not forget to pack a good winter coat, as it is a definite necessity as the mercury drops. In addition, getting one that is windproof would be advisable as it is often rather windy.

Situated in eastern Canada, Montreal provides great opportunity to travel should you ever get restless, with easy access to places such as Niagara Falls, New York, the historical Quebec City and the multitude of nearby ski fields. It is also well located for journeys to the north, like Churchill for example, where you can see both the famed Aurora Borealis and polar bears as they saunter around town while waiting for the Hudson Bay to freeze over.
preparing to go dog sledding
For the duration of my time in Montreal, I chose to stay at 515 Rue Sainte-Catherine apartments. The building, as the name suggests, is on Rue Sainte-Catherine, one of the trendiest streets in the city and a mere 5-10 minute walk to McGill (definitely a plus when you have an 8am class in the winter and it’s still dark outside). The building is inhabited almost exclusively by university students (most of them international as well) and is a constant hive of activity - you will never be at a loss for something to do.

McGill has an impressive reputation (considered the Canadian Harvard) and for good reason. The professors are very experienced and knowledgeable in their respective fields and there is a strong work ethic amongst the students. The university has an extensive range of courses to choose from and it was great to take some electives I would have otherwise never have had access to, such as law and economics subjects all specifically oriented towards engineers. Academically, the difficulty level is comparable to UQ with the main difference being the amount of reading and prep work required.

The university also has a student life unlike anything in Australia. There are so many clubs and activities on offer it is astounding. Of particular note are the unmissable Frosh Week in August, Hype Week in November and Carnival in January – effectively weeklong drinking festivals hosted by the university where you dress in ridiculous clothing, meet more people than you can remember and just have a great time. Note: for Frosh Week go to one of the main ones like Arts, Science or Management. Also, consider joining the McGill International Students Network, it is a great way to meet people and they host a number of trips to places like Boston and New York. 

Simply put, choosing to go on exchange will be one of the best decisions you ever make and Montreal just does not disappoint. Staying here was an amazing experience and something I would do all over again in a heartbeat.

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