Bachelor of Science/Arts
Bachelor of Science/Arts

Academic experiences

Generally, I found McGill's academic system quite similar to UQ's. However, psychology lectures were not accompanied by tutorials, and assignments were an optional component for students who wanted to improve their grades. Assessment for psychology courses could therefore consist of exams only! This definitely reduced the work load and was perfect for an exchange student like me. The structure of philosophy courses varied, with one of mine split up into three one-hour blocks a week, and another into two two-hour blocks, which took some getting used to. The assessments were quite similar. I thought it interesting that almost everyone did the required reading, and students were generally very driven and ambitious to achieve good grades.
Personal experiences
I had the chance to improve and practice my French, which was my main reason for choosing Montreal over other destinations. Montreal's colder climate was something I really enjoyed and which was a welcome change to Brisbane's heat. I definitely made the most of the winter with a season pass to a mountain and frequent snowboarding sessions that had been long overdue. One best bonds over adventures, and I believe I have made friends for a life-time thanks to exciting outdoor undertakings.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus and loved it, as it made it possible for me to stay in a French-speaking neighbourhood and allowed me more insight into normal city-life as opposed to just experiencing student life. This also meant I had to commute to campus. I cycled to uni up until November and really enjoyed and recommend it! However, once it got colder I switched to public transport which was less fun. I had a Montreal local as a housemate and he was just the best.

lake

Budget

I paid $550 a month for a furnished room, and although I had seen cheaper rooms, this seemed to be about the average. While grocery prices were similar – except that alcohol was cheaper – I had a feeling going out was cheaper than in Brisbane. Public transport pricing was different, but a 4-month student pass definitely pays itself off if you do as much exploring around the city as one ought to in such an interesting place!
Generally speaking, the amount of money you need depends so much on your lifestyle it is impossible to give a useful recommendation.

Parliament building in Ottawa

Academic development and employability

Making use of the different opportunities of another university, I took courses at McGill that were not offered at UQ. I was also lucky enough to be accepted into a psychology research lab as a volunteer which gave me unique insight into how research was conducted in a different system and enhanced my understanding of that particular field. Naturally, improving my French was a great asset, but going beyond that living in bilingual Montreal taught me cultural sensitivity towards the issue of language and especially towards the linguistic minority. It is hard to manage an exchange without becoming more independent and flexible, which are always useful traits.

Snowboarding at Bromont

Highlight

My so-called FROSH, the name for a range of different orientation events at McGill, was the highlight of my trip. While a normal FROSH organised by the faculty you are enrolled in involves staying in Montreal and not doing very much more than drinking, the one run by the McGill Outdoor club gives you a choice between hiking, cycling, canoeing, white-water rafting and more, for a whole three days! There could hardly be a better way to start an exchange in Canada and make good friends. Canoeing and camping for three days, cliff-jumping in addition to the occasional voluntary or involuntary swim was just amazing. 
Joining the McGill's Outdoor club is the best thing you can do if you want to meet great people and undertake heaps of adventurous trips.

Skating on the canal in Ottawa

Top tips

I would strongly advise you to do everything you can to learn the language of your host country, which I think is one of the most influential factors on how much you will get out of your exchange. Learn as much as you can in preparation and try to do an additional language course while overseas. It is worth mentioning, that I managed to squeeze in a French course despite not having any electives! Since the full-time load at UQ consists of 4 courses and McGill's of 5, UQ transfers you credit for 4 of the courses you take, while one course is merely a filler. At least in my case this meant that I could take a course without it having to count towards my degree, which was ideal.
Obviously make sure to travel around a bit, but do also take the time to thoroughly explore the city you live in! You will most likely get the opportunity to visit those places again, while being an almost-local in your temporary home might not ever repeat itself. I very much enjoyed exploring Montreal by bike.
Finally, don't go back before you really have to!

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