Bachelor of Commerce
Bachelor of Commerce

Academic Experiences

My exchange at HEC Montreal required me to undertake five courses. As I did not have any electives in my program, I was very limited with my choice of courses. Consequently, I took 4 finance majors/electives and 1 first year course. This proved to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.
Prior to going on my exchange, I was told by the abroad advisor that the workload may be less difficult but I guess I picked the more difficult subjects which made the workload a bit more intense.
Although I did not enjoy the courses as much, it was interesting to have experienced the university and classroom environment in North America, more specifically, Canada. Lecture rooms were at capacity with roughly 50-60 students.
During lectures, our lecturers really tried to encourage student input and participation in class, and I found this very engaging and helpful as it pushed you out of your comfort zone and forced you to contribute. I found the students there relatively friendly and easy to work with.
One difference I couldn't quite adapt to was the absence of tutorials. In accounting/finance at UQ, we would normally have a 2 hour lecture and a 1-2 hour tutorial for the week.
At HEC Montreal, each course I took consisted of a 3 hour class once a week and it was difficult to get in touch with some of my professors in person or via email.
Consultation hours were listed on their "blackboard" equivalent learning portal although a bit vague, and some of my professors had long response times to my emails if they replied at all.
I took all my classes in English and I feel that the classes that weren't coordinated or taught by native Anglophones lacked a little in quality and this didn't make my learning experience as enjoyable as I had hoped.
I do wish that I had taken some French classes so that I could get used to the Quebec French accent as it is very different to the accent that I am accustomed to hearing/speaking on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it was a great assimilation into the French Canadian culture and the locals there are friendly.

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Personal experiences

As clichéd as this may sound, going abroad was probably the best thing I have done in my life so far. It was the first time I've ever been away from family and lived out of home for that long. From that came many positive things.
I was forced to learn to cook for myself, which I probably would never have bothered to do if I didn't go on exchange, I had the opportunity to travel to many places and met people from all over the world.
I made friends from Europe, Asia and South America and even bumped into a few Aussies. I was able to practise my French on a regular basis although the Quebec French accent was a little difficult to understand at first.
While I was in Montreal, I also took a bus to Toronto and had a chance to explore the city there as well as see the Niagara Falls.
At the conclusion of my semester at HEC Montreal, I also travelled back to Toronto, spent New Year’s in New York, did a solo trip to Vancouver and explored the beautiful natural environment there, and made my way down the west coast of USA going through Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
A few friends from Australia joined me on the trip. We went on a little road trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
I also feel that this exchange semester has also pushed me to place myself outside of my comfort zone. It has given me confidence to do things that I would not normally do.
I also feel more comfortable talking to more people and feel more open-minded, non-judgemental and understanding of different people's situations.

city

Accommodation

I lived in an apartment which I shared with two other Canadian residents, both of whom were students (one undergraduate and one postgraduate) and worked. We each had our own bedrooms but the living area, dining room, kitchen and bathroom was shared.
The apartment was well situated with the university in walking distance and a bus stop directly outside of the apartment. Across the road from the apartment was a shopping centre which had a bank, telephone store, grocery store, subway, liquor store, a pharmacy and other small stores.
I enjoyed this living arrangement as I was living with locals and I was able to learn more about the culture and lifestyle from people who live there themselves. Also, the rent was affordable given the location and inclusions that it came with.
The apartment was fully furnished with cutlery, a TV, sofa, dining table and washing/dryer machines. The downsides included having to share the bathroom with two other housemates and differences in lifestyles and habits.
I am a bit OCD and like to try and maintain cleanliness and keep the kitchen tidy, whereas my housemates would feel comfortable leaving their dishes to be cleaned later, perhaps days after use. This was probably the biggest thing that annoyed me.

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Budget

Rent for me was fairly reasonable for the duration I stayed there. My rent was $600 CAD per month which included water, gas, internet, cable TV and heating. The only thing I really had to pay for were my groceries and the cost of a new bed when I arrived as my room was not entirely furnished.
Food is almost equivalent to the costs here - eating out can be cheap if you go to certain places and my grocery costs were about $100 for 1-2 weeks’ worth of supplies. In saying that, I do like to eat and snack a lot.
Eating out can become expensive if done on a regular basis as prices are not tax inclusive (tax rate is 15% in Montreal) and tipping is customary at a standard rate of 15%. Transport was very well priced compared to public transport costs in Brisbane.
I paid $180 for a semester which gave me unlimited travel on their subways and buses (pretty amazing if you ask me!).
For the whole semester plus my travels after the exchange, I took at least $16,000 AUD with me, including flights/bus tickets from city to city. This was completely drained after being abroad for 5 months.
Personally, I like to have too much money than not enough, so if you want to live comfortably and have extra money for shopping and what not, I would recommend having at least $15,000, accounting for exchange rates losses.

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Academic development and employability

My participation in the exchange program has exposed me to different styles of learning and also encouraged me to challenge what I know as well as my capabilities and competencies.
I believe that the exposure to a different learning environment and system will enable me to have a broader perspective on my own approach to learning things and performing tasks which can prove to be effective in not only an academic environment, but also a professional/working environment. This could enhance my employability for prospective employers.

Niagara falls

Highlight

The biggest highlight of my experience was the travelling that I was able to do. It was interesting to see how Montreal and other Canadian and US cities are different to each other and how different the climate/weather was in those respective cities.
Despite them being in the same country, there are many cultural differences as well as differences in the slang they use in their everyday language and it was great to be able to have had that experience.

Top tips

Take easier subjects or general electives that won't require you to invest so much of your time and brain cells. Because I took 4 finance courses, I felt like I was drowning myself with study and reading. Don't stick to a group of people you know or are comfortable with.
When I arrived, I knew absolutely no one at all. I felt VERY out of my comfort zone and I was so nervous when orientation day came.
However, this was good for me as it forced me to talk to people and since then, I've made so many great friends and acquaintances from all around the world who I still talk to to date.
Have an open mind - meet other people, listen to their stories, get involved in local festivities and learn about the culture.
Save a good amount of money so that you can survive comfortably while completing your exchange as well as have enough money to do some travel during or after completing your semester.
And last but not least, have fun and be safe!
 

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