In my senior year at Champlain, I often encouraged other game studio students to study abroad. The most common excuse I heard for not going was, “I’m struggling just sitting in Burlington, I don’t think I could deal with all the additional stress of being abroad.” As someone who had a really rough sophomore year, thought about dropping out or worse, and then spent two semesters and the summer in Montreal, I want to explain why studying in Montreal was the perfect tonic for me.
In my sophomore year I felt isolated, but in Montreal, making friends was so easy. It’s just a matter of numbers. The Burlington campus has thousands of people on it, so it’s perfectly possible to blend in, only talking and hanging out with people one already knows. The Montreal campus had less than thirty students. Everyone gets to know everyone else pretty quickly. That meant strangers becoming acquaintances, and acquaintances becoming great friends!
In my sophomore year, I felt lost when it came to my studies. I was not passionate enough about my major classes to excel in them, and I was totally burned out on core classes. In Montreal, the classes were such a refreshing experience. The core classes, featuring less essay writing and more fun trips and attempting to speak French, were just the right thing to still my otherwise constantly swirling mind from my major classes. The major classes were intense. The Montreal teachers are excellent at what they do, and the number of students is low, so the pace of the classes is quite a bit faster. The courses in Montreal were very hard, but the work was incredibly rewarding. One of the greatest strengths of the game studio, in my opinion, is the camaraderie engendered in the students by mutually figuring out the endless hard problems in game development. This effect was even greater in Montreal, due to the small class sizes and being in a new city with new professors. There were too many late nights (and early mornings) in the labs to count, but they were (mostly) fun and with friends.
The game development community in Montreal is incredible, and the connections that Champlain has in the city are invaluable. Getting to go to events like the IGDA Demo Night, or places like the TAG Lab, and see the wonderful games that people are making is inspiring. The people making those games are generally kind and open, and there is a lot of room for respectfully talking to people about their games. One never knows who will be a collaborator or employer in the future. The wonderful and untiring support and advice provided by the Champlain Montreal staff allowed me, normally a pretty reserved and awkward person, to take advantage of these great opportunities and meet tons of people. Through Champlain’s connections in Montreal, I got a summer internship at Tuque Games, which has now led to a job.
My summer internship was also formative in my game development life. For me, it was a justification for all the things I had been learning in school. I was able to jump in and learn the ropes quickly, under great mentorship. I learned so much, daily, through code reviews, talking with co-workers, and reading articles in my spare time. It was also a ton of fun, and I became a much better Street Fighter 4 player in the process. Ultimately, nothing speaks better to my time in Montreal than my decision to move back up there post-graduation and work in the city, at the studio with which I interned.