Thursday, September 8th, will mark two weeks since I crossed the border and arrived in Montreal for this semester.
The first few days we were here were planned out ahead of time. We received an Orientation schedule about a week before move-in so we knew what we’d be up to. The first day involved a quick tour of the EVO residence building, including the laundry rooms, pool, and terrace, and a few informational sessions with EVO and Champlain Abroad staff. These mainly covered residence rules, emergency procedures, and the sorts of things we could expect living in Canada – taxes, the metro, and language to name a few. Afterwards, we had a very American pizza party – Dominos, of course – before going on a trip to the Jean-Coutu pharmacy and IGA grocery store right down the street from our residence. It’s worth noting that currently we have a favorable exchange rate from USD to CAD, so those $0.50 packs of instant noodles you’ll be getting are actually only $0.38.
The next day was our first metro trip to the Academic Center. As someone who is accustomed to the MBTA subway, using the Montreal Metro was like a breath of fresh air. It’s clean, fast, and doesn’t sound like it’ll fall apart at any second – and not a single rat to be seen.
The AC is only a few stops away from the EVO residence, so getting to and from class is a breeze, if a bit more of a trek than walking up Maple Street. However, the AC is worth the commute. There’s a kitchen in case you need a quick meal, a lounge where you can play games (with a PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch), labs similar to those in the CCM building, and bathrooms on every floor. As I write this, I’m sitting in the lounge with a cup of hot chocolate (there’s a lot of hot chocolate mix in the kitchen).
I’ll definitely be spending a lot of time in this building, as EVO unfortunately isn’t ideal for doing homework. I thought the rooms would be more similar to the dorms in Burlington, but the larger desks have been traded for full-size beds. Not a bad trade in my opinion, but certainly a bit inconvenient. Don’t plan on bringing your own PC – even an extra monitor will take up most of the space on the single table in your room.
Something else worth mentioning is the language. If you’re like me and paid no attention in middle school French class… don’t worry. Most people in Montreal speak both English and French. Learning some common phrases is courteous, but don’t stress! Many Montrealers will begin a conversation with “bonjour, hi” letting you continue in whatever language you’re most comfortable with.
To say I’m excited for the next few months in this city would be an understatement. To say I’m nervous would also be an understatement. Even in these first few weeks, I’ve had so much fun – from climbing over 300 steps to the top of Mont Royal, to getting dumplings in Chinatown before class. There’s a lot to get used to as well, like preparing all my own meals and navigating the public transit system. It can honestly be a bit overwhelming at times – but remember, other students are in the same boat as you. Having a group of people to make meals and go to class with has made all the difference. During my time here, I hope to get a greater understanding of Montreal culture and explore even more of what the city has to offer, as well as learn new skills from my classes and hopefully get the chance to connect with other game developers at MIGS in October. Studying abroad opens up so many opportunities – it’s up to you to make the most of them!