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Exchange at McGill University – By Justin Low

This year, McGill University was voted the best student city in the entirety of North-America, and my experience while on exchange here has been telling of this status. From the get go, events around the campus kept me occupied and gave me a chance to meet new people. Frosh week (or as we would call it, orientation week) was not what I expected. Rather than the mundane orientation lectures, and dreary campus tours, all first year and exchange students were split up into groups of 20 within their faculty. Let me tell you, it’s surprising how much you can fit into one week when you have a cohort of 20 fresh students being led by 4 overly enthuastic leaders. There was a boat cruise, a day at the famous Beach Club, a pub crawl, a rugby match, and copious amounts of beer consumed. Each day also finalised with all of the students from each faculty congregating at a single night club. For me, most of these nights would end in an arduous journey home, which since I was quite new to the city (intoxication may also have played a part), consisted of quite a few turns in the wrong direction. There were many other McGill affiliated events throughout the semester, with the MISN (McGill International Students Network) and other organisations throwing parties regularly.

One of the things that has most shocked me whilst living in Montreal is the amount of French that I have been required to speak – essentially none. I was expecting to be ‘somewhat’ capable of the language by the time my exchange had ended. I had even learnt a little at home in anticipation of putting it to use when necessary. But between drunken attempts at speaking to locals at pubs, and my French roommate Nico teaching me swear words and slang, my exposure to the language has been bare. This can probably be attributed to my affinity for laziness, but I would say that it also has to do with the area of Montreal in which I’ve been spending most of my time. McGill is an English speaking university with Canada’s highest rate of International students, and I’ve been staying in the McGill Ghetto (officially Milton Parc). The Ghetto is essentially 10 blocks of Anglophone international students living in apartments. This has rubbed off on the culture and lifestyle of the city around it. An example of this influence is seen in the observation that all customer service workers greet you with a casual “bonjour hi” in order to quickly streamline the transaction. I learnt the hard way that the “bonjour” option is only for those proficient in French, and not those looking to practice when there’s a gigantic line of people waiting to be served. But I digress, no matter what their language of choice is, the people in Montreal have greeted me with open arms. The plethora of international students translates to a plethora of students who looking to form friendships and make the most of their time abroad.

I have about a month left of this exchange, and it’s getting to the point when the idea of leaving this city is entering the back of my mind. The last few months have come and gone like a freight train. I’ve experienced so much is this seemingly short space of time, but the lasting friendships I have made have definitely been the highlight. Montreal is a beautiful city in which you can enjoy a new experience every day, but it’s the people that I’ve shared these experiences with which have made this exchange something I’ll never forget.

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