There is no doubt that going away for a year to a foreign land can be remarkable. The endless stream of Instagram posts and vlogs are clear evidence of this. From the shots of students lost in the urban paradise of Hong Kong, to my fellow Mancunian travellers taking snaps in the idyllic rural landscapes of South America. For those that want study abroad, there is certainly enough substance out there to tickle your taste-buds and inspire you to go on an adventure.
Helloooo Prospective Exchangers!
Hands down one of the best parts of going on an exchange is the opportunity to explore around the town or city you’re studying in. Travelling throughout the semester on short weekend breaks really gives you a feel for the country. These are quite general but if you’d like something more specific shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry at McGill in Montréal
In just over a week I will be catching a flight from Pierre-Trudeau airport exactly three hundred and eleven days after arriving there to begin my year of exchange. To say a lot of has happened since then, true as it is, would be a little underwhelming and doesn’t seem to do justice to quite how busy Montréal and McGill are.
I previously mentioned I was set to start a summer research position in the McGill chemistry department, which was how I could afford to stay in Montréal another two months, and it has transpired to be a very rewarding experience. The department made it simple for international students with regards to obtaining placements and so if you are one to consider experience and career opportunities getting a cheeky summer internship at McGill would look pretty sweet.
Despite the work being engaging and the lab environment being social or the first week or so /I was a little confused about the situation I found myself in. Most other exchanges had left Montréal and those that were left were dropping like flies. Not even just exchanges. Full time McGill students were all on their annual homeward migration. Consequently I was in a sort of limbo where I was neither going home nor travelling. A lingering smell. It was like Montréal had a party and the house got a tiny bit damaged yet I insisted staying to help tidy up even though Montréal is tired and doesn’t really need the help.
Though this is inaccurate because that suggests Montréal is sluggish when term is out. People had said to me that Montréal was a student town though having spent half of summer here I wouldn’t agree that that was the case. However I do concede it is not a suit-sporting hyper-competitive business town. For sure.
In fact I found that with so few people staying in Montréal everyone was quite keen to step out of their comfort zone and hang out with people they hadn’t all year. I guess people taking summer courses whose friends have left don’t want to be bored either. Consequently the stifling purgatory feel soon dissipated.
Walking from my new flat I pass through Jeanne-Mance park (should you be reading this in anticipation of coming to Montréal you will soon become familiar with this park as it serves as a buffer between the Plateau and Mont Royal) and with all sincerity one afternoon coming home if by some freak accident I was slain… I could have died happy.
The sun was low enough in the sky that there was no risk of frying however it had not gotten any colder than it was at noon. Camera in hand I strolled past all the sports facilities the park adorns in turn: beach volleyball, soccer, Frisbee, tennis and baseball. With each sport a healthy crowd of athletes participated, and although some were more athletic than others, they were all soaking up the summer ambience. These games were punctuated with groups of picnicking friends, flirting couples, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, slackliners, musicians and other photographers.
It is my conclusion that Montréal too has a juxtaposed culture similar to that of McGill, but instead of it being work hard and play hard, it is winter blues and summer loving. Everyone throws themselves so hard into summer.
One example of this is the plethora of festivals Montréal hosts for essentially the whole of summer. There are actually so many that some are so poorly advertised you only find out about them when you stumble into a main stage on the walk back from the metro. This was the case where I found half the length of Boulevard St Laurent shut off with a terrasse outside every shop, bar and restaurant. The highlight of which was a local’s bar in little Portugal that had moved a flat screen into the shop window so that people could sit and watch the Euro from the street.
I am so glad I was able to spend some time in Montréal over summer and would highly recommend that however you find your year at McGill you should seriously consider staying for summer because they city transcends into something greater than you will see it at any other time of year.
This is actually my last compulsory blog with the GGA scheme and as such my next one will likely be a photo compilation comprised from a number of friend’s photography archives. Writing this actually served as a break from planning my summer travel plans which are woefully lacking. Now this is finished I can focus on getting tourist cards and visas and reflect on the fact that my time in Montréal has finally come to an end.
Good luck to anyone reading this who is set to come out here.
By Sarah Winspear (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada).
So here goes, my last blog post in Canada and what can I say it’s been amazing! Although for me this is not the end of my time abroad as the adventure will be continuing in the States with a bit of travelling and then working at an American summer camp which I can’t wait for. But it has meant the last few days have been pretty hectic as I only finished my exams yesterday and have a lot of stuff to sort out in the last few days before I can leave for the USA.
Looking back this year has gone exceptionally quickly and I can’t believe it’s just about over. I remember the excitement of first arriving in a new city and meeting my new flatmates and now it’s time to say goodbye. I have become so adapted to the way of life here; going to 8am lectures, grabbing a blue chip cookie or Tim Horton’s coffee to maintain energy and of course going out for cheap sushi often, so now I don’t think it’s really sunk in that I am actually leaving.
A few things I am definitely going to miss are the general feel of campus and how beautiful it is, with the ability to walk 10 minutes to the beach to watch the sunset, the convenience of Whistler a mere 2 hours away on the grey hound and of course the people that I have met from around the world.
Some highlights for me have been:
-the diverse range of REC events available (these are recreational one off events that are great fun)
-The Rocky Mountains
-the stunning campus
-being able to go and watch campus sports (which always have a good atmosphere)
-the city in general with an ocean and beaches, mountains and trails and a thriving downtown area all in close proximity
-and so many more that I just can’t write everything down.
Finally I don’t really know what else to say other than no matter what you are doing consider study abroad and make the most of it while you’re there I guarantee you will not regret it and will look back and wonder how the previous year past by so fast!!
I hope my blog has shown you a little insight into study abroad and live in Vancouver and that you’ve found it interesting!
Thanks for reading