Food, Glorious Food: Shirley

Anybody who knows me will be able to say without hesitation that this is the post for me. How is it possible to complete an experience without trying out all the flavours of the region, spending endless hours reading mouth water articles and sniffing out the hidden gems within the city? Even in the two months I have been here now, I have already gone to crazy limits like lining up for half an hour at midnight to have that authentic poutine, or posing as a different person on two different days to get another taste of the new brownies they’ve created at the chocolate shop. And sure there were some very shameless moments of whipping that camera out to get the best angle, wishing that somehow technology could help retain the scents and flavours in reality, but I would of course brave that for these delectable bright photos and wonderful experiences.

In fact, I’m not even that embarrassed because food appreciation is everywhere in Montreal. It is literally bursting through the city no matter how distinct the neighbourhood is and where you might happen to stroll past. The tasting culture here is so high that one of the most recommended activities that someone may ever find themselves being advised to try is to go on a walking food tour, where the city and all its charms can be discovered step by step while the fuel of classic foods and satisfying flavours makes the incentive for the next destination ever the better. The university even gave us as exchange students various opportunities to experience all of this with their own hosted tours – and what better way to make new friends on a sunny weekend but to stroll down the streets of Montreal with a famous bagel in hand and a nice iced drink to go with it?

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There is definitely no lack of good food, and while the city prides itself with its stunning and cafes each with a unique flair as well as the vibrant atmosphere which comes with causal bars and restaurants, there is no lack of variety either. Running all the way back to the classics here which I was most excited to try as somebody who has never set foot in Canada, all the way to modern hybrids of different flavours and combinations. It would be an endless mission to taste even a portion of what is there to offer, although I have, without question of course, gladly accepted this strenuous challenge. Smoked meat sandwiches, out of the oven bagels, hearty poutines, fresh salads and colourful juices, warm coffees, sweet beavertails and decadent desserts… Those only make up the tip of the massive iceberg that has me yearning for more. And with the transition into the colder months now, the options are endless and there is no doubt I will continue enjoying taking pictures of all of these even if I get a fair few more worried glances cast my way.

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But as much as eating out can be amazing and without a doubt some of the best conversations, the best laughs, the best memories were created with outings like that for me so far, there are always other options. In the shoes of a student trying to travel as much as I can, you can imagine that when the dreamy haze parts and reality hits in the form of a very depleted looking bank account, it doesn’t take major maths skills to know that those are only ‘treat yourself’ moments. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single week that passes by without several of those, but living independently means you can get creative. I understand that cooking isn’t something a lot of us have time for nor have a heap of experience with, but it’s all a fantastic learning experience when you have so many others around to share tips and tricks from their parts of the world. I actually love developing this skill because it helps me to become healthier, more budget friendly. And of course it proves to myself that I, as well as any student capable enough to set their mind on exchange, can make some delicious food and innovate at home too.

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See if you can spot the homemade good sprinkled in there, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, not to mention I absolutely die for how vibrant these pictures look! After all, there’s not much more I can say without feeling hungry again!

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

Adobe Spark (10)

 

 

 

Accommodation Awards: Shirley

Different people have different things that they find important in their immediate environment: Some have to have good company, others like warmer or cooler weather. But for the most part especially being on exchange, it is the creation of a makeshift home fit to remember good pastimes but induce new memories as well which cannot be overlooked.

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It is definitely a good time to note that sorting out accommodation is no easy task, and even as someone who does not live at home and is flexible enough to find it easy to adapt to new places, it was an extremely difficult process to sort out. For me personally, the top three priorities that I really looked to fulfil with my accommodation would not be too dissimilar to those of most people: The opportunity to meet new people easily, proximity to the university campus and easy accessibility to frequent places such as shops and cafes, grocery stores and banks. In fact, I had come to the realisation that cost wasn’t the most important factor because during my one term here, I wanted to make the most of it and rent would not be too much of a controlling factor. The important thing was to have a place to live where my lifestyle could be well integrated even in the midst of vast differences between Montreal and Auckland.

Three very obvious options were presented to me: Living on campus with McGill Rez, off campus with hotel style student accommodation or simply flatting with other fellow students in the nearby neighbourhood named the McGill Ghetto, which can be rather charming despite the name. More than several hours to say the least had been spent simply researching what might be the best option considering my three requirements, but the best fit seemed to be staying with McGill. The network and community would be unparalleled to make new friends and an infinite number of students in my exact same shoes would have gone through with it without a hitch. But I sure can tell you there were many bumps in the road. The application itself gave no information so until the point I had paid my deposit and assigned a house, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Deadlines sprung up without warning, emails back and forth were frustrating with time zones and questions were endless even if you could get them through. It was a tough lesson to learn that making the decision to take risks is something that I will definitely have to come across again during my exchange.

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But at the end of day, it really does work out no matter what option. I now live with 14 other girls where we spend every waking minute filling this massively old house with young laughter. Steps away from campus through the back door, a few more through the front on to one of Montreal’s most well known streets, it couldn’t have ticked the boxes in a better way. Our shared kitchen is always bustling and the common room is almost big enough to throw a salsa dance-off. The manor style staircase and corridors carry sounds of giggles and banter from room to room. With five singles and five doubles, I was lucky enough to have talked to my roommate Michela before we met in person so sharing our space was something we slipped into with ease. It definitely helps that our room is unbelievably grand as well, being the only one with tall windows, high ceilings and even a rustic fireplace to add to that cozy Canadian feel.

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While it was the luck of the draw and we may have the biggest room, it’s easy to see that we all are winners here. Everyone puts their all into their rooms, with photos and decorations, and walking through them is like diving into a part of their lives and listening to their stories. Some sneaky little rubber ducks seemed to appear and they don’t stop either, which adds to the fun of it all. We all deserve awards as people coming from different places to adjust and trying our hardest to make this place as much of home as possible. And if I may say so myself, we certainly did a kick ass job of it.

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Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/) J

Adobe Spark (10)

First Impressions: Shirley

First impressions aren’t everything, but they are definitely something. The things you hear, you read, you see from afar: They are all building up to this one grand moment of finally getting there to experience it all for yourself. Going on exchange to a place I have never been to gave me plenty to be excited for, and without me even noticing, the expectations only grew as it got closer and closer to my departure date. And without spoiling the plot far too early, they all exceed those unnaturally high expectations and passed with flying colours.

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Montreal can only be described as a vibrant, diverse and every moving place. There is so much to talk about already and without a doubt much more to come, which makes me glad that I can try to provide the best interpretation as I can throughout these upcoming posts instead of having an endless stream written down all in one go. It is constantly shifting and moving, ever jammed packed with activities to do, festivals and events to do attend and there is never a dull moment as long as you are willing to participate. And that kind of positive, fun-loving attitude completely transcends to the student life I have experienced so far at McGill University. To be honest, even more so. Because you can trust us young people to also take things a step further and make it an unforgettable moment, every day and every night.

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So focusing on the orientation aspect of my journey so far, this is a part that I really noticed a difference from home. The whole purpose of the exchange for me was to gain a new perspective on what tertiary education could be like, to try and experience something perhaps more dynamic than at home simply because I would now be fully immersed in having everything that comes with being a student. And from the very first event, it was like a whirlwind had started and it has not stopped ever since. Being thrown in the midst of a huge stadium on the first day as a welcome didn’t feel like the typical orientation, but that we were being initiated into part of something exciting. It made perfect sense to get the more informative segment of the week done early so we had a good understanding of where everything was, and while it doesn’t seem particularly interesting, trust me that when there are a million things to sort out when you first get here, having people showing the way is a sweet blessing to get that ticked off the list.

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I can’t lie: What I have been highly anticipating with coming to McGill during this orientation week was the infamous Frosh week. Different faculties with their themes and colours have a myriad of activities planned all over the city. Together with our hyped up, enthusiastic leaders who seemed to take their job of giving us the best first McGillian experience seriously, we were all buzzing with excitement to start our four days of bonding and trying our hardest to make it to everything that was available to us. But the explosion of what was to come were nothing like what us ‘froshies’ expected at all, and our engineering ‘The Frosh and the Furious’ theme could not have found a more fitting way to portray it.

There is never a half effort with events held as part of frosh. Thing are turned up to maximum level without fail. Even if I were to describe the highlights of a select few, it would probably take days to finish reading about what had happened and what it felt like to be part of something so big and foreign to anything I had, or in fact any normal person, would have experienced. Plus, it’s almost impossible to capture the atmosphere in words on a page, and the photos would probably do it more justice even though only a small portion of the electric vibe that lingered in the air and be felt through them. Obstacle courses, pre-event rallying, concert and club nights, park games, pub crawls, beach day, frat parties… If anybody had told me before that I would be doing all of that in the span of a couple of days in the most insane, unforgettable of ways, I doubt I would have believed it. The jokes and banter, the laughs and the thrill of meeting new friends every few moments thrust me into an electrifying state. With everything that happened though, even the smallest things like learning the university and faculty chants, singing and dancing to them like we didn’t have a care in the world was something that struck me and will stay with me for a very long time to come.

 

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It wouldn’t be right to hide the fact that these four days were EXTREMELY intense. Collapsing in fatigue in the dead of night and waking up as early as 6am to get to the next event was no uncommon thing. It was hard on us, so hard that almost everybody got what we deem as ‘frosh flu’ as soon as it ended. But even with our sniffles and red noses, it was undeniably the most exhilarating experience that we had ever had. And I was part of all of that. With every vivid moment ingrained in me and a million more stories to tell, even just this very beginning part of the journey was worth it for me to be on exchange. And the prospect of having more to come? I think it’s easy to guess how I feel about that.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

Adobe Spark (10)