The world’s second-largest French-speaking city after Paris, only two-thirds of the citizens of Montreal are of French decent, the other third being a international mélange of les autres (“the others”), including British, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Latin Americans and Caribbeans. The memorable result is a truly multicultural city, with a distinctly European flair.
The only way Montreal could be more welcoming to students would be to sit and shout “Bonjour, les Etudiants!!” Okay, not really, but if you're looking for the ideal student-city experience, Montreal is for you.
Planning Your Trip
Montreal claims to have the most restaurants per capita in North America and the city's nightlife is poppin’ until the wee hours of the morning. American students will be surprised to discover that the minimum drinking age is 18. The city also hosts more than 100 festivals each year, many of them in the spring and summer.
Newcomers to the city may have to adjust to Montreal’s unique way of giving directions. It has been said that Montréal is the only city in the world where the sun "rises in the south." Montrealers use an unconventional compass, using the river and the Mount Royal as cardinal points. When you are downtown, the St Lawrence River is “south” and the mountain is “north.” This tends to confuse visitors because the “East” End is really north and the “West” Island is south, and the St Lawrence River runs almost north-south at this location. The main street, Blvd St-Laurent, is the city’s dividing line that traditional separated the eastern Francophones and the west-side Anglos.
Once you’ve figured out which way is up, hop on one of Montreal’s Bixi bikes. The first public bike system in North America, Bixi (bike+taxi) features over 5000 self-service bikes available 24hr across the city at 400-plus stations. Renting a bike is simple: find a Bixi stand, swipe your credit card and ride off. The first 30min are free!
Montreal ranks as #16 of the world’s most expensive cities (in 2012). With the US and Canadian dollar at practically a 1:1 ration in 2013, Canada is not the cheap destination it once was. However, with a little planning and the right cheap sandwich shop, students will have no trouble having fun on a budget.
An average lunch costs anywhere from $10 to $15. Adding a cappuccino will be another $3. Beer runs about $5-7, and a fancy cocktail with an umbrella costs $8-15.
Students should keep their university IDs handy to take advantage of any student deals!
Students studying abroad in Montreal can travel across the world through different immigrant cuisines, or through time from the classic architecture in Vieux Montreal to the high rises of downtown. What are you waiting for?
Don't let the cost of travel deter you- plenty of organizations are itching to give YOU money to study abroad! Make sure to check with your university for other funding possibilities.
Culture Shock and Support
Students should be prepared to speak French in Montreal. While almost everyone speaks some English, the Lingua Franca is Quebecois. Most street signs, public transportation announcements, websites, etc will be in Quebecois French.
Montreal is one of the safest cities in North America. Use common sense, but in emergency, the number to call is still 911. However, students from down south should be aware of the dangers of extreme cold in the winter months. It’s not unheard for naïve visitors to get frostbite for walking several blocks on a sunny (but cold!) day of -35 C. Stay safe and take advantage of Montreal’s famous underground city- the extensive network of interconnected passages and shops that links a large part of Montreal.