See Daniel and 3 other students talk about their exchange on Vimeo.


Ever since I was a young, starry eyed O-week student at UQ, I have been intent upon studying abroad during my degree. If you are tossing up whether or not to go on exchange, stop now, pack your bags and buy yourself a plane ticket. I promise that this isn't another exchange cliche, nor is UQ isn't paying me to write this!

Montréal and Québec are a world apart from the rest of Canada. You can saunter around entirely Francophone areas like Notre-Dame-de-Grâce or the Plateau and witness men of all ages with pencil moustaches and berets sipping on espressos and busily rushing from place to place. Only a five minute walk in the opposite direction, it is as if you have stumbled into any other North American city with the rush of people, noisy sports bars and busy retail coffee shops. It is this Anglophone-Francophone divide that gives Montréal its true charm. This gave me the opportunity to improve my French, while having the luxury of being able to socialise easily in English.

I was lucky enough to get a great apartment off the McGill housing website on Boulevard Saint Laurent, affectionately known by locals as 'le main'. It is located right on this cultural divide and is one of the best areas for nightlife and restaurants, while still being walking distance to McGill. I lived only minutes away from some of the best ‘poutine’ joints in the city (a local 'delicacy'), a string of extremely cheap bars and nightclubs and 'bagels etcetera', where Leonard Cohen can be seen eating bagels and writing in his notebook on cold winter mornings.

McGill has a prestigious reputation as the Harvard of Canada. Despite this, I found the course work's difficulty can easily be equated with UQ. However, the standard course load is 5 courses, meaning that you will have a few more contact hours each week. I thought that the main difference between the two universities was the willingness of the McGill students to ask questions and in some cases have extended, unabashed and, for the most part, generally intelligent conversations with lecturers.

I couldn't mention Montréal or McGill without alluding to the student life. There are 4 major universities in the city and they are all situated quite centrally. Don't be surprised to find quaint coffee shops completely filled with students at 4am on a Wednesday, or the bars to be completely full on every night of the week. McGill offers Frosh in the Fall semester and Carnival in the winter semester and they are a great way for new students to meet each other, dress up in absurd clothing and experience some of the best nightlife. Visit Saint Denis to start the night at Saint Sulpice for an amazing amazing terrace, then head to La Distillerie for extravagant cocktails served in jars and then finish your night off at one of the exotic sheesha bars.

Most exchange students end up travelling outside their host city. So take the opportunity to head to the Big Apple, Chicago, some great ski fields and much more. This world is filled with beautiful cities and prestigious universities - Montréal definitely fits into this category! But the most important part of exchange is meeting new people and spending sleepless nights exploring these new streets. Do yourself a favour!
 

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