Bachelor of Engineering and Information Technology
Bachelor of Engineering and Information Technology

Academic experiences

I study a dual degree in Engineering and IT at UQ, so I had some flexibility in course selection at McGill.
At McGill, a UQ-equivalent full time load is at least 15 credits, which works out to five courses.
As a result, I took a mix of Engineering, Computer Science, Physics and a French course.
I found that I generally needed to stay on top of things at McGill; the majority of lectures are not recorded, there are fewer contact hours and there are more courses expecting more assignments, midterms and homework more regularly.
The good news is that all of the professors I had at McGill were engaging, interesting and entertaining, and staying up-to-date was easier with lectures that demanded plenty of class participation, interaction and quizzing.
However, the overall workload across the entire semester was comparable to UQ, and I never felt like I was being overwhelmed.
The course load definitely gave me the time to be able to join clubs, experience exchange life, enjoy Montreal and travel around the area.
There is no mid-semester break in fall semester (September to December), but I had no problem fitting all my travel into the weekends and before and after the semester.

Ice skating in Quebec City

Personal experiences

I can say without hyperbole that the exchange experience was one of the best six months of my life.
McGill is a school filled with a diverse international community; every single person you meet has an interesting perspective, background and story.
The students of McGill and the inhabitants of Montreal are some of the friendliest and helpful people you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing.
McGill has a broad and strong network of programs for off-campus students, students in residence, exchange students, international students, locals, and everything in between.
I highly recommend accepting every opportunity and getting involved in all that’s offered, especially in the first few weeks.
I have made some of my best friends for life at McGill in those first few weeks; I have learnt so much from meeting and becoming friends with such diverse groups of people, and my relationships and perspectives have been broadened greatly as a result .
Montreal is a large, cosmopolitan city.
It’s filled with a rich student community, vibrant nightlife and amazing food.
There’s always something to do or something new to see.
I found myself regularly wandering downtown with friends and being able to spontaneously happen upon a fun activity.
Montreal hosts really great music festivals and has gigs on pretty much every night, ranging from indie to electronic to hip-hop and everything in between.
Downtown is beautiful and clean, with a large clustering of universities and many centres for arts, music and technology.
You can find yourself stumbling into an outdoor film festival, a jazz festival, a parade, a silent disco, interpretive dance, tam-tams in the park, or anything else imaginable.
It’s a surprising and exciting city.

The NYC high line

The nightlife in Gay Village, Quartier Latin and the Plateau is exceptional and broad.
There’s plenty of cool and interesting clubs, bars, and general places to hang out.
The diverse community is reflected in the incredible food as well; there’re plenty of options and almost everywhere is good.
And of course, poutine is highly recommended.
Old Montreal is fantastic, boasting beautiful French architecture and expansive, intricate cathedrals, and is home to Old Port, containing lovely gardens, technology centres and a view of the ocean. Montreal is well-situated as well; it’s easy to head to Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City or even New York, and ski trips to Mont Tremblant are plentiful in how often a group will go.
I highly recommend visiting all of those places.
The summers and falls are pleasant and comfortable, with the area shedding brilliant orange-red leaves as the year turns to winter.
Winters in Montreal become very cold, and it’ll definitely be colder than you’ve ever felt; January temperatures got down to around -32 C for me.
However, wearing a nice heavy jacket and some good boots will generally get you through anything.
Quebec is officially French-speaking, but the greater downtown area, where McGill is situated, is comfortably bilingual and you will have no problems getting around if you don’t speak French; everyone in the area is happy to switch to English if they see you’re struggling with the language a bit.
I recommend taking a French course at McGill.
It’s a lot of fun and you can practice with all the locals in and around town.
If you don’t, it’s no problems; even a dullard of languages like myself picked up a little French from my time there.

McGill

Accommodation

McGill’s acceptance was beyond the residence (dorm) application deadline, and there was some restriction on incoming exchange students staying in residence anyway, so I stayed off-campus, renting a room in someone’s house.
The accommodation was clean, warm, and close to everything.
I recommend getting a place in downtown, close to a métro or bus station, so you can get around. Residence is expensive but rent is cheap compared with Brisbane; my rent was $625 per month, including all utilities, and I had my very own living area and bathroom, and a shared kitchen.
I didn’t feel that not living with student roommates hindered me at all; whatever you choose, whether it be residence, living with other exchange students, or enjoying your own place, McGill and Montreal are really good at letting you find people with whom to travel and explore.

Tam Tams in the Park

Budget

Montreal is less expensive than Brisbane in some ways and around the same in others.
I didn’t find anything to be much more expensive than Brisbane.
Regardless, I found myself spending much more than normal as I was more active in travelling, eating out, and going to events than I would be in Brisbane, as would be expected when going on exchange.
Tax is not included on almost everything, so you generally have to pay around 15% more than what the sticker price actually says for pretty much every item.
In addition, bartenders, waiters, cab drivers, and other services demand tips, so you end up paying around 35% more than you think it would cost for those things.
This came as a bit of a shock, and I ended up spending a lot more than I thought I would.
Public transport is cheap if you are a student; a four month unlimited pass for those with student OPUS cards is $189, which is only around $1.50 per day.
A single fare is $3.25. The métro system is quick and efficient.
A lot of banks in Australia have travel cards which allow you to use your Australian card in Montreal without fees.
In hindsight, I would recommend opening a Canadian bank account, so you can more easily transfer money, pay fees, receive deposits, et cetera.
Academic development and employability
McGill’s excellent computer science and research program introduced me to opportunities and ideas that I would have never encountered at UQ.
I’m far more developed academically as a result.
In addition, organising travel and adapting to new, foreign environments trained me in managing my time more effectively and quickly adjusting to new scenarios, improving my employability as a graduate with good research skills and a strong work ethic.

Highlight

It’s incredibly tough to pick a single highlight because the entire exchange program was no doubt and incredibly rewarding and enriching experience.
My highlight would be the fact that I made such excellent, lifelong friends that helped me explore and grow myself as a person.

Top tips

If there’s anything you’ll read from this testimonial, please read these tips:

- Join up with the exchange students’ society and international students’ society.
- Dive right in to all of the opportunities offered.
- Sign up for a Frosh and the Off-Campus Fest, which runs throughout the week before classes begin and consists of fun trips, activities, pub crawls, journeys around Montreal and plenty of opportunities to make great friends.
- You can visit all the museums and science centres for free if you obtain a voucher from the McGill International Students’ Society.
- Make sure to enjoy summer while it lasts. Visit Parc Jeanne-Mance and enjoy the Tam Tams every weekend, visit the botanical gardens, the Atwater Markets, and all the Science Centres.
- Make sure to enjoy winter while it lasts. Go ice-skating and stay in an ice hotel.
- Get an OPUS card.
- Climb Mont Royal!
- Bars don’t serve water for free.
- Chinatown is delicious and cheap.

Above all, go in with an open mind, accept everything, and remember that you’re experiencing a chance at once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
 

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