As cliché as it sounds, going on exchange was the best thing I have ever done and I cannot recommend it enough!

I’m a 4th year student studying a Bachelor of Commerce/Laws and a Diploma in French and took courses towards my commerce finance major while at HEC. A full-time study load at UQ is equivalent to 5 subjects at HEC but don’t be put off – each subject has only one 3 hour class per week so there is still plenty of time to explore Montreal! I took all my classes in English and found the difficulty level to be similar to that at UQ, perhaps even a little easier as many of your classmates will speak English as a second language.

Montreal’s location makes it is an ideal base to explore North America. While on exchange I travelled to Cuba, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Quebec City, Vancouver, the Canadian Rockies, Vermont, New York (twice), Boston (twice), Washington, Miami and Orlando. I definitely recommend going on every trip that Hechange organises, including any ski trips (especially the ski trip to Jay Peak in Vermont). These trips pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to forge friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I also recommend travelling after your exchange as opposed to before it because you will make so many friends on exchange that you can travel with!

On the advice of a UQ student who had gone on exchange to McGill University (which is also in Montreal) I decided to wait until I arrived in Montreal to find an apartment. Going on exchange is all about getting outside your comfort zone so although the thought of moving to a foreign country without a place to live is scary – I cannot recommend it enough! Before leaving Brisbane I booked a week in a hostel (M Montreal – highly recommended!) so I would have somewhere to stay while apartment hunting. I also met some people to look for an apartment with on the Hechange facebook group (don’t be scared to put yourself out there). Things could not have worked out better – I moved into an amazing apartment in Le Plateau on the first day of the semester with three amazing girls from Slovenia, France and the Czech Republic.

Although HEC does help with accommodation through their organisation ‘Getyourplace’, and it is convenient to have a place secured before you can arrive, I really recommend waiting until you get there. But if you’re following the route I took – definitely wait until you’re in Montreal to find an apartment – you will get lots of advice from HEC students about what to look for, they will help you call landlords if you don’t speak any French (although most people in Montreal are bilingual) and most importantly, you will get to see the apartment in person before agreeing to anything. Kijiji and Craigslist (not as dodgy as everyone thinks) are the best websites to find an apartment.

I highly recommend living in Le Plateau (the student ghetto). This is where all of the amazing restaurants and bars are, as well as HEC’s uni bar (zaz bar) and where almost everyone from exchange will end up living. While it is a 20 minute bus ride on the 51 to uni, it’s more than worth it! I also recommend finding a place as close as possible to a bus stop or metro station – a 2 block walk seems like at least 20 block when you’re in a snowstorm. My advice is to find somewhere near one of the orange line metro stations (between Berri UQAM and Rosemont Station) or near a 51 bus stop.

The cost of living in Montreal is extremely similar to Brisbane, with some things (like rent) even cheaper. The apartment I rented was considered ‘expensive’ and cost $150 per week for an extremely nice apartment in an excellent location with internet, gas, electricity and heating included – a lot cheaper than Brisbane! Unfortunately, tax (13%) isn’t included in any ticket or menu prices and you must tip (roughly 15%) whenever you receive any form of service (unfortunately this includes drinks at a bar – $1 is the standard tip). It’s extremely rude not to tip so don’t buy anything unless you can afford the tip as well! And don’t forget to take a few extra dollars when you go out for coat check (stuff your scarf and gloves in your coat’s sleeves).
Top 5 tips:

  • If you’’ll be there for winter - buy a Canada Goose jacket. While they are very expensive (around $750 for a brand new one) they are worth every cent, especially when you spend at least 2 months in -20 degrees. I lived in mine.
  • Do all of the orientation week activities and go on every trip organised by Hechange – these are all really well organised activities/trips and the best way to make some new friends!
  • Get a group of friends together and go to Cuba for Spring Break – so much fun!
  • There are so many amazing restaurants in Montreal! I loved Tomate La Boite for awesome pizza, L’Avenue for brunch (go on a weekday to avoid the queues) and having home-delivered sushi. Alternatively, just walk down Rue Saint-Denis and take your pick!
  • Don’t stay at home because it’s cold outside! Put your coat on and get out there because your time in Montreal will go by more quickly than you could ever imagine.


 

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