Cameron: There’s snow place like Montreal!

Many locals hate the winter weather, but as an exchange student, I’ve learnt to make the most of every opportunity and always find something to do whether its a -23°c snow blizzard, or a beautiful 1°c (warm for Canadian winter) sunny day. Even in the winter, there is still SO much to do in Montreal – arguably more than in summer! I have only been here for a month yet if you asked me, “What have you done in Canada,” it would take me hours to go through everything. But here are some highlights!

IGLOOFEST

Igloofest is an electronic music festival that is on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a whole month, so you pick which nights you want to go depending on who’s playing. Tickets sell for $35-$48 NZD for each night depending on the demand, which is quite cheap for a concert this good. They’ve had some pretty big DJ’s perform in the past such as Diplo and RL Grime and I went on the night Kaytranada was playing! There are also heaps of free activities around the festival ground such as free marshmallow roasting, tube sliding, photo booths and a retro arcade game tent.

The cold is extreme, therefore everyone packs on the layers, which makes it kind of hard to dance and is an odd sensation but the event is a Montreal MUST-DO if you’re here for the winter semester, Igloofest is definitely not your average festival.

QUEBEC CITY

The city is located three hours away from Montreal and is VERY French. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is an important annual event that celebrates French Canadian culture with food, entertainment and amusement rides. Tickets to Quebec are about $40 one way, (according to my flatmate), however the McGill International Student Network offered exchange students return bus tickets for $35! Tickets to the Carnival were $18, but we also used the time to explore the breathtakingly beautiful city streets.

Some of the activities at the carnival were:

  • Exploring a castle made entirely out of ice (it even had an ice slide)
  • Axe throwing
  • Wearing sumo suits and playing ice hockey (wearing shoes not ice skates though)
  • Tube sledding
  • Ski shots (4 shots attached to a ski – very Canadian)
  • Making maple syrup toffee. Done by pouring maple syrup onto snow until it freezes and you eat it like a lollipop

SLEDDING

Sledding is an everyday winter activity for Canadian children, but my flatmate and I had never done it, so we decided to embrace our inner child and invest in a sled. You can rent one $7 a day, but we bought ours in downtown Montreal for $15. After only one sledding trip we already got our moneys worth and plan to use it many more times. Beside McGill University is Mount Royal which takes 45 mins to walk up to get a view of the entire city, but halfway up the mountain is a literal winter wonderland. There’s sledding tracks and an ice skating link on a beautiful frozen lake where there’s sledding tracks and an ice skating rink on a frozen lake.

The view from the top of Mount Royal is insane – photos don’t do it justice!

NIGHTLIFE

The nightlife in Montreal is much better than in Auckland. You can go out every night of the week here if you wanted to and most clubs have different themed nights e.g. House, Regge, R&B and Throwback etc… Although it is freezing outside, everyone still wears typical clubbing outfits like they would in Auckland plus a jacket or coat for walking in between clubs. Everywhere offers coat check for $3-$5, but I just tie my jacket around my waist or hide it behind a plant instead. #hacks. 

Cafe Campus is the McGill equivalent of Shadows at UoA, except it’s 4x the size and equipped with about 30 disco balls

To anyone reading this and thinking of coming to McGill University – DO IT. Montreal is an incredible city that has so much to offer. There has not been a single day yet where I have been bored. If you ever want a (long) list of recommendations feel free to email me. cbak267@aucklanduni.ac.nz

Although the winter semester has intense weather, Montreal truly embraces it. There are so many events on and things to do all day and all night – just don’t forget your thermals! 

Au revoir!



			
		

Cameron: First Impressions of Montreal

I made it to Canada!

My first two weeks at McGill University have been jam-packed with meeting new people, battling the cold and exploring the incredible city of Montreal. My main goal for the exchange was to go somewhere that is so utterly different to New Zealand and I have come to the right place. Here’s a breakdown of some of my first impressions of anything and everything important that has to do with going on exchange to McGill University!

Food

Montreal is well known for its food. This is something I was especially looking forward to as I’ve always wanted to try the classic North American food we hear about growing up but can’t get in NZ. A Canadian dish I was excited to try was poutine. It’s hot chips covered in gravy and cheese curds – but you can get some insane variations. I made sure my first ever poutine was at the best poutine place in Montreal, and everyone Canadian I talked to recommenced a place called La Banquise. It was a half an hour walk away and then a 20-minute wait to get a table, but it was 100% worth the wait.

ACCOMODATION

McGill doesn’t provide much information for exchange student housing on their website. If you’re interested in coming to McGill I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Exchange students can either go into their regular accomodation, which means you’re mixed with domestic students in flats or dorms, or you can go into 1 of 4 flats which house 17-30 exchange students in each flat. I’m in one of the exchange student houses, and it does, unfortunately, mean you end up living in an ‘exchange student bubble,’ but the major benefit is that you are living with people who are always keen to explore and go do something. The endless late-night conversations about slang and mocking each other’s accents are fun too.

The only major downside to this accommodation is the loft beds. This means that all the beds are above the desk. You have to climb a ladder to get onto your bed and you also can’t charge your phone and be on your phone in bed at the same time because the chord doesn’t reach that high from the wall. But the rent here is cheap compared to Auckland, and we live a 6-minute walk from campus, so I’m not fussy.

UNI

University life at McGill is very different from UoA. I’m taking all level 400 courses (equivalent to stage 3 courses at UoA) and in upper-year classes the class sizes are really really small and the expectation from the lecturers is high. In two of my classes, I’m 1 of 11 students. We all sit around one table, and the lecturer sits with us, and the content is taught to us like more of a discussion. We are expected to stop the lecturer to ask questions and give our own opinions on everything. None of my lectures are recorded, and most of them don’t provide slide shows, so if you miss the class you fall behind and it’s hard to catch up. Class participation is much more emphasised here than at Auckland and is worth 20% for most of my classes.

WEATHER

It’s pretty well known that Canada is cold. I can’t really describe what -21° feels like, and apparently, it’s going to get even colder. Every Canadian tells me that I’m going to hate the snow after a few weeks, but at the moment I love it. As long as you have snow boots (I found a pair for $60 on the first day I arrived), thermals and one REALLY good jacket (I got mine for half price during a Kathmandu sale) you’ll be fine. Going on exchange is all about putting yourself in a new and different situation, and this is definitely different from Auckland.

If you have any questions about anything related to going on exchange to McGill University don’t hesitate to reach out! cbak267@aucklanduni.ac.nz