Claudia's Exchange in Montréal June 25th, 2017

For my exchange semester, I decided to go to the Université de Montréal in Montréal, Canada. I made this choice because it was a chance for me to discover the North American lifestyle and to study in French. Moreover, I have wanted to live in Canada for a while as Canadians have a reputation of being friendly and open-minded and this city is very special. Hopefully, this little article will give you some insight on the Canadian lifestyle.  

The university was very different from Maastricht as it did not have PBL but mostly lectures. The classes I took were more economic related: Economic Development, Economics of Social Behaviour, Contemporary Economic Issues, Database Management and Financial Institutions. Economics of Social Behaviour was definitely my favorite course, it was a mixture between basic econometrics and facts as seen in “Think Like a Freak”. The courses are taught in French, but if you do not speak French, there are 6 other universities in Montréal and most of them are English-speaking. Regarding the exams, there are two sessions of one week each (in October and in December) which are pretty stressful but all in all doable. The teachers were from Canada, Africa, Belgium and France and the majority interesting as some of them were working for big companies and others for the Canadian government. 

 

Since exchange students cannot move on campus, I decided to rent a flat with three other people. The rent was close to what I pay here in Maastricht (around 450 euros) and we soon realized that our place was one of the best flats compared to other exchange students’ places (and I am not biased at all). Moreover, our neighbours were exchange students as well, so we organized some pretty nice house parties. It is easy to meet international students as there are some organizations that plan trips and activities for us. However, it is not the same story with locals. The Canadian students were really nice, but very serious about their courses and were therefore not very social in class. 

I really liked the atmosphere of the city: it is very green, there are tons of nice cafes, crazy brunches, ... Each neighbourhood has its own typical style: Downtown, the Old Town, Mile-End, where the Hassidim Jewish community lives among young students and entrepreneurs; le Plateau, where French people live; the Gay Village, with all the bars and clubs; and more. My favourite part of the city were the people, everyone is super open-minded and genuinely nice, I learned a lot from them over the span of 5 months. Also, Montréal is very international, people there come from all around the world and consequently, the language is interesting and basically “Frenglish”.

One of the main reasons why I chose Montréal as my exchange destination was that its location is great. It is close to the Niagara Falls, New York, Boston, Ottawa and lots of other cool cities. However, as I travelled along the east coast of the US already I wanted to see a bit of California and I really wanted to discover Vancouver. The first trip I did was to a National Park, Mont-Tremblant. There are plenty of great parks in Canada and I wish I could have visited more. I went there with three of my friends, we rented a car for almost nothing (super cheap and super easy) and we slept at a B&B right next to a lake. We did a few hikes with great weather and enjoyed a nice evening at the lake. Next on my list were San Diego and Vancouver: visiting these two cities in 10 days was a challenge, though. First, I went down to Ocean Beach for five days, a small beach town in San Diego, where I got to enjoy the sun, got (super) sunburnt and ate (a lot) of Mexican food. If you ever go to San Diego, make sure you go to Ocean Beach (and to the USA hostel there), it is the best! Afterwards, I went up to Vancouver with Chris. The city is really diverse and it is possible to see downtown and in an hour get out of the city and find yourself on top of the Grouse Mountain with a beautiful view all the way to Vancouver Island. After my finals, we headed to Belize and Mexico for two weeks. Going from Montréal where it was snowy and -20 degrees to the Mexican weather was pretty intense but it was nice to finish the exchange experience at the beach.