Advice for future McGillians

Now that I am settled back at home in the UK and looking back at my study abroad as if it were a dream, I feel it’s time to write my final blog. I will dedicate this mostly to future McGill students and offer some specific advice for you, as I know this is harder to come by than generic advice about studying abroad.

Accommodation:

  • A lot of McGill exchange students live in private housing, rather than university accommodation (a huge draw for me).
  • The two main areas that students live in private housing are the Ghetto and Le Plateau.
  • The Ghetto is ideally situated close to McGill and people choose to live there due to the high density of students in the area as well as the close proximity to uni, which is pretty handy over winter
  • Le Plateau is more diverse with a huge array of shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, parks etc and due to its large size there’s more choice of accommodation and it’s easy to find a cheap place to rent. I lived on the beautiful Square Saint Louis and can put you in touch with my landlady if you’d like. It was the most perfect location.
  • The university does have exchange houses so if you’d like to be in university accommodation with lots of other exchange students in your position then this could be for you, although I personally felt I got more out of the city by living further out in private housing.
IMG_6844
My house on Rue du Square Saint Louis

Academics:

  • I have a previous blog that is dedicated largely to this so have a gander at that for more information (see here: https://manchesterontheroad.com/2017/12/24/academic-advice-for-future-canada-exchange-students/ )
  • To summarize; be adventurous and make the most of the flexibility of an exchange student, be aware of the heavy workload at McGill so pay attention to course structures/assessment and, most importantly, sign up to courses as soon as you can because they do fill up (and put yourself on the waitlist if they’re full as there’s always people who drop out).

The dreaded winter:

  • First of all, don’t dread it too much. We’re Brits, we’ve hardly grown up in a tropical climate.
  • As my old dear says, “there’s no such thing as poor weather, just poor clothing”… she couldn’t have been more right.
  • Get yourself down to a charity shop and stock up on winter clothes. I went to Village des Valeurs near Pie IX metro station and got myself timberland boots and a super warm duck down feather lined jacket for $40 in total, (I had budgeted $600)!!. This kept me nice and toasty all winter.
  • Again, more info can be found in a previous blog (see: https://manchesterontheroad.com/2018/03/30/surviving-and-enjoying-the-canadian-winter/#more-17626 )
hockey
A spot of ice hockey on Parc La Fontaine

 

Life in Montreal:

  • Everyone likes to live their lives differently and Montreal will cater for every need, you’ll no doubt discover unique places you’d like to spend your time.
  • I’d definitely recommend joining an intra-mural sports team. You can join a team at whatever level, even beginners Ice Hockey! Some other international students and I set up an 11 a side ‘soccer’ team and reached the semi finals, it was so much fun and a great way to make new friends.
  • Get stuck into the Canadian past times. Embrace the winter and go out skiing or skating. All the lakes freeze over in the winter and you can go out and skate on them for free, I bought myself some used skates, an ice hockey stick and a puck and got loads of use out of them at Parc Lafontaine. There are numerous ski slopes nearby and McGill Ski Society (SSMU) runs trips every weekend over winter. You can rent ski gear for the winter from Poubelle du Ski.

Travel:

  • Again, I’m sure everyone has different ideas of where they’d like to go.
  • Closeby (in North American terms), there’s New York, Boston, Toronto, Quebec City, Ottawa plus many national parks if you want to get out of the city for a weekend.
  • Definitely make the most of Christmas, Spring Break and the end of exams as these are the best times to go further away. I went to Cuba before Christmas, Tennessee during Spring Break and travelled extensively over Canada and the US after exams. You’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of places to go!
Jasper
Taking a moment to think in Jasper National Park

Doing this has given me some serious blues and I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I left for Montreal. It really was the best year of my life (and I can now confirm that past exchangees are not just being cliché by saying this), I’m incredibly jealous of those of you who are soon to embark on your year abroad.

I could have gone on forever but need to keep it brief! If you have any questions or would like me to expand on anything, please email me on james.walley@student.manchester.ac.uk or james.walley@mail.mcgill.ca

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