Advice for new students to Montreal

If you’ll be coming to the Montreal campus next semester, or are considering it in the future, you may be looking for a little advice. Two current students, Kayleigh Blanchette and Peter Barry, have prepared some words of wisdom for curious new students.
You can see Peter’s excellent (and funny) advice on his blog on where to find the best coffee in Montreal, the cheapest groceries, and how to learn as much outside of a classroom than inside of one. Keep reading for Kayleigh’s advice about where to find your textbooks, how long it will take your Mom to mail you something, and where to buy toilet paper best for your wallet.

Coming to Montreal? Here’s What you Should Know.

By: Kayleigh Blanchette

So you’ve decided to study abroad in Montreal? Good choice! Studying abroad in Montreal may just end up being one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. There are a few things you should know though before you pack your bags and head North.

First, make a trip to Costco or your favorite bulk-sized store and stock up on a few things. It’s not that you can’t purchase these items in Montreal, it’s that they are very expensive, since you are in the heart of downtown. Buy the biggest package of toilet paper that you can find; you won’t regret it and neither will your wallet. Stock up on mac and cheese because, for some reason, the Canadian version of Kraft tastes weird. If you love cheddar, and you probably do since you live in Vermont, find the largest block of Cabot in stores and buy a few. Cheese both tastes different (Vermonters are plagued with an amazing taste for cheddar) and costs more. Some of your favorite items can cost at least double what you’d pay for them in America, so save a few bucks and stock up before you cross the border.

I don’t want you to think you’re going to be poor after leaving Montreal, because you won’t as long as you budget a bit. Hopefully you’ve been putting aside some spending money for your study abroad experience. Almost any amount of money can get you by for a semester, it all depends on your determination and ability to compromise. For example, you can buy steak for cheap here, but chicken is pricey. Also, be sure to set aside about $250 for excursions to Ottawa and Quebec City. Each costs $120 and they are completely worth it. You may regret missing out on them.

You not only need to budget your money, you need to be able to manage your time in Montreal as well. Here, there are endless places for you to visit and tons of things to do; it’s guaranteed you will never be bored. So when you’re faced with the option of hitting up that new bar with your friends on Thursday or finishing that essay that’s due for history, you need to prioritize. It doesn’t seem hard now, but when you think about the fact that you are only going to be living in Montreal for a semester, you want to seize every opportunity that you can. It’s not to say you shouldn’t seize those opportunities, you just have to know when to prioritize, because as it is in Burlington, it’s hard to catch up when you get behind.

Just a few other pieces of advice:

The textbooks you need for Montreal are mostly Canadian, or translated, so don’t plan on finding the textbooks online or in a book store here easily. I’d suggest getting them through the Champlain bookstore before you make the trek to Montreal.

For extra mobility, consider buying your own router because you have to hook up to the internet through an Ethernet chord (one is provided for you) connected to the phone in your room. There is wireless throughout the academic building though, so that you don’t have to worry about.

Mail from America to Canada takes about a week to arrive, so take that into consideration if you plan on having your parents send something up to you.

Opening a TD Bank account will be very helpful in Montreal, because there are TD ATMs everywhere. Also, be sure to let whatever bank you belong to know that you are travelling so it doesn’t look suspicious when a bunch of purchases in Montreal show up on your account. When you arrive be sure to have some Canadian money on you because some places don’t take certain bank cards or American cash.

Finally don’t expect to hear a lot of English in Montreal. Most people primarily speak French, but will easily switch to English if you ask “parlez vous anglais?” Canadians are extremely polite and friendly, so don’t assume they’re like the Parisian French: they don’t like Americans. However, people in Montreal really appreciate you attempting to speak French and assimilate to their culture, even if it’s just saying “bonjour” and “merci.”

Montreal is a foreign city that is much different than I’m used to, but it’s an amazing place to be. Some of the differences take some getting used to but it’s a learning process that will help you to grow and mature as a worldlier individual. You will learn after just a day or two into your study abroad experience that you never want to leave Montreal. Now that I see the end coming, I’m preparing for my return to Burlington, but I’m dreading the change. I’m going to miss Montreal when it’s not outside my window anymore. I’ve matured so much from the experience already, and I know I will continue to until I leave. Studying abroad in Montreal definitely is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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