Here is a list of things that I can think that might be helpful for you if you were thinking about an exchange at McGill University, but also for when you are already there.
In the second part of this blog you will find some pictures of Atlantic Canada where I spent my spring break and a visit is HIGHLY recommended. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about McGill, Montreal, the Maratimes, or anything else related!
- Flats in Montreal don’t have to be expensive, keep your budget low and you will have more money to travel. I would aim for no more than 500 CAD.
- Most students live in the Plateau and McGill ghetto (Milton Park). Flats on the other side of the University (closer to Concordia university) are also to recommend, but you might not live next door to most of your friends
- Public transport is okay- in winter you might have to wait for multiple busses before you can squeeze into one; the metro stops running shortly after midnight so be prepared
- You can get a student OPUS card via McGill (check Minerva) for 15 CAD. It is useful if you top it up monthly (50 CAD) and might still be worth getting either way, because the busses only take exact change (3.25 CAD) and an OPUS card will make your life easier.
- Arrive for Frosh (like Fresher’s week in Edinburgh) before the semester starts in September- you need to sign up online and I highly recommend the OUTDOORS FROSH- worth the money for sure and friends for the rest of your exchange, you should also join the McGill Outdoors Club if you are interested in the slightest as they offer absolutely everything and the community is great, don’t be afraid to get involved and run as an exec for the winter semester
- I also highly recommend salsa/ bachata dancing if you wanna get better or try something new (it’s only 5 CAD drop in for 3h or 25-35 CAD for the whole semester)
- If you want to join an intramural (different sports at the McGill gym) then be careful not to miss the deadline at the beginning of each semester!
- The McGill gym is free to get in and you can use the pool for free too
- Travelling can be expensive- I recommend using kangaride which is a rideshare website and gets you to NYC for about 60 CAD; McGill also has a deal with car rental companies (enterprise is the best)- just look at their website and you will not have to pay extra fees for being under 25 years old and insurance is half price as well- definitely worth it!!
- Cannabis is legal in Canada since fall 2018 and alcohol other than beer and wine is not sold in most stores other than SAQ
- Don’t pick the expensive supermarkets to buy your food from- Segal’s Market is popular if you live in the Plateau, otherwise I recommend PA Supermarche (Provigo and especially Pharmaprix are more expensive)
- Do not chose to go to McGill in order to improve your French- you will not experience the level of improvement you might hope for
- Bar des Arts is on campus and offers very cheap beer and sandwiches, but is super crowded all the time (Moose Bawr is a good alternative)
- If you enjoy skiing- get your own skiis for the season from La Poubelle du Ski before Christmas for 200 CAD including everything (also tax) and if you have friends with a car buy the Jay Peak Student pass as early as possible (it will get a lot more expensive)
- You don’t need an ESTA to enter the US by car (only if you fly in), but you will have to fill in a document and pay 7 USD the first time you cross the border which is valid for 3 months
Now a few pictures to inspire you and if I can think of more things that are useful to know I will add them on!