“I’m from Australia.”
“Woah, that’s far!”
This is generally the first conversation I will have upon meeting people in Montréal. While I feel a little chuffed that I can impress them by simply being Australian, each time it happens it reminds me of how far away from home I am.
But that’s why I’m on exchange, to try my hand at life away from creature comforts and to experience all that this city and l’Université de Montréal has to offer me.
Let’s start with the weather. Now, people warned me about the infamous Montréal winter and I dismissed them, thinking, ‘I’m from Canberra; I can deal with the cold!’ However, when that -40 wind chill came around, it took me a minute to comprehend – then a good few minutes more to realise that I had class and would have to face it head on, literally.
Living on Res has been a huge change as well. The proximity to campus is great and after living with my parents for 22 years, I’m making the most of the independence. I’ve enjoyed taking the time to cook for myself, I’ve even embraced the satisfaction of doing my washing and cleaning my room so it’s just how I like it. I’ve been lucky enough to make some close friends who also live in Les Résidences. We have spent numerous hours in the kitchen together, sharing in good times and great food.
Speaking of friends, after making an effort to go out and meet new people in the ‘Semaine A’, I managed to wind my way into a wonderful group of international students. We’ve had many a party (including a very successful Sausage Sizzle I threw for Australia Day) and I have never had to worry about not having a social life. What’s more, they are mostly Francophone so I’m able to practice my French with them. I’m grateful for my Anglophone friends here all the same because sometimes the French just gets too much!
That’s what I love about this city though, bilingualism is well accepted and as much as I try my best to speak French when I’m ‘oout and aboout’, having the option to fall back on English if I become really lost in translation is simply comforting.
I can’t believe that my exchange experience is just over half way through. While I would not say everything has gone perfectly, the positives have definitely outweighed any negatives and I would not change where I am right now for anything.
P.S. One last word of advice about exchange – embrace ALL the new experiences because honestly, you’ll only get out what you poutine!