First few weeks

Harry at McGill in Montréal


Salut from Montréal!

It has been a hectic two months so there will be some task to condense everything into one page of text (with hind sight this didn’t happen). For my regular readers (ha) I’ll update you on the situation as it was presented in the previous blog post.

Found a charming flat in the trendy district of the Plateau living with three other exchanges all of whom are from France. Excellent opportunity to learn some French. The only problem that has presented itself thus far was the berating comments received when England shamefully left the rugby world cup so early…

The saturation of French language speakers is high in the Plateau (it is half-outside the student bubble of Concordia and McGill) however since term has started the French/English language encounters has balanced. If anything Francophones are harder to come by now and so I’m thankful for the company of my flatmates, though it is something to bear in mind for those wishing to practice their French whilst in Montréal…

Inevitably you make friends. Obviously. So long as you don’t get intimidated by culture and change etc. etc. Though I feel anyone reading this has already made the transition to University at least once and so really I am providing no new information.

Continuing with more interesting matters, there is a plethora of things to do in Montréal and with McGill specifically. However for anyone reading this it would probably be quite annoying to just read about all the ‘cool’ things someone has done without any real advice. Similar to Facebook where you will see everyone else’s photos and activities and wish you were there doing them instead, as such I’ll only mention things that I can attach a cheeky bit of advice to. There is also a darker side to the First Few Weeks at McGill, but that’ll be in another blog that’ll follow this one shortly…

First things first. Exchanges have the opportunity to take part in Frosh, which is the equivalent of Fresher’s week. You have a few options of activities to choose from though for most people it boils down to faculty frosh or outdoors frosh. There is also a radical frosh for the more righteous and activist members of us student types though this has far fewer places and generally doesn’t seem as raved about… Faculty frosh is a week of partying hard with a frosh group (similar to Manchester Medic PBL group. We all know one) and is more akin to fresher’s as we know it in the UK. Outdoor frosh is a long weekend of either kayaking, hiking, canoeing, cycling or rock-climbing in the great Canadian outdoors.

As a member of hike frosh 2015 I’d vouch for that over faculty. Many members of faculty wished they did outdoors. Then some outdoors wished they’d done a little more partying… Ultimately there will be plenty of time to explore both the outdoors and sample Montréal nightlife, so this decision isn’t critical. Get involved with Frosh in some way however!

Second thing. During the first week there is an open air pub (OAP) on campus that serves as a vital component of getting to know people. Serving relatively cheap beer and hosting a stage with live bands and DJs it is distinctly cool. It is situated at what you will later come to know as the y-intersection and its aim is to fill the blank that you may have when you ask a newly made acquaintance if they want to go and get a drink somewhere and they reply ‘whereabouts?’. Since, after all, you only arrived in the country a week ago.

McGill is huge on sports relative to UK universities (though apparently not so much compared to other North American universities) and as such they have a popular intermural league for almost every sport. I signed up for a ‘soccer’ and ultimate Frisbee team (the latter had to be dropped due to the ‘dark side’ of McGill) and was only lucky enough to do so because I stumbled across the free agent meeting. If you are into sports, but not that competitive, actively find out about the intermural leagues! Met some pretty laid back folk doing it and had some good times playing awful quality football.

Facebook harbours a myriad of McGill only Facebook groups that are pretty useful when it comes to sorting life out. You can become a member as soon as you have been issued you r McGill email ( To date they’ve helped me find a place to live, eat for free on campus (develop a love for Samosas if you don’t already have one), buy second hand gear for my apartment and generally waste time enjoying the comic things people have to post. Think along the lines of Spotted University of Manchester.

The second hand store game in Montréal is strong. Despite people generally being very worked out and well dressed (I felt shabby as anything as a British exchange) there are plenty of thrift shops. Fripperies in the Plateau are a little more expensive but there are a couple more bulk sale ones if you venture to take the metro (Village Valeurs to name but one).

The McGill outdoors club (MOC) is an incredible society to get involved with. Would highly recommend to anyone with even a modest interest in the outdoors. They make Manchester Hiking Society look so tame it’s a little bit startling. MOC has executives dedicated to each mode of transportation you might commonly use in the outdoors, recently appointing a horse-back exec. Just to give you some perspective on how big they actually are. They host a listserv where they will post their organised trips, but also where any MOC may post an outdoors trip they are planning as an invitation for any MOC member to come and join them. It really is a very community orientated setup.

Tam-tams is a drumming circle situated at the base of Mont Royal (lovely mountain; underwhelming cross) that takes place every Sunday. It is very chilled. It is a very anything goes environment where every participant plays to their own rhythm, but the discordance stacks up to generate something fairly aesthetic.

Additionally, if you are a massive square and enjoy going to lame cultural things like museums and art galleries you will be satisfied here. Located a mere five minute walk from the university campus there is a fine arts museum which would takes about seventy hours to complete fully. McGill also has its own Redpath museum which is a nice place to spend a few hours hungover. These are just two near/on campus, however, and there is in fact many more though my personal favourite so far has been the Contemporary Art Museum. It is hard not to be creatively/emotionally engaged whilst standing in an empty white-washed room, gazing at an empty glass box with the sound of a woman’s sobbing emanating from it.

Tune in next week (or other, longer unit of time) for Academic Expectation.

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