On my exchange to McGill I was in my first semester of my final year of a BSc, and while most of the science courses don’t have lab practicals the professors often have much higher expectations and class participation is expected. Take advantages of the interesting courses on offer – I took an interesting class on the genetics of mammalian development which had just 12 students so provided a unique and intimate learning environment. I also studied a fantastic intensive French course through McGill, but it is worth noting that language classes have compulsory attendance.

One of the best things I did was to sign up to the McGill (SSMU) Ski & Snowboard Club, which arranges lift passes and transport to and from a different mountain each weekend for just $100. Montreal also offers a great platform to travel through Canada and the Americas. The weekends I wasn’t snowboarding in Quebec or across the U.S. border I was traveling to Miami, NYC, Quebec City or Cuba for a week in the Spring break (definitely a must).

Montreal is a really interesting and livable city, despite the harsh winter. Some of my suggestions: head to Piccolo (on Parc) for a real espresso coffee (most cafes sell below average filter coffee). For an abundance of French croissants, escargots and Portuguese pastries you’ll want to be in the Plateau. Queue for up to an hour at Kazu for the most authentic Japanese - the funny and friendly Japanese staff and the incredible food make it well worth the wait to be crammed into the hole in the wall restaurant. Buy tickets to see Cirque du Soleil (it originated in Quebec) and the famously popular ice hockey. As it warms up hire the Bixi bikes and ride around the many beautiful parks, have a sauna on board the Bota Bota floating spa in the Old Port, and head to one of the many music gigs on downtown. If you’re there for the winter, make sure you have a long down jacket and boots made for at least -10C. Check out the Mile End area for interesting vintage shops, the best bagels and falafels, and the Jean Talon markets further out of town. Most of all it is important to make the most of every day of your exchange. Don’t put off going out because of the bitter cold, as your exchange will be over before you know it. Go to as many things as you can including those organized by MISN and all the festivals, student bars, ski trips, pub crawls and events you hear about as it really is the best way to meet a variety of people and make a great group of international friends.

It is easy to be put off by the -20C Winters, but it is certainly an experience (and probably one I will never do again). If you can, definitely stay on into spring as the city really comes alive as the snow melts to reveal a life you never knew the city had. Everyone becomes happier, warm days are spent picnicking on Mont Royal, and tables are spilling out of the great cafés and bars (especially in the Plateau and Mile End). I cannot recommend the experience of an exchange highly enough, and Montreal was a great place for it.

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