Settling into life in Montreal

By James Walley, McGill University, Canada.

Wow, what a start to life in Canada.

So far, my expectations have been well and truly exceeded and I am incredibly excited for what the rest of the year has to hold. I have now been here for over three weeks and so much has happened in that short space of time.

Granted, the first week was not the stress free start I wanted and instead it was filled with intense house hunting along with the tedious tasks of sorting out bank accounts and phone contracts. However, I did manage to explore the city and surrounding areas; such as downtown Montreal, Le Plateau, the old town and the beautiful Mount Royal Park, a huge urban park in the middle of the city that has an awesome view over the island of Montreal and beyond (see above). Fun fact: Mount Royal Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park.

St Joseph’s Oratory, next to Mount Royal.

After 5 days, I had found and moved into a house located in a quiet, leafy area of Le Plateau with two Swedish students, whom are also on an exchange program. Now I could finally settle down and let the fun begin! Soon after moving in, frosh began. Frosh is the Canadian equivalent of freshers week but on a much larger scale and meticulously organised, with 4 days of day and night activities ranging from breakfast up Mount Royal to boat parties. The culture shock came with the very over-the-top approach Canadian’s seem to take in these situations, with endless chants being introduced by our frosh leaders, of which us Brits would be quick to classify as ‘cringe’ but we soon got involved. Despite being rather skeptical at the beginning, frosh turned out to be a really fun week and most importantly it was a great opportunity to meet fellow students, both Canadian and international exchange students. In fact, I think universities back home could learn a thing or two from the McGill frosh.

My new house in the lovely Square Saint Louis. A slight change from Fallowfield!

As frosh came to an end, the real world beckoned and classes began. Word of advice to any prospective students: make sure to be online and ready to sign up to your courses as soon as registration opens online! I logged in half an hour after registration opened and the majority of courses I wanted to take in geography were full up. Luckily it has worked out and I’ve managed to find courses I enjoy, although this meant thinking outside the box and choosing a few courses in subject areas I haven’t studied before, such as anthropology and history.

Walking into the McGill campus
Lunch time at McGill

The good times have not ended with the beginning of classes. One of Montreal’s many nicknames is ‘The City of Festivals’ and I can now see why. Every week since I’ve been here there have been numerous festivals running, from huge electro music parades through the city to jazz festivals at the Old Port. There’s almost too much to do and the main problem of the weekend is deciding what to do and where to go… it’s a hard life.

Being a typical Brit abroad I have helped set up an 11 a-side ‘soccer’ team with other international students, which I quite proudly named Montreal Madrid. We had our first game last week and bagged a solid 2-0 win. Watch this space.

mtl madrid
Montreal Madrid’s team crest, featuring Montreal’s two treasures – Mount Royal and poutine. Credits to fellow teammate and Uni of Manchester student Stanley Myers O’Mulloy on his photoshop expertise.

Overall, I am so pleased with how life at McGill and Montreal is turning out. Montreal is a beautiful city and the fact that it has been voted the QS Best Student City of 2017 says it all. Over the next few months the main priority is to venture out of the city in the weekends to explore rural Canada before fall ends and the notorious Canadian winter hits. Oh, and to keep on top of my studies of course.

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