What you need to know before studying abroad in Montréal
Montréal is a great city to live in
As far as I can remember, I always wanted to move to Montréal. This cosmopolitan city is known for its vibrant energy, good living and so much more. When I had the opportunity to do a university exchange in Montréal, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I barely had time to fill out the paperwork, jump onto a plane and here I was, a few months later, ready to start my adventure at Concordia University, an English university in Montréal.
Although I really enjoyed this past year at Concordia, I was surprised by some of the cultural differences between higher education in France and Québec.
Francophone, but not French
Sometimes we forget that Montréal is still a “North American” city. There are all sorts of nationalities, cultural celebrations and the ever-present French language, which could make a French, Belgian or Swiss person believe they would not experience culture shock by moving to Montréal. However, I found that that’s not always the case, especially when it comes to schooling!
A North American education model
Although the culture in both countries is similar, studying in France and studying in Québec are two different things.
The teacher’s role
In France, teachers typically speak during class and we, the students, only interact with them when we don’t understand something or when we hand in our assignments. In Québec, the school system is based entirely on collaboration. The teachers are not there just to teach a class and go home, but to guide our thoughts and challenge us. It is absolutely unthinkable to sit in class without participating in Québec.
The learning approach is independent learning. You get a light schedule, I only had 10 hours of classes per week on average, but don’t get too excited. The time you will spend outside of class are hours that you will spend studying at home. Québec universities often say that an hour’s worth of class is equivalent to three or four hours of work at home. In Québec, we come to class prepared, having already read the theory in the textbooks and completed the exercises. Class time complements individual work, unlike the education system in France.
The evaluation system is also very different. In France, exams are generally held at the end of each semester, while in Québec, grades are split between final exams (as we are familiar with in France), midterms (which take place mid-semester), group work (I’d say a whole lot of group work) and individual participation grades.
Adapt and enjoy!
Now that you know what to expect, I want to reassure you. Moving to another country can be scary, but it is one of the most enriching experiences for a young adult. If you’re reading this article now, it means you’re thinking about leaving your country, so don’t worry! The cultural differences are not that big, you just need to remember to keep an open mind. And to avoid any disappointment, here are my three tips to have the best experience studying in Québec:
- Adapt to the local culture: Celebrations, sports, all types of local customs. Testing out the Montréal way of life is a sure way to adopt it, so enjoy it!
- Meet people and make friends: Arriving in a new country all alone can seem frightening. We don’t know anyone, we’re far from home and we’ve lost all our points of reference. No need to panic! Like many before you, you will find your place, your points of reference and create a new life here in Montréal. Trust yourself, it will pay off in the long run.
- Live your experience to the fullest. Study, sign up for a sports club, art club, music club, go to festivals, discover nature near Montréal, poutine, beaver tails and other Québec delicacies! Go to the many festive and cultural events the city has to offer (music festival, cultural festivals like Saint Patrick’s Day or Canada Day, art week like the MURAL Festival—an exhibition of murals around the city). On average, there’s one festival every three days in Montréal so you’re bound to find something you like!
People often say that our school years are the best years of our lives, and they go by too quickly, even more so when you’re abroad, so take advantage of every moment. Take in all that Canada has to offer. Believe me, you will not regret it one bit!
Follow Amandine on Instagram @theamdrd
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Montréal International.