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Canada: Student Experience

 
 
The Student Experience at Concordia University

Host University and Surrounding Area (Top)

You'll arrive in Montreal and realize that you are not in the States anymore... trying to read the signs written in French and hearing French spoken all around. Trying to acclimate to Montreal's lush mixture of cultures may seem a bit overwhelming, but in no time at all you will be out and about experiencing the essence of Montreal. St. Catherine street is a must for anyone traveling to Montreal. It is the longest street in Montreal with the most entertainment, food, theatre, and diverse cultures encompassing it.

Being a student at Concordia has been an incredible experience. Concordia University is located on two very different campuses. Sir George Williams Campus is located downtown, among the hustle and bustle of Montréal life. It's full of traffic, crowds of people, streets with shops and restaurants, and all the noise and commotion associated with such a densely populated area. It's alive, is busy and it's fun.

Campus Loyola, in Montréal West, takes the more traditional approach to campus life. The buildings are amazingly designed, surrounded by trees, big grassy areas, and all the other things a money campus provides. It is where you see students laying on the grass taking in a good book or enjoying an afternoon snack. Without a doubt, you will have classes at both campuses, which means you will take the Concordia shuttle bus that takes students to and from both campuses.

Things to do before you leave (Top)

  • Apply for a student visa if you go for one year. You may visit this website to find out more about Canadian immigration policies and locations of visa offices. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.html
  • Book a hostel for your first week or two while finding permanent accommodations. Hostels.com was a great resource. Many Montreal youth hostels are affordable (around $25 per day including breakfast and linens) and near the center of town.
  • Note: If you are accepted by Concordia University, you'll receive all this information in a package by mail in June or the beginning of July. Read it. It will help you plan.

(Top)

Things to do after you arrive in Montreal:

  • Attend all the orientations because the information is very useful.
  • Sign up to be a member of the Concordia International Student Association (CISA) because they will send you e-mails whenever they have activities (trip to New York, parties, etc.).
  • Get a student ID at Library 185.
  • Go see an advisor at the downtown campus (the Hall building near Concordia Metro station) if you have any academic questions once you arrive.
  • Open a student bank account either at "TD" bank or "Bank of Loyale" because they are very close to the campus. "TD" bank is located between Saint Catherine and Guy Street. "Bank of Loyale" is on Guy Street between De Maisouneave and Sherbrook St. (another main street in downtown). You may use your ATM card (they called it an interact or debit card which does not carry a visa/mastercard logo-not to be confused with American debit cards that do) to pay for whatever you buy in Canada. Make sure you close your bank account before you leave Montreal.
  • Go to Library 185 to get a form to apply for a student opus card, the discount student metro pass. You can bring this form, $13 and a proof of residency to go to “McGill” metro station to apply for a discount card. You must then charge your card at any metro terminal every month. The original price per month is $70CAD, but the student price is $37CAD/month. More info can be found at http://www.carteopus.info/en/main_nav/home/ and http://www.stm.info/English/a-somm.htm.
  • Go to the 9th floor in Hall Building to apply for an Internet or email account. If you have your own e-mail account or access to the Internet, you don't need to apply.
  • Make sure you fill out the form for "permanent code” online at the MyConcordia portal in the student services menu. Otherwise, you should go to the International Student Office to ask for a form and fill it out at the very latest the month before the first semester ends. It's very important that you fill it out. If you don't fill it out, they may charge you about $4000 CAD at the end of the semester.
  • You can check your own information online if you go to "www.myconcordia.ca" and click on student information. Just make sure that your "permanent code" (a series of numbers) shows up on your record one month before the semester ends.

Academic Life (Top)

Concordia is a great school. The classes are very well organized and the professors know their stuff. They are there to teach, and want students who want to be taught. The university system here is quite comparable to that of CSU campuses. Classes are offered in yearlong courses, or semester courses, it's your choice of preference; in any case, you register once for classes at the beginning of the year. You must register yourself online prior to your arrival in Montréal, as many classes will be full by the time you arrive. Before coming to Montréal; make sure you contact your department advisor so you can have everything you may need (i.e. a portfolio) to be accepted into your academic program and that your courses transfer back to your university. Do not rely on second hand information!! Grading is done on a percentage basis (e.g., 80-100=A, 70-79=B, etc.). Friendliness is the number one feature behind Concordia University. Also, it has the best professor accessibility; smaller classes, 70 vs. 200 at McGill for the same course. Classes are small, and you get a nice feeling of personal attention and concern. Don't let anyone convince you that Concordia is second to McGill. Depending on your program, you might not find equivalent courses at McGill. Get to know the international advisors. Their job is to make your life easier...and he they do it very well. Also check out http://deanofstudents.concordia.ca/ groups/ to find contact information for your student association as well as information on student groups at Concordia.

Finals may seem a little regimented. They are held in a large room. You must place your things i.e. jacket, phone, bag, etc. away from your person before you take your exam and they walk up and down the isles while you are taking the exam.

You cannot use anyone else's library on the weekends; University of Montréal and the University of McGill allow students to use their library on weekdays. Both the Sir George Williams Campus and Campus Loyola libraries are equally useful. An outside library such as McGill's really was not needed. Computers for word processing and e-mail are available on both campuses. Somewhat limited accessibility for the disabled, but same for University of Montréal or McGill.

The dual campus combines quiet of West End with the excitement of downtown. Concordia provides a free shuttle between both campuses Monday-Friday. If you live in residence, or near Loyola, it is very convenient and only takes 20 minutes to get downtown. Unfortunately, there is no shuttle on the weekends,  but the campus is still accessible via Vendôme metro and bus 105.

The Loyola campus is very quiet with not much activity on campus or round it. But all sports activities and the gym are located at Loyola campus. You must watch the football team, they are an amazing team.

Orientation (Top)

Orientation was great. The staff and international coordinators are quite helpful and give the students hordes of information and support to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Take advantage of CISA, the international student club. They find cheap deals to tourist sights and arrange trips to New York and Toronto for a reasonable price. You can also meet a lot of friends who come from all parts of the world.

Registering for Classes (Top)

Registering for classes is really easy. All registration is done through the MyConcordia Portal under the registration menu. You can also add or drop classes on MyConcordia until the academic withdrawal deadline in November. A schedule of classes offered can be found at http://regsis.concordia.ca/class_schedule/ww701.html. Be sure to register for classes and contact advisors with questions before you leave for Montréal otherwise the classes you want may be full.

Courses (Top)

About the courses, in general the course materials at Concordia are more difficult than course materials at home, but their grading system is less tight. If you have any difficult courses that you could take at Concordia, take them there. You might find it busy throughout the semester because the teachers assign more homework than they do at home. Also, you don't need to worry about getting bad grades on your presentation if you have an accent, because many students and teachers have accents too. In general the people are more kind there, so don't hesitate to ask for help. Don't take more than 4 courses (language courses are often double credit) because you need to save some time for fun.

Buying Books (Top)

Don't buy books the first week. Look on the boards around campus for students selling books. Also check into buying books from the student-run Co-op Bookstore at 2150 Bishop Street (just north of the Hall building), or online at http://www.co-opbookstore.ca, as well as CISA's website.

Costs You Pay to Concordia University (Top)

You have to purchase the Canadian student health insurance. In addition, you'll need to pay $11 CAD for a student ID. If you want e-mail or Internet accounts, you'll have to pay an additional yearly fee of about $10 CAD. That's basically all you'll need to pay to Concordia University after you get there. The rest of your costs are what you pay to IP and then your own monthly living and personal expenses.

Student Health Insurance (Top)

Concordia will charge you about $ 600 CAD for student health insurance. You have to purchase the Canadian student health insurance when you get there. This is in addition to the one you buy from IP.

Housing (Top)

You have several options in choosing accommodation. You may choose to live in dorm, host family or rent an apartment off-campus.

Dorms (Top)

Although the dorms do provide an easy way to make friends and may be a better option if you have never lived on your own, I would not generally recommend living in the dorms. By the time your admission is processed and you are able to apply for a room, all of the downtown rooms are full and only rooms near Loyola are available. If you have all of your classes at the Loyola campus it might not be a bad option, but consider that the dorms are far away form the center of town and it can be a hassle to travel to and from when the shuttle bus does not run on weekends. In addition, you must buy a meal plan with your room. The cost of rent plus the meal plan is around $9000 CAD and can be more expensive than off-campus apartments.

Note: For fall semester arrival, make sure you submit the housing application online in May. They call the dorms "residences."

Host Family (Top)

If you choose to live in a host family, make sure you pick the right plan. One of the plans is that you pay about $390 CAD per month for a private room, but this plan doesn't include any meals. Another plan is that you pay about $760 CAD per month; this plan includes a private room and 3 meals/day. They have more options for you to pick, you may check it out at http://www.minervahomestay.com. Note: Make sure you read the e-mails or letters from the Homestay Agency carefully when picking a host family.

Apartment (Top)

The average price to rent a room in downtown is anywhere from $350 to 600 CAD. Be careful when signing leases or contracts so that if you want to move out during the year you can. Stop by the student run Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) on the second floor of the Hall building if you have any questions or need help finding an apartment.

Temporary Accommodation (Top)

When you first arrive in Montreal you will need temporary accommodation. Hotels can be expensive if you can’t find an apartment quickly. I would suggest staying in a youth hostel for a week or two while apartment hunting. Many of Montréal’s hostels are inexpensive (about $25 CAD per night) and well maintained. You can look up several area hostels at www.hostels.com. You may also stay at the YWCA for a short period of time. It'd cost you about $300 CAD per month.

Meal Plan (Top)

If you choose to live in the dorm, they require you to take the meal plan. We recommend not taking the food plan because the food at the cafeteria at Loyola campus is not very good. It's better to cook food yourself using the microwave provided in the residence. There's one kitchen on each floor. Each kitchen has two microwaves and a bread toaster. Note: The kitchen is also the TV room.

Where to Shop for Groceries? (Top)

You can go to large supermarkets like "Provigo," "IGA," “Super C,” “Metro” or “Loblaws”  or smaller markets like “Marché PA,” “4 Frères” or “Esposito” to shop for groceries. "Zellers" is like Target. Both IGA and Zeller are located at the "Atwater" metro station. You can take the metro (subway) to go there and get off at the "Atwater" metro station. Zellers is on the ground floor; and IGA is on the second floor. You can also find the Pharmacy and Aldo. You will see "Provigo" when you take the school bus to Loyola campus. When the school bus turns to the left on Sherbrook St., you will see "Provigo" on the right corner. "Super C" is on Saint Jacques St., near Loyola Campus. It'll take you about 20 minutes to walk there from Loyola Campus. It'll take you about 20 minutes to walk there from Loyola Campus. There are also several farmer’s markets with low priced goods. “Atawater market” can be found a few blocks from the “Lionel-Groulx” metro station and “Jean Talon” market can be found a block or so from the “Jean Talon” metro station. There's also market called "Little Italy", just like the farmers' market on Market Street in San Francisco. You can find some fruits or vegetables at very low prices there. You need to get off at "Jean Talon" metro station and walk for about 3 blocks from that station.

Other Meal Services

There is also a great meal service at Concordia run by a student co-op called People’s Potato. People’s Potato provides vegan lunches on a “pay-what-you-can” basis everyday on the 7th floor of the Hall building. The meals are balanced, affordable and great for students looking to save money.

The Multi-Fath Chaplaincy also offers a student emergency food program. If you encounter financial hardship at any point during the semester and are struggling to provide food for you (or your accompanying family) the chaplaincy will provide you with gift cards to local supermarkets.

In addition, there’s a student run co-op organic market called Frigo Vert across from the Hall building that often has cheap, healthy food available for sale.

Money & Banking (Top)

"But you're American, it's cheap!" Canadians assume that just because the American dollar is worth more in Montréal, things are obviously cheaper. Although the American dollar is worth more, the cost of living here is higher. Another misconception about our favored American dollar is that it somehow magically avoids getting taxed. Montréal has 15% sales tax. Food, toiletries and other household goods are all a bit more expensive, even taking in the exchannge rate. Housing is cheaper though. Clothing can be inexpensive too, depending on what you get. Look for sales. Go to the dollar stores for household things like dish washing liquid, plates, etc. Ordering food is inexpensive. If you live in "Res" you will know about all the cheaper places to eat or order in from. The dollar store is everywhere and everyone goes there. Everything is only $1.

The banks in Montréal are very similar to California banks, although without the inter-branch convenience you have at home. If you have financial aid checks or any others, they will be held for four to six weeks. It is really tough. Stick to your closest branch if at all possible. The hours vary, they tend to close by 4:00 p.m., but most have automatic tellers. Warning-don't go to the Royal Bank. Try Toronto Dominion. All the banks are linked through the automatic tellers.

Security Pacific and their ATM machines use the "Plus System." If you put dollars into your account in California, you can take it out of the ATM machines here and never deal with the banks directly. The Royal Bank of Bank of Montréal's machines-the exchange rate is automatic and it costs approximately $1.00 less than money orders.

Toronto Dominion Bank on Bishop Street has a special service for international students-they immediately credit checks from home. There is no typical "14 day wait" for foreign checks to clear.

Bring enough money in traveler's checks (U.S. $1,500) or exchange US dollars at almost any large bank (even if you’re not a member)  or insta-cheque when you first arrive to tide you over until you can set up a bank account and your money clears (four to six weeks depending on the bank). They will cash smaller money orders/cashier checks and will cash up to U.S. $100 traveler's checks at one shot. For sending money from home to Montréal, use an international money order if possible; have it sent to you and deposit it yourself or you may have trouble locating the branch to which your money has been sent. They still hold International Money Orders. Do not plan on having a checking account; most stores will not accept checks so you will rely on cash and your bank cards most of the time. You can also pay some bills with your bank card so you don't need checks. The best advice: keep your account back in California and use your ATM card to get cash. It's about $5 US each time to withdraw. Everyone spends money differently, for a general figure plan on a minimum of $750 (U.S.) a month.

No matter which way you go about it, opening a bank account or using your credit card and keeping your account at home, it will still cost you in the end. If you decide to open an account you will need a letter from your landlord stating that you live there, your Concordia ID, and passport. We suggest taking out large sums from your home account and putting it into your Canadian account and establish a budget. That way you will only be charged one fee instead of a fee every time that you want money.

Telephones (Top)

Check into getting your own phone line in your room, that way you will not have to worry about time restrictions with roommates. Remember it is important to keep things as separate as possible when it comes to phone, food, or anything that may cause complications with your roommates. Also, get a phone card from the local "depanneur" (liquor store) so you can keep in contact with your family and take advantage of the cheap online services from Concordia.

There are also several pre-paid cell phone providers around Montreal. I would avoid signing a contract if possible. Virgin Mobile and Koodo are the most inexpensive, with plans around $25 CAD per month.

Computer/Internet Access (Top)

Computer and Internet services are good at Concordia. The Library offers both of these services and laptops can be checked out free of charge for a couple of hours. Concordia really doesn't have a computer lab per say, but each department/faculty of study has their own lab that students can utilize for their computer needs. Concordia also offers cheap online services so you can utilize the Internet from home using your phone line.

The library downtown is open 24 hours a day, and the library at Loyola campus is open until 10 pm. You can get online at both of these libraries. There's a scanner in the CC building that you can use too. Note: Remember to bring your Concordia student ID!! You must have your ID in order to use the computers.

What To Bring (Top)

Bring as little as possible, bring what is needed. A computer is handy as is a home university calendar. Much of what you need for school supplies can be found at discount prices. Remember that you will be collecting things and must either get rid of them or take them with you when you leave.

When you arrive in Montréal it will be hot, very hot. It may be 110° in August when you leave and it is hard to think about big coats and boots and mittens. Pack a jacket or some of your winter clothes if you want, but it is suggested that you bring summer things and have your big and bulky winter stuff shipped once you have a place, although being from California you most likely do not own appropriate winter things. A winter jacket and boots are essential but not until around October so you'll have time to shop if you wait. It is probably best to purchase most if not all winter apparel and necessities in Montréal--gloves, boots, a nice winter jacket scarf and yes, even one of those beanies that sits on your head and ties under your chin, hugging your ears--called a toque (pronounced tuke). Some found it to be their best friend, even though they said they would never wear such a thing, but these are definitely things you will need for the winter here, when it can get down to -60° with wind chill. Sweaters and socks are important, too. If you are into fashion you will love Montréal's styles, so save your money and buy clothes on sale, it's so cheap. There are lots of beach-type theme parties so also bring along a few summer things because it's fun to dress up.

Most winter clothing can be purchased at Salvation Army in good condition. A good warm arctic type jacket is handy along with a HAT not a hood that covers ears, cheeks, and shades eyes with brim from blowing ice and freezing wind. H20-proof lined boots, knee high, are a wonder for deep snow and DEEP, DIRTY SLUSH! Kitchen stuff can be purchased at Salvation Army or the dollar store, along with any other household items needed. Prices for used stuff are a bit higher than in California but not much if you look around. We recommend the dollar store.

Bring all the toiletries you need for at least three weeks because it's very difficult to run all over looking for necessities, like toothpaste, in a city where you can hardly find the metro yet. Make sure you bring a clock radio with a battery backup), blow dryer, curling iron (if you use one), etc.

Bring all your electronic appliances/clock radio, etc., because they are more expensive here.

Bring sheets (if you're staying in Residence) as they aren't supplied, appliances, cooking utensils, posters, a telephone etc. You can send these things ahead in care of the Residence office (call to verify) and they'll hold them for you until you get there. Don't send vitamins or medication; they will probably get stuck in customs. Bring them with you on your person (with an affidavit stating what they are). If you live in residence, you will need to activate a phone--phone lines and phones are not provided. They might ask for a $100 CAD deposit, so be prepared.

Transportation (Top)

There are school buses from the downtown campus to Loyola campus, it's free of charge for Concordia students. The whole trip would take you about 15-20 minutes. The inter-arrival time for each bus is about 10-15 minutes, you can check the shuttle bus schedule outside the Hall building. This building is the main building in downtown.

Another way to get to downtown campus from Loyola campus is to take the bus #105 and get off on "Vendom" metro station, from there you can take the metro to downtown. It'd take you about 30 minutes to go to downtown from Loyola campus. The ticket for each trip is about $2.25 CAD, but you may purchase a student monthly ticket that will cost only $25CAD.

Services (Top)

Malls and restaurants are abundant. One can actually get lost in the immense underground malls that seem to never end. You and your friends can honestly spend an entire day at the mall discovering new places, exotic foods, and fun and adventure. Everything you could want is at the Eaton Center, just off the McGill metro. Hair salons, movie theaters, and anything else you could want can be found here. They have huge sales on weekends, and you will find it's a great time to stock up on winter essentials.

Montréal is the place for good, delivered-food (except haven't found good Mexican food yet).

Mail is to be regarded with caution, especially around Christmas! Air mail, express packages can take two weeks. Snow slows up the mail incredibly. The postal system leaves a lot to be desired. Make sure every package you send or is sent here is insured. If not, you're out of luck.

Student health services are adequate, people are friendly. One exception, if you need to go outside of your University's health system, it becomes very bureaucratic with a foreign health card. You have to pay up front, then company the reimburses you.

Lots of movies and repertory theatres near downtown campus. Travel Cuts at Sir George (downtown) gives great deals on travel.

Extracurricular Activities (Top)

Don't be a couch potato! Especially in winter, it can be really easy to fall into the "But it's so cold" attitude. One can easily become involved in social activities around campus. You name it and you can get involved: newspapers, student government, drama, sports. The athletic department sponsors many sports activities in which any Concordia student may participate, for a $5 - $15 fee. Some activities include: hockey, weight training, fitness, aerobics, broomball, volleyball, karate and dozens more! The school also has a gym for $60 a semester. Another great and inexpensive way to have fun and stay in shape is to get a membership at the YMCA (YWCA also available). The first month was $53 and then each month after $29 for Concordia students. They have equipment for weights, tack, racquetball (which is very popular), Karate and Yoga. The biggest plus-a location downtown just a few blocks from campus. A great way to stay fit and meet lots of people.

There are also free movies (old and new) on both campuses - a great way to blow some study time. In general, it is easier to have a good time here with less money unless your idea of a good time is drinking.

Extracurricular activities is the residence's middle name. You'll have no problems unless you want to get straight A's. Beer is amazingly widespread-everyone drinks it. This is great, if you're broke-bottles are worth a dime, cans a nickel-go around and pick up empties and you'll make a fortune. Everyone seems to smoke, too-you may be the only one in your group of friends who doesn't.

Residence plans lots of activities, and the campus and faculties do the rest. Don't worry. You won't be bored. Also, Montréal is the home of the Stanley Cup Championship Hockey team, the Montréal Canadians, as well as the Expos (baseball). Go to a hockey game-its $9.50 CAD for standing room, but, especially in Montréal, it's a must. You wouldn't go to Spain without seeing a bullfight, would you? Hockey is the Canadian national past time-and it's fun to watch.

Anyone who comes to Québec has to check out a place called Jouvence. It's a winter resort that is well worth the money. For $45 per night ($90 for two people) you get a small condominium-like room in a big chalet-where there is a big room in the center with fireplace. This price also includes three magnificent meals per day in a very large chalet that has many lofts and huge glass walls-the architecture is amazingly modern-plus the use of all of the winter sports equipment like cross country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. It is really fantastic and same goes for the summer. It's also a great opportunity to speak French because you don't have much choice.

Language and Culture (Top)

It's a law that all signs must be in French in Québec so you get a wonderful feeling of the French culture (e.g., un whopper flambé). Many, if not all, traffic signs are in English and French communicating is not a problem since many people are bilingual but it is a very good idea to have at least a slight knowledge of the language before you come. You have a great opportunity to learn French here; it's spoken very fast and the accent is different from what you're probably used to.

The only way to learn about the language and culture here is to live in a French area and surround yourself with Québecois friends (preferably ones that don't understand English). Meet and make friends with people who speak French and practice, practice, practice. However, you have to keep in mind that the Quebecois are equally enthralled with the way you speak English, and since it is the shared language, often you will find yourself chatting away in English even when you told yourself not to! It is hard to speak French, they tend to reply in English, but keep trying. It is difficult at first but amazingly rewarding when you start to feel yourself understanding and speaking. You will never have another chance like this, so take every opportunity to make the best of it. When someone addresses you in French, respond in French. Do the same thing when someone addresses you in English.

The west side of town where Concordia is located is primarily English speaking. The other 80% of the city is French except for the downtown and tourist areas, which are bilingual. It is true that tension is evident here between the two peoples.

There's a book you should buy and keep as your Bible-The Anglo Guide to Survival in Québec by Josh Freed and Jon Kalina. It'll make you feel better, and it'll tell you a lot about life in Montréal. It's a humorous book, red cover-comb used bookstores until you find it. It's a necessity! There is a second volume now.

Winter can be difficult here if you let it get to you. It takes a little more effort to walk to the Metro on Monday mornings when it is -25° or get all your clothes on to go out dancing for the evening. Winter is also amazingly beautiful. If you get the chance to go out into the country it is really quite amazing. Winter sports also help make the cold temperatures more fun; like skating, cross-country skiing and tobogganing with friends.

Handy Translation Guide (Top)

Eh? - like "huh" or "you know" - Universal-used by people from Vancouver and the Maritimes, and everywhere in between. Not every individual uses it, but every region does.

Klik - kilometer

University - never say you're a "college student"-that means you're going to a college (a J.C.-in Québec they're called Cégeps). You're a university student, you go to university, you work your way through university, etc.

Two-four - A case of 24 beer. (Beer is always beer. You drink one beer, you drink three beer, you drink sixty beer.)

Grade One - Same thing as first grade. Ontario goes up to Grade 13-it's the same as first year university, and takes the place of Québec's Cégeps.

First year, second year, etc. - They don't use freshman, sophomore, etc., in University. They don't really use it in high school, either.

Grade School - Grades one through eight. Then you go to high school. "Junior High" doesn't exist.

Return - Same thing as "roundtrip."

Lineup - One would say, "There's a long lineup here," rather than "There's a long line here."

Cash - Cash register. Where you pay for things-you pay at the cash.

Auto route - Like a freeway. Don't use "freeway" here-the word doesn't exist and smacks of California. Use "highway" or "super highway" (in Ontario).

Writing an Exam - Here, you write your exams, you don't take them.

Poutine - A Québecois dish involving French fries, brown gravy and cheese curds (just lumps of cheddar cheese, don't panic). They just melt faster than regular cheese and aren't aged as long. Sounds bad, looks worse-but it's really good!

Dépanneur - Québec only. A market like 7-11, open 24 hours, or a mall, privately owned corner store. They sell groceries, newspapers, beer and wine (Québec is the only province you can buy beer and wine at supermarkets and dépanneurs. All the others require you to go to government-owned beer stores and liquor stores. In Québec, you only have to buy liquor at the liquor store-beer and wine can be bought almost anywhere, and cigarettes. Some also have bakeries or deli counters. More expensive in general than the supermarkets (IGA, Métro, or Provigo), but some things are cheaper.

Residence (or "Res") - Used instead of "dorms." You live in Res, not in the dorms.

Student Comments (Top)

"Don't let the language problem get you down. It's amazing how many people are perfectly bilingual and can help you, and enjoy helping you. Find someone who would like to learn more English, and trade language lessons. You should take advantage of this convenient language opportunity."

"Food - all kinds - deli's, Greek, French (obviously), Continental, Chinese, (must go to China Town), Italian, (good luck finding Mexican food). A culinary heaven. Mount Royal - a huge park right in the center of Montréal. A French picnic, wine, cheese, bread and fruit, on the mountain is a must. Can finally learn the metric system. I'm now fluent in temperatures and so-so in distances and weights."

"If you like privacy, I would recommend living off campus".

"Travel! Ottawa, the nation's capital, is a must-see (go there in the winter and skate on the Rideau Canal) and Québec City, too. Also, there are many opportunities to go to New York and Florida (a favorite winter vacation spot) quite cheaply."

The number one question you will be asked: "Why did you leave California to come here?"

"Remember the warning from OIP about having to defend U.S. policies abroad? Expect it here, too! As a first-generation American of French Canadian background, I never realized the extent of the debate revolving around our country. Remember you are only one of 224 million people in the U.S. and no one really rational expects you to know it all. Overall, the people are friendly, conversation is stimulating, and the food is great."

"Expect American-bashing. It's hard to take but there are two benefits: first, by being outside you can see some of their points of view. It teaches you a deeper love of what we have by grounding it in realism. Second, you show them that we, all 224 million of us, are not the same. One of the biggest compliments I've received was being told that I had destroyed a friend's long-held belief that all Americans were arrogant, right wing, etc. A small, but vital victory."

"The Communication Studies department at Concordia was very exclusive because each year they get around 1,000 applications and, based on a portfolio and interview, 120 students are accepted. The department was very small and very competitive-with a lot of young, ambitious, creative and involved students. The department is very experimentally oriented as opposed to theoretical which I appreciated."

"Network! Get to know your faculty. In emergencies these people are your saviors. Don't forget the key person is often the department secretary. The International Student Office (ISO) is also very helpful."

"The keyword is balance. It's easy to get involved but studies are taken seriously here. Finals are worth 60 percent of your final mark in most cases."

"We are our country's representatives. We have an obligation to be good students, to get involved, and to show what individual Americans are all about. I've grown to love it here and have made a place for myself. I hope you do, too."

"Please find out about Canada before you come here. Find courses on Canada and take them. Knowing about Canada is as important as learning French, especially if you're going to an English university. Arrogant, ignorant Americans are the butt of many jokes. Most Canadians have stories about Americans coming up in July with skis expecting snow and asking where the dogsleds, moose and Eskimos are!. Read those things OIP gives you about Canada. The Prime Minister is like the President, his name is Stephen Harper. Ottawa is the capital, not Toronto!. Canadians know about the States. They know about our politics. They'd like it if you knew about theirs, too. It's only polite. It is also helpful to be familiar with the geography of both Canada and the U.S. especially the Eastern United States because you are so close to the border."

"Not only will you run into "American" stereotypes but also "California" stereotypes. Some people watch way too many movies!"

"If you like jogging, hiking, biking, walking, cross-country skating, etc. try to live near Mount Royal. There are endless trails and the view is breathtaking".

"Be prepared for American bashing. Don't be afraid to express how you feel. The people here will listen to what you have to say. You will also hear many California stereotypes. L. A. women are sometimes considered "party girls". Don't be surprised if someone asks you if you surf and eat tofu and sushi on a regular basis. People ask questions because they are curious. Be honest about where you live. Don't be afraid to ask questions also. That's the fun of living in a foreign country - to get to know new people and learn about their culture. Montréal is a beautiful city with many great people. Take precautions because it is a big city. Have fun and don't forget to study".

"Don't be surprised when Canadians laugh at you because you say it does get cold in California. We supposedly all live on the beach, so expect to hear that a lot!"

"Be advised: store hours in Montreal are much more restricted than in many parts of California. Most stores, restaurants and businesses are closed by 5pm. No, you can’t get pizza delivery at 1am on a Wednesday night! Liquor is equally, if not more restricted, with government run SAQ’s closing in the early evening and corner stores not selling later than 11pm. The best advice: plan your nights in advance as spur of the moment plans are often hard to carry out!"

Other Advice and Information (Top)

Make some good friends and go to more places! It's cheap to travel to the eastern part of the US or Canada if you join the tour groups at the travel agencies in Chinatown. Chinatown is on Saint Laurent St. You can walk there because it's very close to downtown. Saint Catherine St. is the main street in downtown. There you can find a lot of underground shopping malls. You have to go into a shopping mall on Saint Catherine Street and go to the basement of that mall. For example, visit La Baie, Eaton Center, Montreal Trust. For clothes and shoes, you can shop on Saint Catherine street or the underground malls.

Actually you don't need a long waterproof jacket, all you need is a long, thick/warm jacket. Before you buy anything, it's better to shop around and see what's on sale. For boots, you can try "Transit" or "Aldo." You might be able to find good shoes at more reasonable prices. For clothes, try "Simons", sometimes they have jackets on sale. If you get off at "Peel" or "McGill" metro station, you can enter these malls directly. The malls usually close at 5 pm.

Also, you can go out to eat different kinds of food with your new friends. If you get off at Atwater metro station and walk to the direction to Guy Street on Saint Catherine Street, you find a lot of restaurants. The ones near "TD" bank and the "M" grocery store are not bad. If you walk into the FG building on Saint Catherine Street, there are some small restaurants too. On the first floor, there's a grocery store where you may find some Asian fruits.

Nice Places You Can Visit (Top)

Québec City (two hours from Montreal)
Ottawa (two hours from Montreal)
Toronto (six hours from Montreal, CISA will organize a trip to this city in October)
Old Montreal (just two blocks from Chinatown)
Biodome and Insectorium (40 minutes by metro)
New York (6 hours; CISA will organize a trip to there probably in March)
Saint Jacque Church (about 30 minutes by bus)

Note: If you plan to buy tickets at CISA, make sure you go there 15 minutes before they start selling the tickets. During the summer, you can go to other cities in the eastern part of Canada.

Overall Advice (Top)

Montreal has many activities to choose from and can appease anyone's appetite. It is diverse and rich with culture and life. Please take advantage of it and budget your money and time wisely. Try to schedule your time and be as open as possible for meeting new friends. Join clubs that interest you and travel around Canada. Our last piece of advice to you is to make the most out of your study abroad experience and try not to hibernate during the long winter months of snow.

The Student Experience at the Université Laval

Updated by 2002-03 by Québec Participants

Host University and Surrounding Area (Top)

Université Laval is located in Ste-Foy, a residential suburb four kilometers from Old Québec (le vieux Québec), just a 15 minute bus ride. Although residential, Ste-Foy has restaurants, cinemas and motels all very close to the university. Three shopping malls are located on the eastern border of the campus, providing over 500 stores from little boutiques to Sears and Zellers (like K-Mart).

Ste-Foy and Québec City sit on a rather windy plateau. The Laurentide Park Mountains lie to the north and the St. Lawrence river is to the south. The climate can best be described as cold and damp although heating makes living inside rather dry. Winter means four months of below freezing temperatures, snow and wind. I will not say how cold it gets but below -20°C (-5°F) it all seems the same. For a Californian, winter is harsh but take lessons from the Québecois who know how to have fun in the snow and cold. Autumn and spring are very short-lived, and summer is sunny and humid.

Arrival (Top)

Direct flights to Québec are very hard if not impossible to find, they are not offered directly so expect to stop either in Montréal or one of the states. Try to avoid stopping in Montréal as you’ll have to go through customs and immigration there as well as re-check your luggage. Better to stop in New Jersey and then Québec in order to avoid all the immigration procedures until you arrive at Québec airport, it’s much smaller and easier to get around, makes your trip way less stressful. It may be more expensive, but traveling with all of your luggage for the year in a new place can be very difficult and stressful. Representatives from the University will only pick you up from the airport if you ask and inform them of your flight schedule which will $22-$26.

The First Ten Days (Top)

Try to come a few days before registration starts, so you can find everything you need to ahead of time. If not, you will have to deal with registration, classes starting, and doing everything else all at once! Once classes start, you will have a lot of homework to do. You will be eating out a lot during the first ten days. On the campus you’ll find all sorts of food and cafeterias, but the closest restaurant you’ll get to from the residence is the PUB in Pavillon Desjardins, during the night it’s a bar and dance club but during the day it is quite a nice restaurant. They have a good variety of food and they don’t stop serving until 8p.m., of course you have to check their schedule just in case. In the spring they do a special Cabane à sucre which you’ll learn all about during your stay in Québec.  In the mall, you will also find the grocery store, Metro.

Orientation (Top)

There is one daylong orientation. You will receive all the necessary information about registering for classes and for paying the health insurance. They will give you maps of the campus and of Quebec, and answer any question you may have. It is very helpful.

Registering for Classes (Top)

For the PLP your classes are pre-chosen for you based on your level of French unless you passed the text at an advanced level of French. During the Fall and Winter sessions you will be assigned an advisor for whom you must approve your class choices with, he or she will help you find the courses best suited for your level, just don’t hesitate to ask for more information on the classes you are choosing, since even your advisors can’t clearly say exactly what is best for you. There will be people available to explain to you what the best classes would be for you to take. You will have to get the director of the program to look at your choices before you are officially enrolled.

As far as foreign students are concerned, registering for classes at the university is the same as at any other university. If you want to be sure to be enrolled in the classes you want, don’t wait. Usually there is a set time-period for choosing your classes some time at the end of each session; be sure to make a list of courses you’re interested in and to talk to your advisor so that you can pick what’s right for you and get enrolled on time, meaning BEFORE the session starts. You will be asked to choose a minimum number of courses or units, but it is wise at the beginning to pick 5 courses rather than 4, that way during the first week you can estimate the expectation level in each of your courses. At the end of the first week you can decide which courses you will keep, that way if you had made a mistake in picking one of your courses or one course happens to be a bit too much above your level you can go back to your advisor and take that course off your schedule without any penalty. If you happen to choose this route, don’t wait to drop that extra course, the professors won’t do this for you; it is your responsibility to drop the course before the deadline.

Housing (Top)

Living in the dorms is the best option. It is cheap ($259 a month), you are right on campus, (so you will meet a lot of new people), and you can use the tunnels when the weather gets really bad (and you will use the tunnels A LOT during winter). Though the tunnels are a fun experience at first, it’s really best to get out and experience a bit of Québec’s winter. It’s really not that bad, especially since you’ll just be walking around the campus (10 minutes at most outside); whereas it can take more than twice the amount of time to get to your classes if you take the tunnels. Since there’s no such thing as winter in California, take advantage of the snow here.  If you want to live off campus, there are places for about $300-$400 (if you find a roommate) a month about 10 minutes from the university. Finding a place in Vieux Quebec is difficult and be wise to estimate the walking distance from your apartment to the university, the cost of bus passes each month can get quite expensive.

Money and Banking (Top)

Desjardins is the bank at the university. For $5, you can open a student account there, and they will give you back the $5 when you close the account. Overall, the bank is good. The fees are not that high and the people working there know how to speak French and English (in case you have trouble and can't explain the situation in French). The only bad thing about the bank is that if you have a financial aid check from California it will take 21 business days for it to clear, so make sure you have enough money until then. It is always wisest to make a budget once you first arrive so you don’t end up guessing too much or running out of money before your next financial aid comes in. Usually fall is the time when financial aid checks are late since everything needs to get in order at the beginning of the year, so plan smart and try not to spend all your money in the first few weeks. Financial aid money doesn’t come during PLP so you’ll have to budget your money well during your first few months there. The best thing you can do is set apart your main expenses such as housing and food since they’re the most common and standard expenses (plan on spending at least $75 per week on food- junk food can be quite tempting but the costs tend to add up so eat well and healthy).

Telephones (Top)

There is a telephone in each dorm room. To call long-distance, the best thing to do is buy the "Call Value" calling card. For $10 you get 1,000 minutes. There are other long-distance calling plans available.

Computer/Internet Access (Top)

Computer and internet access during the PLP was difficult. You can use the computers for free in the library, usually the computers in the library are only used for research; for homework, projects and internet searches it’s best to work in the labs. There are computer labs in Pavillon de Koninck and Pavillon Palasis-Prince. Lab access is free to all the university students with internet access and software for homework and projects; there are plenty in each of the buildings. Print cards are sold for $1.00 which you can continually add money to throughout the year. Some of the computer labs are only for homework, so if you want to check your e-mail or chat, make sure you to the right lab, because your lab card can be taken away from you!

If you have the opportunity (and you live in the dorm, bring your own computer and buy the internet there. The university offers 2 types of internet, wireless and the cable modem. The cheapest one is wireless which costs $10.50 each semester, the connection itself isn’t bad at all, many people use wireless at the university, and you stay connected to the university’s network throughout the university, not just in your dorm room. The cost of the cable modem, however is a monthly payment and can vary.

What to Bring (Top)

Very warm overcoats, lots of sweaters, waterproof warm boots, warm gloves, wool hats, wool scarves are strongly recommended. If you don't own much winter clothing and you don't want to send coats bought in California, remember you can always buy whatever you need in Ste-Foy, plus, you can see what's in style here. (It's not rare to see people walking on the streets with ski-masks during the coldest parts of the winter.) If you have skis, bring them. The residences have storage space for skis and bicycles. Bicycles are not recommended. Bicycle riding is allowed year around, it’s just not recommended during the snow season.

All reference books that you are using at home now are helpful, but of course the library is very well equipped with the most current of reference books.

Transportation (Top)

There's a terrific bus system in Québec, although it's a little expensive ($2.50 students, $2.75 regular) most buses show up every 10-15 minutes. A monthly pass costs $43.00 Canadian.

Services (Top)

There is a post office, a corner-type grocery store and a bank branch on campus. There are laundry facilities in all the residences. Meal service is only on a meal-by-meal basis. The prices are not cheap and the quality is average for a university. It is better to walk 10 minutes and eat in one of the three malls. There is much more variety and it tastes better.

Yes, it's cold and yes, the buildings on campus are spread out but, fear not, just join the underground and take a tunnel (couloir). All buildings (pavillons) on campus are linked by a vast system of tunnels that are warm, dry and well-lighted. The only building not connected to this system is the newest, which houses the student government associations and the used book store run by students. These students also hold a special week-long sale of used books and textbooks the second week of each session in Pavillon de Koninck. There is also a good used book store just east of the campus (rue Myrand).

Speaking of books, not all courses have required texts. In the FLS program as well as all the other programs, most teachers will have class notes to buy, which are much cheaper than textbooks. Or the teachers will make you pay a small fee for the photocopies. Cost of books vary each semester (one semester you could have only 1 or 2 books to buy and another you could have 1 to 2 books for each class). In any event, most professors put the required reading on reserve in the 1re cycle library. If your professor doesn't, ask him to. The library (Pavillon Bonenfant) is open often and late. It is open 24 hours a day for those with special permission-ask a friendly professor for this if you need it. Some students buy books in pairs and take turns reading them. The bookstore on campus (Zone) is located in Pavillon Pollack (next to in the same building - Pavillon Desjardins). It sells only new books.

The library is well stocked with French and English books, magazines and newspapers. The 1re cycle library is like a reserve library; you cannot check out books. If you anticipate needing books for a research paper you will be doing, get them early. Remember, the early bird...

For the artists and photographers there is an unbelievably well-stocked store in the basement of the art and music building (Pavillon Cassault-the one that looks like a church).

Perhaps the best part of being at Université Laval is PEPS. It's like a huge country club with everything except the golf course, and everything under one roof with its own sporting goods store. Even if you are not the sports type check this place out-it has everything: two skating rinks, tennis courts, olympic swimming pool, 200 meter track, racquetball courts and on and on-all indoors. The first week of school, look for the newspaper titled Programmation des activités sportives. It is usually included with the official campus newspaper au Fil des evenements. The Programmation lists all sorts of programmed and non-programmed activities. There is a nominal charge and no academic credit is given. Be sure to sign up early because the activities fill up fast. There is a golf course next to PEPS.

Also included in that giant welcome back edition of Au fil...is a Programmation des activités socio-culturels. You name it, they have a course for it: piano, guitar, dance (all sorts), photography, theater, auto mechanics, etc. Again, a nominal fee and be early.

Extracurricular Activities (Top)

Skiing reigns as the number one participant sport (hockey the number one observed sport)-be it cross-country or alpine. If you cross-country ski, you will enjoy the organized excursions through PEPS. Don't be surprised if you see people skiing on campus! February marks the arrival of the winter carnival, an event held in Québec City, not to be missed. Discos are numerous and special-interest groups are continuously soliciting membership. On Wednesday and Thursday nights there are parties all over campus where the music is loud and the beer is cheap and other beverages are usually not available. The parties start at 9:30 p.m., but really don't get going until 11:00 p.m.

Language and Culture (Top)

The best way to learn French is to forget English-here in Québec, it is very easy to immerse yourself in the language-radio, TV, supermarkets, etc. You are usually more readily accepted into a group of Québecois if you keep a low profile. As for meeting Québecois, if you are not shy you won't have any problems-use the same techniques that you use at home to meet people. It is very hard to make friends with them, and most of the time, they will want to practice their English with you.

Student Comments (Top)

"The more open you are to any possible situation the more you will enjoy your stay in Québec. The more resilient you can be, the better. Satisfaction doesn't come cheap and you are sure to be frustrated often, but perseverance will pay off."

"Overall, Laval isn't that much different from the universities in California. Before you get here, know what classes you want to take. There isn't really anyone here who is familiar with the CSU system."

"It's easy to immerse yourself in the English student population, but be strong and meet the Québecers. It may seem difficult, but just be yourself and you'll have a lot of fun! Enjoy yourself."

"Université Laval is a great university. The campus is beautiful, and everything is within walking distance. Classes will be more challenging than they are in California, but you can get through it."

“Just remember to spend your money wisely, know what you have to pay every month so you can know what you’re free to spend on excursions. Spend less time speaking English and less time indoors, and get out there and have an experience worth having.”

The Student Experience at McGill University, Québec

Last Updated Winter 1996 by Québec Participants

Host University and Surrounding Area (Top)

McGill university is located on Sherbrooke Street, one block above the central downtown shopping district. However, the campus spans several city blocks and extends north to the foot of Mount Royal. The campus has over eight libraries apart from the two main libraries (Redpath and McLennan), specializing in various fields of study. There are two huge lawns as one enters the main gates to the university, which can be used for ball games, studying, picnicking, etc., until the weather cools off (usually the end of October). There are two swimming pools for McGill students and there is even a museum (a small one) right in the center of the campus. If you have a lot of science courses, be prepared to do a lot of walking since physics, chemistry, and biology are on three opposite ends of the campus and biology is a long walk up the hill. Buildings are very well maintained and are well heated during the winter months. Unfortunately, massive icicles over sidewalks and doorways create a potentially dangerous situation for the incautious pedestrian.

Academic Life (Top)

The most obvious difference between a CSU campus and McGill is the amount of work expected. McGill is literally twice as "hard." You can easily fall behind...the reading material is harder and there is a lot more of it. Be prepared to study every night during the week and weekends, too, for at least a few hours. Overall, you must work for your grades, but it pays off because you learn a lot.

Another difference is the size of classes. There is usually only one section of each course offered so there can be 100 to 250 students in an undergraduate class.

Each of our classes has been stimulating and challenging, some involving lectures by world-renowned individuals. Even Pierre Trudeau spoke to a recent Political Theory class! The academia on campus flourishes in every department. A student can find relevant lectures every other day to supplement studies and to expand interests.

Don't expect much help from your teachers. Classes tend to be huge, don't expect to make a lot of friends in them. People are drawn to McGill for the name much like Harvard, so if you're not looking for an ivy league atmosphere, McGill isn't the school for you.

Housing (Top)

Temporary accommodations in Montréal range from luxury hotels to campgrounds, with motels, tourist rooms, and youth hostels in between. The two youth hostels are run by AYH. One is located on Aylmer between Milton and Prince Arthur, a central location and very near McGill. This hostel is open year-round. It has some single rooms, but most of the beds are in dormitories. Kitchen facilities are available, pots and pans included.

Reservations are a good idea in the summer. The other hostel is open June to September. It is located on Laurier near St. Laurent, and offers dorm sleeping only. For more information, contact American Youth Hostels.

The McGill Dormitories are open during the summer as a hostel. The accommodations are fair to poor but only cost $25 a night.

For housing during the academic year, the area around McGill is on the average more expensive than surrounding areas, say a mile or two away. However, if you choose to live farther than walking distance from McGill to save on rent money you will have to buy a $43.00 bus and metro pass each month. At McGill they have an "Off Campus Housing Agency" which is a gold mine for references on renting rooms and apartments. Of course they won't find a place for you, but they are an excellent source of information. The Housing Agency is good for alerting you of your rights as an apartment dweller (very different than in California). Go to the International Student Association, they are helpful with networking shared rooms and reputable buildings for new students.

There is a special nomenclature to be aware of. A "1 1/2 " is one room with a kitchen area and a bath.

A "2 1/2" is a kitchen and a separate room, plus a bath. Apartments with shared baths are available, and single rooms without kitchens. Many students do feel it is worth the extra money to live near school, but this is a decision you should not make until you get here. If you do plan to rent, though, you should arrive in Montréal no later than the middle of August. By September most of the rental housing is taken; only the dingier and more expensive apartments remain. Keep in mind that when you do rent an apartment, you will be expected to sign a lease, for 12 months, but asking for a shorter lease is possible; landlords can be desperate. If you plan to live in an apartment, bring sheets, towels, and hangers!

McGill University offers dorms for those who prefer to live on campus. The dorms offer the foreign student a chance to meet new people-mostly anglophone. No meal service on weekends, holidays and Christmas vacation. There are kitchenettes on each floor but you will have to bring your own utensils or borrow them from another floormate. If you wish to live in the dorm, you must reserve a room months in advance, as they are full to capacity each school year. If living in the dorms, bring a kettle, comforter, eating utensils and a desk lamp or plan to purchase these items here.

McGill doesn't have to be an anglophone experience in a bilingual city. *Stay away from the dorms and the Ontario brats (*Note from IP, this is only one student's opinion!). Live the city dweller lifestyle and make those francophone contacts in the community, preferably on the eastside. You have to make the effort to get out and see Montréal on your own, as most people living here aren't intent on sightseeing.

MacDonald Campus (Top)

The Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, including the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, is located on the Macdonald campus. The Macdonald campus is located in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue which is about 20 miles west of Montréal. A student planning to attend McGill, therefore, might not be at the downtown campus.

The campus is not too large in size or students. Most classes are in two buildings that are attached so one doesn't have far to go from one class to the next. Laird Hall residence is also close. Some classes are located in the Centennial Center which also contains a cafeteria and the Ceilidh (Kay-lee), a student bar open every Thursday night.

The Ceilidh isn't the only nightlife available. Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue also has a few other bars that many students go to, including many from John Abbot College situated next to Macdonald campus. One can also take the 211 bus to Montréal and find plenty of places to go there.

The dorms on Macdonald campus are not too difficult to get in, but one should apply once accepted. In the residence there is a linen service, but no towels or hangers are provided. The cafeteria is only open for breakfast and lunch and no meal plan is offered. Most students cook for themselves in the kitchens available on each floor, however, students must have their own utensils and cookware. Desk lamps are provided for each student. Also in the Laird Hall residence is a post office and each student is assigned a box. There are laundry facilities, which cost $1.00 CAD, to wash and $1.00 CAD to dry. There is one ATM machine in the building, but there are also two banks in the town. There are also apartments or houses in the town that can be rented.

Money and Banking (Top)

There is a one-month hold on all U.S. checks. This includes financial aid checks except for GSL's. Therefore, be sure to have enough money to last your first month in Montréal. Keep in mind that, if renting an apartment, you may need to buy furniture, a stove, refrigerator, extra clothes, a phone, etc. It is suggested you bring $1,000 in traveler's checks for the first month. On the whole, you will find rent much cheaper than in California, and food much more expensive. Therefore, living costs are about the same.

The best banks to deal with are the chartered banks and, among these, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC has one branch right on Aylmer and issues you an automatic tell card on the spot!) and the Royal Bank of Canada are recommended. The Royal Bank of Canada is more popular with McGill students because it has a several ATM's on the campus. These banks have automated teller machines (ATM) which will save you many hours over the year as lines are generally long and tempers short. Note: There is a 14-day wait to obtain an automatic teller card. Some banks, like Banque Nationale will not issue one without their MasterCard, so ask. Also, with some banks you will have problems using another branch other than the one where you opened your account. The Bank of Commerce has a branch with an ATM right across the street from McGill. The Bank of Commerce has more branches in Canada than any of the others and, no matter where you go in Québec or Canada, you can make withdrawals providing you have your interbranch-banking card. In any case, no matter what bank you choose, you must request an interbranch-banking card-you will not be issued one automatically. (Apply early for your card as it takes about a month to receive it.)

When opening your accounts, you should definitely open a savings account and, depending on your needs, a checking account. The best way to bring in money and have immediate access to it is to use either Bank of America or American Express Travelers checks. Most of the chartered banks sell these and they are more than happy to cash them for you-especially to open an account. You should bring about $l,000 to get you through the first few months. Once you have opened an account, you will have no problem depositing personal checks from the States. However, the bank will put a 30-day hold on large amounts, so you will have to be careful about timing and budgeting. You can also arrange to have funds transferred electronically from a California bank directly into your Canadian account, but this is not recommended as errors could occur and would no doubt take a long time to resolve, tying up your funds during the process. Another way to transfer money is international money orders. They are honored at all banks.

What to Bring (Top)

As for the cold: wear layers. Be sure to keep your head covered; have a good hood on your jacket. Wool is much better than cotton any day. However, clothes prices in warm weather clothing are no cheaper in Montréal than in California. Be sure to have rain gear too! Mittens are better than gloves. Oh yes! A down jacket, as well as a ski parka, is great. On the not-so-cold days you can wear the ski parka and on the cold days the down jacket. Be sure to have a good warm hood on the down jacket. Boots are necessary: two are preferable, one with thinner lining for everyday wear (feet get hot and sweaty indoors), another for outdoor frolicking. Leather is good, but only with constant upkeep due to salt build-up. The fashions in Montréal are great and the stores have really nice designs for fall and winter wear, definitely different and more chic than those in CA. More European too. But prices are not cheap!

Transportation (Top)

The city of Montréal has an excellent public transit system with a metro (subway) and bus service. The metro is clean and safe to travel in at just about any time. It runs from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. seven days a week. Buses generally run 24 hours with diminished service after midnight. One-way trip (bus, metro or combination of the two) costs $l.85. You can buy a book of 6 tickets (tickets en bande) at a discount fare. This is the most economical way to go unless you are going to be using public transit every day, in which case you should buy a monthly pass called a cam (acronym for carte-autobus-métro) at a cost of $43.00 CAD per month. This pass entitles the user to unlimited use of the system for the month. You can get a system map at any caisse populaire desjardins or you can dial A-U-T-O-B-U-S for information and assistance in French or English. The transport commission also provides transport services for the physically handicapped. Strikes are frequent. There have been twenty in the last 10 years. You should consider this when choosing where you are going to live.

Think twice about having a car if you are going to be living in Montréal. Parking is at a premium in the city and you will have to pay from $20 to $40 a month extra to get a parking spot in your apartment if they even have a parking area. Do not count on parking on the street because the sides are often closed off so snow removal equipment can get through. You would also have to have your car rust-proofed, get snow tires and chains and get all sorts of liquids changed for ones that don't freeze. Quite often, despite all these precautions, the car will still not start because of the cold and there is nothing you can do to stop the salt from eating away at the body of the car. Gas is now close to $2 a gallon and will continue to rise. Finally, Québec drivers are about the worst seen in North America (except maybe New York), especially when the roads are icy. If after all this you still want to drive, make sure you belong to AAA Auto Club. CAA will honor this card and you may need a tow truck if your car gets stuck in a snow bank. Even though the CAA is slow in responding to calls, it's better than nothing and will save you beaucoup de piastres (Canadian French slang for "bucks"). It is not advisable to have a car in Montréal because the traffic is bad and the local drivers are crazy!

Services (Top)

Count on seven to 10 days for letters to the States and two weeks to Europe (Canadian postal service is much slower than in the US). Packages will take longer since they will be opened by customs. There is a post office on University and one on St. Laurent. Both are near McGill. It costs 52˘ to send a letter to the U.S.

Laundry facilities are generally available in the basements of apartment buildings. It will cost $1.25 to wash and $1.25 to dry (cheaper in the dorms). If the place where you choose to live does not have laundry facilities, you should consider this as a serious minus point. Laundromats are far and few between and you won't want to be lugging your laundry once a week through the snow and subzero temperatures, even if the place is just across the street (which it most likely will not be).

The place to buy non-clothing items is Consumers Distributing. For clothing items, there are three major downtown department stores-The Bay, Eaton, and Simpson. There are also a couple of Sears stores in the suburban malls. The downtown area offers hundreds of specialty shops clustered in underground shopping malls. Some of the favorites are: Les Terrasses (Metro McGill), 20/20 University (Metro McGill), Place Ville-Marie (across from the Queen Elizabeth), Place Bonaventure--great place for assortment of pastries (Metro Bonaventure) and Plaza Alexis-Nihon (Metro Atwater) - this is a large one with a Steinberg supermarket. These types of specialty shops are usually more expensive and accept most major credit cards. Miracle Mart (similar to a K-Mart) is also a cheap place for both clothing and non-clothing items. The closest one is at Metro Atwater.

As for grocery shopping, there are four major supermarkets-Steinberg, Provigo, Metro, and A & P. We have found prices to be lower and the selection better at Steinberg. If you will be living near McGill, this will probably be the one closest to you (located in La Cité Corner of Parc and Prince Arthur). Proximity of the nearest major supermarket is an important consideration when choosing your apartment, and above all food is very expensive in Québec so be prepared. There are several dépanneur's (convenience stores like 7-11) in the area which are open until 11:00 p.m. but they are a bit more expensive. The Marché Atwater is the best bet for fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, etc., open seven days a week. It's more fun and the prices are better when shopping from the Québecois farmers.

Extracurricular Activities (Top)

The largest peak in the city, Mont Royal, is located right behind the McGill residences. In the winter there are trails for cross-country skiing and you can rent skis at Currie Gym (on the McGill campus). In the fall the trails are great for running and you get an incredible view of Montréal. If you like backpacking, canoeing, climbing, hiking, skiing, etc., join the McGill Outing Club or the Geography Club. Trips are fairly cheap, and you can meet lots of different people. They have a "cabin" in the mountains north of Montréal and it is great to get away for a weekend. They (McGill) also have many other clubs. It is not too difficult to find out how to join; usually there are ads in the McGill newspaper.

As far as travel in Québec is concerned, the best time is during the summer, beginning of fall, and end of spring. These are the periods when your travel plans are less likely to be hampered by adverse weather conditions. However, winter scenery can be very beautiful and, if you can possibly swing it, the winter carnival at the beginning of February in Québec City is a must. Some things that you should not miss in Montréal are Notre-Dame Cathedral (Metro Place D'Armes), Olympic Stadium and Botanical Gardens (Metro Pei IX), Mount Royal Park, St. Joseph Oratory, Ste-Helene Island and Man and his World (Metro Ile-Ste-Helene) and the Place-Des-Arts/ Complexe Desjardins (Metro Place-Des-Arts). This is a short and incomplete list. It is not possible to list everything in this short space so you may want to write to the following addresses for good information about what Québec has to offer. They will, at your request, reply to you in English.

Tourisme Québec
C.P. 20 000
Québec, Québec G1K 7X2
Canada

However, you will probably get a quicker response if you write to one of their offices in the States. They are:

Délégation Générale du Québec TourismeDélégation du Québec Tourisme
630 5th Avenue, Suite 1670
Rockefeller Center
New York, New York 10111-0009

-or-

Délégation Générale du Québec Tourisme
Délégation du Québec Tourisme
35 East Wacker Drive, Room 2052
Chicago, Illinois 60601

And, finally, the Québec government operates a chain of youth hostels throughout the province. For information and qualifications, write to one of the tourist offices mentioned above. This will probably be the least expensive form of lodging and many of the hostels have cooking facilities.

Language and Culture (Top)

Language is a big issue in Québec and feelings run very high. Discussing the situation can lead to big arguments and hurt feelings and therefore should be avoided until you are familiar with the facts. Montréal is basically made up of three zones-the French zone (East End, Outremont/Mount Royal, and Laval/ North Shore), the English section (West End/West Island, Westmount, and South Shore) and the Buffer zone (both directions heading away from downtown). The French zone is rarely crossed by anglophones but the francophones often live in predominantly English sections. The statistical composition of Montréal is 60% French and 40% English (includes all other language minorities). Once outside the city of Montréal, small pockets of anglos exist but the majority is overwhelmingly French. If you will be living outside of Montréal, a good working knowledge of French is essential. However, if you stay in the English sections of Montréal, you will survive with no problems for the entire year as 40% of the population does.

The term "Québecois" is defined as a person from Québec. However, over the years, the meaning of this word has changed drastically and is now almost solely reserved for francophones and can even imply support for the Levesque separatist government. Indeed, many anglophones would be insulted if you called them Québecois. Most prefer to be called Canadians. A small portion of the French-speaking community prefer to be called French Canadian (Canadian Français). In any case, "Québecois" is not a term to be used freely and you should exercise considerable caution when using it.

As far as cultural differences are concerned, they are few. Québecers (French and English) are quite Americanized though they may be reluctant to admit it. Most products in Québec (especially supermarket items) are manufactured in Canada by subsidiaries of American companies. Cuisine is generally the same as in the States (except for good Mexican restaurants). There are many delicious Québecois dishes, like poutine (i.e. french fries with gravy and small chunks of cheese over them), looks really disgusting but tastes ok--it's an acquired liking), which have been handed down from family to family since the original French settlers arrived but these are more like a treat rather than the day-to-day cuisine. There are several McDonalds and Poulet à la Kentucky (Colonel Sanders) throughout the province and your favorite junk foods are always available.

In order to meet French Québecers, you will probably have to speak French since many are reluctant to speak English (though most can). The best way to meet francophones is to join clubs where French is the primary language, at the university you attend, or to find a French roommate. The French speakers are not always quick to respond to new friendships so it may take time. If you are invited for dinner, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine.

If you truly wish to learn French, you must make a big effort. Most employees who work with the public are bilingual and are quick to speak English with the non-French speaker. You must ask them to speak French (slowly and clearly). Your effort to speak French will usually get you a warmer response than if you start out in English. The Québec French accent is quite different than that of the Parisians, so if you speak French, it will take you about a month to adjust. Some words are different but you will pick these up quickly. In any case, both McGill and Concordia offer a full range of beginning French courses geared to teach you to function in French. For the more fluent speaker, literature and language theory and translation courses are offered. French as a second language courses offered by McGill are really not that good, as compared to Laval Université. Professors are not adamant enough to insist on the usage of French in class. Students listen in French but communicate with one another in English.

Student Comments (Top)

"Don't be scared of the language problem. Many of the people are semi - to fully bilingual. However, it is "neat" to learn (or attempt to learn) French and practice it in town. Certain areas are almost all Québecois (such as St. Denis) and ample opportunity is presented to immerse oneself. Most of the people are friendly and helpful, especially if you make the first move. As for cultural differences, I feel that the people have more of a small-town attitude (in particular ways) than people in L. A. Contracts (or agreements) may be made verbally, and disputes should and can be settled most of the time without third parties."

"Many of the women (and men) follow the latest fashions from Paris. If that is your "bag," then you will not feel as out of place as in California. Don't come to Montréal with the impression that this city is kind of backward or conservative. One will find punk bars, gay bars, strip joints, and every type of city life as any town. Montréal has a fun nightlife, and I think that one should try everything at least once! (Well, almost everything.) Explore! Lastly, one will be meeting people from all over the world. It is a great experience, and really opens one's eyes!"

This is a great experience. Montréal is definitely full of things to do so do everything. Don't be discouraged if you end up at Macdonald campus. Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue can be a lots of fun and taking the bus to Montréal isn't that bad, especially with a friend or a book. Also, try to practice your French as much as possible.

Montréal will be a wonderful place to pass a year if one is a city person. For those who love coffee, then Montréal is your city! There are cafés everywhere and the most popular are "Al-Van-Houte" and "Second Cup". Great bread and pastries too!