Bachelor of Science, 3rd year
Bachelor of Science, 3rd year

Academic experiences

I am a third year Science student (majoring in biomedical science) and went on exchange during my second year.
The competitive and prestigious science faculty at McGill made my exchange very challenging, where I took 5 subjects (including three third levels).
The student ethic at McGill is a bit intimidating, with everyone so focused, hardworking, and full of co-curricular activities (especially doing science, where everybody either had a research position or volunteered at a hospital).
That being said, that means McGill itself is full of opportunities to further yourself.
The lecturers are amazing, but it is a challenge getting used to the different style of assessment.
It also helps that the campus resembles Hogwarts somewhat (and is full of squirrels).
One thing cannot be doubted – McGill’ers are very proud of their education and people donning McGill merch can be seen extensively on a daily basis.

Personal experiences

Montreal is an amazing place to absorb a “cool, edgy city” vibe and an engaging mix of English, French and above all “Quebecois” culture, while altogether studying at one of the best universities in the world.
Montreal is full of street art; bagel cafes (Fairmont and St Viateur are national institutions), colourful apartment blocks and endless suburban streets to meander that always seem alive.
The McGill community is so supportive, with people always willing to help, show you around, especially with the Discover McGill day.
The university also has an extensive exchange student network (MISN) where there are always trips (I went to Toronto/Niagara Falls!) and opportunities to meet more students.
There are endless social activities and events to go to, particularly with everyone living so close to each other and the uni, so if you invest yourself it’s easy to make many lifelong friends – classes are large and the number of labs and tutorials is very small so meeting people on campus requires effort!
Also don't forget the central location of Montreal and capitalise on the many opportunities to travel - over the course of six months I went to Ottawa (buses for only $20), Quebec City (a must, particularly in winter), Toronto, Chicago and New York.

Lac Memphremagog

Accommodation

I lived off-campus with some friends of mine off the south shore of Montreal, so quite a distance away and not an arrangement that many people will have the opportunity to undertake.
That being said, living with an actual "Quebecois" family had a lot of pros, particularly absorbing the French language, seeing how ordinary people live in Quebec, their traditions and what suburban life is like.
The biggest con would definitely be the distance away from the city - over 1 hour by public transport wasn't the most convenient thing (compared to a 10 minute walk by most McGill'ers living in the "ghetto") especially when lectures start at 8am!
Student life in Montreal is on a whole other level, with most people living in the ‘ghetto’ right by the university, which contributes to a vibrant atmosphere and an exciting collection of restaurants, depanneurs (convenience stores, as they’re known there), bars and clubs.

Montreal from the Old Port

Budget

The cost of living is comparable to Australia, with several aspects of life being cheaper but the addition of a 15% sales tax to everything (as well as tipping) threw me off a bit.
Food is cheap if you know the right places, but usually restaurants will be pretty similar once the extra 30% is added on.
Social life and going out is also pretty similar, groceries are slightly cheaper and clothing is definitely cheaper (Montreal being a shopper's paradise).
Because I lived off-campus and off the island, the transport definitely was the highest cost for me with a four month metro pass being $180 (a must), or otherwise $3 just for a single ride (which adds up quickly).

Ottawa

Academic development and employability

Overcoming challenges with independence, a tough university, and life on a completely different continent during this exchange has been totally rewarding.
I think having assimilated into a predominantly French-speaking culture and satiating my curiosity for life in Quebec has made me a more well-rounded person.
I have also learnt to deal with more stress in uni life and I appreciate the academic diversity I now have.
Having mainly final exams as the only means of assessment puts a lot of pressure on you, particularly when you have 60 pages of notes to study for instead of the usual 40 I dealt with at UQ.
Interacting with world-class lecturers and being invited to look inside research labs has also given me a different perspective on the amount of exciting opportunities out there.

Highlight

I love to travel more than anything, so being able to have this opportunity to travel around North America (albeit briefly) was highly rewarding.
I even got to spend a week in northern Quebec (Saguenay Lac-St-Jean) with the family I was staying with over Christmas.
I met so many people there and my French really improved because the number of English speakers there is probably countable by hand!
I got to go skiing and tubing there, see a white Christmas for the first time and walk around in -20 degrees and see people casually skating over a lake, something which I’ll never forget.
Nothing beats just ambling around Montreal though; every inch of the city is tourism material and worth walking around.

Chicago

Top tips

  • Try to immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible; get out of the "ghetto" and into all the tourist sites in Montreal as well as gem suburbs hidden away.
    Get on the metro line, get off at a random stop, and I can guarantee you will find that area interesting to walk about, particularly around Marche Atwater, Westmount, Mile End, the Botanical Gardens.
  • Don't forget that a beautiful old town exists and there are a plethora of other universities too.
    Universite de Montreal has a particularly nice campus and is right next to the Oratoire St Joseph, a must-see!
  • Poutine is an absolute institution found everywhere, so you don't even need to worry about finding that, however don't forget that Montreal is also a foodie paradise and they even have a restaurant where you can dine in total darkness.
  • An unforgettable experience for me would be seeing the aftermath of a snowstorm/ice storm for the first time, and trying to walk through the city like a penguin.
    The cold surprisingly didn’t trump me much, even leaving mid-January there were only several times below -20 but the most crucial piece of advice is to invest in a good winter coat – anything else and you’ll be freezing no matter how many layers you wear.
  • Montreal is a unique, vibrant and unforgettable city and an amazing cultural mix with the possibility to both practice your French and easily travel around North America, and see a hockey game (Montreal Canadiens for life)!

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