Bachelor of Engineering/Science
Bachelor of Engineering/Science

I decided that I would go on exchange to McGill University, Montreal at the worst possible time in my degree, the anticipated final semester of a dual degree in engineering and science. This ultimately caused my graduation to be delayed by a whole year. Despite this (and the bitter cold), I do not regret my decision for a moment.

While in Montreal, I found that there was a distinctive divide between my university life and everything else. The major indicator for this was obviously the language. McGill University is primarily English speaking institution, whereas the rest of Montreal is first and foremost a Francophone city. At times, while in class, McGill felt very much like home, due to similar course structures and teaching styles. However once I stepped outside the university grounds and immediately into the middle of downtown Montreal, my bilingual inadequacies quickly reminded me where I was.

Due to the situation regarding my graduation I didn’t have much choice regarding courses, however McGill definitely doesn’t lack in that regard. I took five courses from the faculty of science and the workload varied significantly between subjects. The core courses I took demanded slightly more work than what I have experienced at UQ, while on the other hand, a couple of elective-like courses were relatively easier. The courses I studied relied less on electronic equipment, such as PowerPoint slides and lecture recordings, and more on hands on, old-fashioned blackboard teaching. Although this isn’t ideal if you miss class, in the long run I found it beneficial to my learning, in large part to several outstanding professors I was lucky enough to be taught by. Overall though, it really depends on the subjects you choose.

Due to their proximity to downtown and resultant lack of space, McGill’s residences (similar to UQ colleges, but less institutional) are primarily only for first year students. Therefore I decided to live off-campus in the Plateau du Mont-Royal, sharing an apartment with three other students. I can easily say that this decision was the most rewarding of my whole exchange. My housemates became my best friends and their friends became my friends and vice versa. The location, in the middle of Montreal’s incredible urban neighborhoods, facilitated this experience as well. I think it is important to not become stuck in the ‘McGill bubble’ because Montreal is one of the most incredible cities in the world and it deserves to be experienced separate to your academic endeavors.

On that note, there are many great things I could say about McGill and Montreal, but I will try and focus on the essentials:

  • Go to the tam-tams in the park and climb Mont-Royal (often). It is right there and the seasons change so fast and the park itself and the view from the top change with them.
  • Be prepared for cold. You will not enjoy winter without proper warm clothes.
  • Walk, bike or use the brilliant Metro to explore the various neighborhoods, from Old Montreal to the Plateau to St. Henri, they are all alive and well worth a look.
  • Try to learn basic French, at a minimum it demonstrates basic respect to the Quebecois, and at the maximum you will be able to experience all Montreal has to offer.
  • Take the opportunity to see New York, Quebec City and Toronto, which are all very close.

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