Cameron: There’s snow place like Montreal!

Many locals hate the winter weather, but as an exchange student, I’ve learnt to make the most of every opportunity and always find something to do whether its a -23°c snow blizzard, or a beautiful 1°c (warm for Canadian winter) sunny day. Even in the winter, there is still SO much to do in Montreal – arguably more than in summer! I have only been here for a month yet if you asked me, “What have you done in Canada,” it would take me hours to go through everything. But here are some highlights!


Igloofest is an electronic music festival that is on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a whole month, so you pick which nights you want to go depending on who’s playing. Tickets sell for $35-$48 NZD for each night depending on the demand, which is quite cheap for a concert this good. They’ve had some pretty big DJ’s perform in the past such as Diplo and RL Grime and I went on the night Kaytranada was playing! There are also heaps of free activities around the festival ground such as free marshmallow roasting, tube sliding, photo booths and a retro arcade game tent.

The cold is extreme, therefore everyone packs on the layers, which makes it kind of hard to dance and is an odd sensation but the event is a Montreal MUST-DO if you’re here for the winter semester, Igloofest is definitely not your average festival.


The city is located three hours away from Montreal and is VERY French. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is an important annual event that celebrates French Canadian culture with food, entertainment and amusement rides. Tickets to Quebec are about $40 one way, (according to my flatmate), however the McGill International Student Network offered exchange students return bus tickets for $35! Tickets to the Carnival were $18, but we also used the time to explore the breathtakingly beautiful city streets.

Some of the activities at the carnival were:

  • Exploring a castle made entirely out of ice (it even had an ice slide)
  • Axe throwing
  • Wearing sumo suits and playing ice hockey (wearing shoes not ice skates though)
  • Tube sledding
  • Ski shots (4 shots attached to a ski – very Canadian)
  • Making maple syrup toffee. Done by pouring maple syrup onto snow until it freezes and you eat it like a lollipop


Sledding is an everyday winter activity for Canadian children, but my flatmate and I had never done it, so we decided to embrace our inner child and invest in a sled. You can rent one $7 a day, but we bought ours in downtown Montreal for $15. After only one sledding trip we already got our moneys worth and plan to use it many more times. Beside McGill University is Mount Royal which takes 45 mins to walk up to get a view of the entire city, but halfway up the mountain is a literal winter wonderland. There’s sledding tracks and an ice skating link on a beautiful frozen lake where there’s sledding tracks and an ice skating rink on a frozen lake.

The view from the top of Mount Royal is insane – photos don’t do it justice!


The nightlife in Montreal is much better than in Auckland. You can go out every night of the week here if you wanted to and most clubs have different themed nights e.g. House, Regge, R&B and Throwback etc… Although it is freezing outside, everyone still wears typical clubbing outfits like they would in Auckland plus a jacket or coat for walking in between clubs. Everywhere offers coat check for $3-$5, but I just tie my jacket around my waist or hide it behind a plant instead. #hacks. 

Cafe Campus is the McGill equivalent of Shadows at UoA, except it’s 4x the size and equipped with about 30 disco balls

To anyone reading this and thinking of coming to McGill University – DO IT. Montreal is an incredible city that has so much to offer. There has not been a single day yet where I have been bored. If you ever want a (long) list of recommendations feel free to email me.

Although the winter semester has intense weather, Montreal truly embraces it. There are so many events on and things to do all day and all night – just don’t forget your thermals! 

Au revoir!


Tom: Conclusion of Exchange

The 20th of December marked my date of freedom, succeeding the most enjoyable semester and a few weeks of stressing for exams. In this post, I will let you know what I did that made my experience abroad so spectacular for me.

Leaving home was scary. I had never taken an international flight alone and everything seemed so uncertain – anything seemed to have potential to go wrong. Fortunately, my arrival into Canada went as smoothly as I could have ever imagined, with a negligible line through customs and friendly security. Getting to Montreal and to my hall of residence went equally well.

Recommendation 1: Do all the admin WELL BEFORE departure.

The reason everything went to plan is because I had everything organized months before. All courses had been approved, I had my ESTA and ETA, McGill had accepted me, and I was already in email correspondence with professors and the faculty well before I needed to be.

I decided to do Outdoor Frosh (a themed O-Week & trip for new students) to meet new like-minded people at McGill and experience a National Park of Canada that I might otherwise not have gotten the chance to. It is one of the best choices I made, resulting in my introduction to some AWESOME locals and exchange students who I traveled and met up with throughout my exchange semester. 

Recommendation 2: If you can do it, DO IT!

I understand there are many barriers that may prevent you (e.g. financial, physical, mental), but if you get the chance to go on a trip/do something potentially amazing, PLEASE don’t turn it down. Go out and meet new people, experience new things, and enjoy yourselves. The McGill Outdoors Club provided the perfect platform to do this, with frequent trips to nearby cities and provinces as well as physical activities such as rock-climbing, canoeing, hiking, etc. Their email list allowed anyone to propose a trip to do with others.

As I was on a semester abroad, I wanted to make the most of being overseas which meant travelling and not overworking myself. The fact that courses are pass/fail whilst on exchange really helped put my mind at ease and enjoy myself more (this is not an excuse to completely slack off though!). Additionally, I tried to take courses and a workload that would be less stressful – I took four courses instead of five, with one being general education. As a result, my exchange was the best semester I’ve ever had.

And so here I am, at the end of my 4-month exchange semester, with $300 to my name and a flight booked for the 31st of January from Los Angeles – over a month away. Time to call mum…

Recommendation 3: Budget.

I am incredibly fortunate to have parents back home who are willing, and financially able, to support me. Although I had saved up what I thought to be a significant amount after working part-time for 3 years plus 10 weeks full-time over the summer, I greatly underestimated the cost of living abroad and travelling. Try to know how much visas, flights, accommodation, food, etc. are likely to cost and over budget for everything. All included, travelling the United States (on what I would consider quite a low budget) costs roughly $100 NZD EVERY DAY if you want to do some touristy activities and enjoy yourself… 

To conclude, travelling and experiencing cultures abroad is 100% worth it. If you get the opportunity, make the most of it.

Cameron: First Impressions of Montreal

I made it to Canada!

My first two weeks at McGill University have been jam-packed with meeting new people, battling the cold and exploring the incredible city of Montreal. My main goal for the exchange was to go somewhere that is so utterly different to New Zealand and I have come to the right place. Here’s a breakdown of some of my first impressions of anything and everything important that has to do with going on exchange to McGill University!


Montreal is well known for its food. This is something I was especially looking forward to as I’ve always wanted to try the classic North American food we hear about growing up but can’t get in NZ. A Canadian dish I was excited to try was poutine. It’s hot chips covered in gravy and cheese curds – but you can get some insane variations. I made sure my first ever poutine was at the best poutine place in Montreal, and everyone Canadian I talked to recommenced a place called La Banquise. It was a half an hour walk away and then a 20-minute wait to get a table, but it was 100% worth the wait.


McGill doesn’t provide much information for exchange student housing on their website. If you’re interested in coming to McGill I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Exchange students can either go into their regular accomodation, which means you’re mixed with domestic students in flats or dorms, or you can go into 1 of 4 flats which house 17-30 exchange students in each flat. I’m in one of the exchange student houses, and it does, unfortunately, mean you end up living in an ‘exchange student bubble,’ but the major benefit is that you are living with people who are always keen to explore and go do something. The endless late-night conversations about slang and mocking each other’s accents are fun too.

The only major downside to this accommodation is the loft beds. This means that all the beds are above the desk. You have to climb a ladder to get onto your bed and you also can’t charge your phone and be on your phone in bed at the same time because the chord doesn’t reach that high from the wall. But the rent here is cheap compared to Auckland, and we live a 6-minute walk from campus, so I’m not fussy.


University life at McGill is very different from UoA. I’m taking all level 400 courses (equivalent to stage 3 courses at UoA) and in upper-year classes the class sizes are really really small and the expectation from the lecturers is high. In two of my classes, I’m 1 of 11 students. We all sit around one table, and the lecturer sits with us, and the content is taught to us like more of a discussion. We are expected to stop the lecturer to ask questions and give our own opinions on everything. None of my lectures are recorded, and most of them don’t provide slide shows, so if you miss the class you fall behind and it’s hard to catch up. Class participation is much more emphasised here than at Auckland and is worth 20% for most of my classes.


It’s pretty well known that Canada is cold. I can’t really describe what -21° feels like, and apparently, it’s going to get even colder. Every Canadian tells me that I’m going to hate the snow after a few weeks, but at the moment I love it. As long as you have snow boots (I found a pair for $60 on the first day I arrived), thermals and one REALLY good jacket (I got mine for half price during a Kathmandu sale) you’ll be fine. Going on exchange is all about putting yourself in a new and different situation, and this is definitely different from Auckland.

If you have any questions about anything related to going on exchange to McGill University don’t hesitate to reach out!

Thomas: Cultural Canada


Game of Thrones may have finished but WINTER IS STILL COMING here in Montreal. It’s only early/mid-November, temperatures are already negative, and we’ve had over 20cm of snowfall in just the last couple of days!!! Recently, I splurged on some new winter boots as my feet were getting cold and it can be dangerous walking on the very slippery city streets. I am so thankful in retrospect that I’m only doing the Fall Semester here; good luck for anyone coming from New Zealand’s summer to this horrendous climate in January for the Winter Semester! Brrrrr.

McGill University – Montreal

Tax & Tips

Asides from climate, there are a few differences between home and here, with one of the main differences being monetary: tax and tips. Everything can appear reasonably priced in Quebec until you add 15% in tax and then tip on top of it. Not tipping can earn you dirty glares as it is culturally expected here. You should tip anywhere that offers some sort of service: cafes, diners, restaurants, hairdressers, tour guides, and even bus drivers (though not on the general public transport system fortunately).


Montreal, as a city in the province of Quebec, has French as its only official language. My ambitions to brush up on my French whilst living here were short lived though: everyone speaks English. Outside of Montreal, however, in smaller towns of Quebec, French is prevalent, and English could be a barrier (so I’ve heard). There isn’t much in terms of language that is significantly different to New Zealand, except for the one word “eh” – a request for affirmation or attention, that they stereo typically end every sentence with.

Everywhere is Different!

Culture in other areas of Canada changes dramatically between provinces and cities. A trip to Toronto and down to Niagara introduced me to a little bit of America. Toronto as a city I found was much less interesting than Montreal, however, it did contain a couple of hidden gems such as Graffiti Alley and its much larger Chinatown.

Graffiti Alley – Toronto

Niagara on the other hand was a vibrant and touristy city which additionally boasts incredible waterfalls, daily fireworks during peak season, and borders America – completely different to what we experienced in Toronto.

Niagara Falls – Niagara


Drinking culture (as I have experienced it so far) is much less excessive and more responsible than how I have experienced it back in New Zealand – I have enjoyed it much more since coming to Canada and do not feel the equivalent social pressure to binge drink that I often do amongst peers back home.

Exchange Advice

If considering an exchange to Canada, you should try to know what you want to get out of your exchange before choosing the appropriate university. Know the location, climate, culture, etc. of the province and city before you go so you can choose what will suit you best!! Montreal is fantastic to experience some real cold, a white Christmas (hopefully!! for me), a little French culture, and locality making areas such as New York, Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec City, and Mt. Tremblant accessible for weekend getaways.


Mt. Tremblant with Fall Foliage


Thomas: Try to See EVERYTHING

Approaching the date of departure from home was neither exciting nor intimidating; however, the gravity of my adventure ahead finally dawned on me the morning of my flight, before saying goodbye to family and friends at the airport. I suddenly felt much more apprehensive about my decision to travel abroad. The 13-hour flight from Auckland to Vancouver was as uncomfortable as it sounds – trying to sleep was as futile as trying to stay awake. At 14:00 local time, the flight touched down, and I took my first step onto Canadian soil. Getting through customs was pleasantly much easier than I anticipated – all that was required was my admission letter and eTA. My first ten days overseas were spent staying with a family friend in Vancouver so as to facilitate my transition into a very new environment.

Vancouver is a beautifully designed city with so much to offer and a stunning surrounding area. I spent two nights in Whistler, as well as a night in Victoria on Vancouver Island, whilst exploring British Columbia (BC). Whilst in Vancouver – after recovering slightly from the horrendous jet lag – I tried swing dancing, hiked Grouse Mountain, visited Deep Cove, and did many other typical touristy attractions that the city had to offer.

Bloedel – Vancouver, BC

Whistler, I would describe, is the Queenstown of Canada – boasting picturesque snow-capped mountains, blue lakes, and a quaint village. I tried my first poutine from Zog’s, which did not fail to satisfy. Other highlights of this three-day adventure included walking the high-note trail, the Peak2Peak Gondola, cycling to all the lakes, swimming, and staying at the pod hotel. Thus far, Whistler has been my favourite trip within Canada.

Poutine – Whistler, BC

Whistler Peak – Whistler, BC

Alta Lake Park – Whistler, BC

My Victoria trip began with an early seaplane flight from Sea Island, followed by a whale-watching tour where we spotted dozens of orca whales. I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town, then the evening at Hermann’s Jazz Club – one of the oldest in Canada. The town boasted beautiful Victorian architecture.

View from a Seaplane – Vancouver Island, BC

Following my ten-day holiday in BC, I flew to Montreal and moved into my university accommodation at Solin Hall. Since then, I have visited Ottawa, the McGill Outdoors Club Clubhouse, been canoeing, and am planning a tip to Mt. Tremblant this coming weekend.

Based on my limited travel experience over the past month, if I were to offer one piece of advice to those going abroad, it would be to make the most of every opportunity you can. Try to see EVERYTHING. Travel to different cities, don’t be afraid of new food, and treat every day as the opportunity it is – because you may never be back to wherever it is you are. I have found that studying overseas provides an ideal environment to travel in for the first time.

Lachine – Montreal, QC

Ottawa – Ottawa, ON

Reflections: Shirley

Final thoughts are usually something of a mixed feeling for me. Even the name itself just pushes you to face all the preparation, all the hidden fears and excitements of living a life elsewhere for half a year and all the amazing memories that have come out of it is about to end. Usually I would find myself in a state of blankness, that really horrible feeling of dread and knowing that at least for the next little while, I will leave behind adventure for the mundane monotony of home.

But in actual fact, that was not how I felt leaving Montreal. Of course I would miss everybody that I have met and had a great connection to without a doubt, and I appreciate that the time and experiences I had were unique and special. But somehow the things I learnt about myself, about how to progress with my life and how to think about things from a different perspective made me particularly excited to come home. And nobody is more surprised about that revelation than I am. It’s like what they say, you never really find the things you look for until you stop looking. And I wasn’t prepared to find this newfound appreciation not just for the world outside of my own country and the lovely things that comes with it, but of it instead. I didn’t even realise I had missed New Zealand that much until I could not stop smiling landing back from a long journey and savouring the sunlight instead of the snow. There are too many new ways of changing my lifestyle and mindset to better ones that ultimately I appreciated the experience for what it was: As a big learning curve that ultimately gave me exactly what I needed at this point in my life.










It’s only fitting that this last post should be a visual highlight reel of my experience in Montreal, and along with the various posts I as well as my fellow exchange students have done over the past half year, hope that it inspires even just a few of you to take the plunge. These snapshots what words can’t capture, only that the feeling after having achieved and experienced all of this makes me feel very lucky and extremely grateful. It can be scary, intense and at some points no matter if it’s organising it of simply living it. But in all honesty, nothing could make your university life more memorable. In twenty years, it won’t matter as much what grade you got in which paper. That won’t be the conversation starter when you have work events, family gatherings or social reunions. But for me, the special times like watching my first ice hockey game, or hiking in sea of golden leaves during a storm, or having a white Christmas on top of a mountain… Those I will share time and time again with fondness and happiness.










Thank you to everyone who supported the content; Giving a glimpse of my adventure was such a creative outlet to share those incredible moments and I enjoyed it every step of the way. And as cliché as it may sound, it cannot compare to actually living it. Don’t believe me? I dare you to give it a try.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (


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Wanderlust: Shirley

Some people may be thinking that exchange life is more like normal life at home but in a different place, and in a lot of ways they are right. The length of time is definitely long enough for certain habits and routines to development and the ones around you take really no time at all to become family. But it is also a way of life that is exciting and thrilling, unrelenting and often tiring at the same time, which may sound unappealing but would definitely not be done in any other way. Because the soul source of all those feels that makes the whole experience so vibrant and worthwhile comes down to one thing: The ability to travel.

There are limitless easy possibilities when you find that you’re in a country surrounded by other regions and countries rather than by sea, and I can say without fail that each and every exchange student would have taken absolute advantage of this to see more, taste more, learn more and feel more. So for a fun post that might even give you a bit of inspiration with where you might want to do your exchange in the first place. By no means do I love Montreal any less, I thought I could give a brief little rundown of all the other places I managed to wander to.

The first and certainly the one that set the standard was Quebec City. Granted a massive push of summer heat even at the end of September, it was like we had walked into a beautiful European town that really glowed and you just couldn’t help but smile wherever you went. With a huge French influence that really appealed to what I love personally, the days spent just walking around and enjoying the delicious food on outside terraces while listening to street jazz music was just the perfect start to my exploration of this part of the world. It was exactly the type of holiday that I love, and a perfect way to get excited about my next endeavours.






The second destination could perhaps be considered a must hit for eastern Canada and while I could have chosen a better time than before a heavily weighted midterm to go, Toronto was a place that appealed to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined myself. Being the biggest city within Canada, the rich variety of things I saw whilst I was there really made an impact, and the engineer inside me really appreciated that even without the CN tower, those tall buildings downtown were extremely impressive. And of course the Niagara Falls were not at all disappointing, but I loved the fun and amusing township most of all which everyone had somehow forgot to mention. While it was undeniably more slightly stressful than what I was used to, perhaps it was the most surprising trip that led me to a place I seemed to think I had a full grasp on yet found I knew barely anything at all. But isn’t that what travelling is all about?






If Quebec City was the epitome of a perfect summer vacation, then Ottawa was its equal in every way as a winter getaway. And in true contrasting style, we managed to fill a house full of new friends and roommates to have a wild weekend away, where we could celebrate coming together from all over the world and make unforgettable memories while we had the chance. It was true a time of bonding, with one of my best friends and my roommate treating ourselves like queens in an outdoor mountain spa in the dead of winter. I cannot even convey the luxury of having warm water wrapping around you as the morning light faded to a chill night, and when the lights and candles started to glow through the steam, we experienced our first real snowfall. It stayed until the next day when we walked our way through Ottawa in absolute awe of this magical setting to consolidate a very heart warming and lovely weekend away.





The final and certainly biggest destination was the only one I had set my eyes on before I had even left for my exchange experience because who could deny an opportunity to explore the concrete jungle? New York was absolutely spectacular. It was impressive and grandiose and interesting in so many ways, but I could not believe how lucky I was to get a full week and a half to spend there, including the infamous New Year’s Eve. Snowstorms and high winds did nothing to knock our spirits to wander anywhere and everywhere that we could, and I don’t think we could have taken more advantage of being there than we did. Rooftop parties, food and cafe hopping days, shopping getaways… we went big because as sad it was, we knew we were going home.







But what a perfect way to finish off a massive adventure that held nothing back and gave us everything it had. If something like this doesn’t convince you that an exchange is worthwhile, I really don’t know what will.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (

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Campus Life: Shirley

It’s not hard to imagine what is most exciting, most intriguing and most anticipated for an exchange: The new experience. Sometimes it is easy to be blinded by the places to travel, the new foods to try and the activities to do that it overwhelms a very big aspect of this experience, notably achieving a different academic perspective. For me personally, I would definitely like to start by confessing that all and everything fun and amusing became a front runner as a priority with this journey, which therefore put my academics more so on the back burner than what I am used to back at home. I thought to myself, it would be an absolute crime if this opportunity of all opportunities was spent sitting inside studying my precious days away.

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I did take me a while to see that university and campus life is inclusive of having a good grasp on what is going on, and discovering McGill along the way with its similarities and differences is not a hindrance to the experience but a part of it. Looking at these pictures of the beautiful campus and feeling pride towards being a part of such a diverse and strong student community there, it really does form a great part of the journey. A lot of aspects were very much on par with what I was used to at Auckland. Others, whether it arose simply because it is a different university or due to the fact that I am in a particular situation on exchange here, took some time to adjust to. Leaving behind for one second all the other envious bonus advantages from being overseas that comes to mind whenever somebody goes on exchange, I think that it is fairly important that the reality of education and spending a lot of time immersed in an academic setting is told.

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With regards to that, these would be my personal top five campus life related advice I would have loved to receive had this been a year back when I was planning my exchange, and would certainly now help others to have a better idea of what to expect.

  1. In the lecture room setting, expect to work a little harder if you want those social relationships.

Exchange students come in all forms, some are naturally more outgoing while some like to take it slow and build relationships at a relaxed pace. But meeting people back at home university is a different game to doing it in a new place. It’s so important since for me at least, my relationships within my cohort always give me an academic support that I find extremely useful. In saying that, it is definitely more difficult to break into established groups and simply put, more effort and courage is required than it would have been starting your first year where everyone was openly looking for friends. Just remember though, everybody is super friendly and generally people love a fresh new perspective. And if anything, you’re on exchange! What have you got to lose?

  1. Do everything that you want to do, but don’t feel upset if you can’t do everything.

Without a doubt any university will burst a whole myriad of clubs involving sports, music, hobbies and so much more that offer a very vibrant experience. I would definitely recommend them as they certainly are enriching and act as a very nice way to meet new people. As an example, my French conversation mini-course definitely helped me brush off my language cobwebs and I have meet people who I have made memories with already and will keep in contact with in the future. But it’s important to accept that with all these priorities on the list, you realistically cannot to it all. It is healthy to achieve a nice balance of what you want to do vs what you can do, so that it can be integrated into the campus lifestyle without feelings of overwhelming stress and fatigue. If you have the energy, do it. But don’t mistake it for pushing yourself too hard.


  1. Take the time to understanding the personal requirements of the courses you have picked.


My story will help clear this particular point a bit more. Of my papers, the ones which deemed a good match for what would have been my third year level at home was a first year maths paper and a fourth year structures paper. Having full confidence in mathematics and finding structural design the most difficult component of my civil degree, you can imagine my surprise when I scraped by with abysmal maths grades while soaring through with high scores for structures. This insane outcome taught me something I think every exchange student must accept: You have to take some time to evaluate what you need to dedicate more time to in terms of study because it isn’t necessarily the same as before. This will help with study efficiency and productivity to leave more time for all the other travel and leisurely things that are waiting.

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I expect that everybody wanting to go on exchange is looking for one thing within campus life – something different. So the best thing that you can do is to be prepared for it all as best you can and enjoy every different thing that comes with it which will make for some interesting stories when you get back home. After all, nothing beats a good but unpredictable story.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog ( J


Food, Glorious Food: Shirley

Anybody who knows me will be able to say without hesitation that this is the post for me. How is it possible to complete an experience without trying out all the flavours of the region, spending endless hours reading mouth water articles and sniffing out the hidden gems within the city? Even in the two months I have been here now, I have already gone to crazy limits like lining up for half an hour at midnight to have that authentic poutine, or posing as a different person on two different days to get another taste of the new brownies they’ve created at the chocolate shop. And sure there were some very shameless moments of whipping that camera out to get the best angle, wishing that somehow technology could help retain the scents and flavours in reality, but I would of course brave that for these delectable bright photos and wonderful experiences.

In fact, I’m not even that embarrassed because food appreciation is everywhere in Montreal. It is literally bursting through the city no matter how distinct the neighbourhood is and where you might happen to stroll past. The tasting culture here is so high that one of the most recommended activities that someone may ever find themselves being advised to try is to go on a walking food tour, where the city and all its charms can be discovered step by step while the fuel of classic foods and satisfying flavours makes the incentive for the next destination ever the better. The university even gave us as exchange students various opportunities to experience all of this with their own hosted tours – and what better way to make new friends on a sunny weekend but to stroll down the streets of Montreal with a famous bagel in hand and a nice iced drink to go with it?


There is definitely no lack of good food, and while the city prides itself with its stunning and cafes each with a unique flair as well as the vibrant atmosphere which comes with causal bars and restaurants, there is no lack of variety either. Running all the way back to the classics here which I was most excited to try as somebody who has never set foot in Canada, all the way to modern hybrids of different flavours and combinations. It would be an endless mission to taste even a portion of what is there to offer, although I have, without question of course, gladly accepted this strenuous challenge. Smoked meat sandwiches, out of the oven bagels, hearty poutines, fresh salads and colourful juices, warm coffees, sweet beavertails and decadent desserts… Those only make up the tip of the massive iceberg that has me yearning for more. And with the transition into the colder months now, the options are endless and there is no doubt I will continue enjoying taking pictures of all of these even if I get a fair few more worried glances cast my way.


But as much as eating out can be amazing and without a doubt some of the best conversations, the best laughs, the best memories were created with outings like that for me so far, there are always other options. In the shoes of a student trying to travel as much as I can, you can imagine that when the dreamy haze parts and reality hits in the form of a very depleted looking bank account, it doesn’t take major maths skills to know that those are only ‘treat yourself’ moments. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single week that passes by without several of those, but living independently means you can get creative. I understand that cooking isn’t something a lot of us have time for nor have a heap of experience with, but it’s all a fantastic learning experience when you have so many others around to share tips and tricks from their parts of the world. I actually love developing this skill because it helps me to become healthier, more budget friendly. And of course it proves to myself that I, as well as any student capable enough to set their mind on exchange, can make some delicious food and innovate at home too.


See if you can spot the homemade good sprinkled in there, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, not to mention I absolutely die for how vibrant these pictures look! After all, there’s not much more I can say without feeling hungry again!

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (

Adobe Spark (10)


Accommodation Awards: Shirley

Different people have different things that they find important in their immediate environment: Some have to have good company, others like warmer or cooler weather. But for the most part especially being on exchange, it is the creation of a makeshift home fit to remember good pastimes but induce new memories as well which cannot be overlooked.


It is definitely a good time to note that sorting out accommodation is no easy task, and even as someone who does not live at home and is flexible enough to find it easy to adapt to new places, it was an extremely difficult process to sort out. For me personally, the top three priorities that I really looked to fulfil with my accommodation would not be too dissimilar to those of most people: The opportunity to meet new people easily, proximity to the university campus and easy accessibility to frequent places such as shops and cafes, grocery stores and banks. In fact, I had come to the realisation that cost wasn’t the most important factor because during my one term here, I wanted to make the most of it and rent would not be too much of a controlling factor. The important thing was to have a place to live where my lifestyle could be well integrated even in the midst of vast differences between Montreal and Auckland.

Three very obvious options were presented to me: Living on campus with McGill Rez, off campus with hotel style student accommodation or simply flatting with other fellow students in the nearby neighbourhood named the McGill Ghetto, which can be rather charming despite the name. More than several hours to say the least had been spent simply researching what might be the best option considering my three requirements, but the best fit seemed to be staying with McGill. The network and community would be unparalleled to make new friends and an infinite number of students in my exact same shoes would have gone through with it without a hitch. But I sure can tell you there were many bumps in the road. The application itself gave no information so until the point I had paid my deposit and assigned a house, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Deadlines sprung up without warning, emails back and forth were frustrating with time zones and questions were endless even if you could get them through. It was a tough lesson to learn that making the decision to take risks is something that I will definitely have to come across again during my exchange.


But at the end of day, it really does work out no matter what option. I now live with 14 other girls where we spend every waking minute filling this massively old house with young laughter. Steps away from campus through the back door, a few more through the front on to one of Montreal’s most well known streets, it couldn’t have ticked the boxes in a better way. Our shared kitchen is always bustling and the common room is almost big enough to throw a salsa dance-off. The manor style staircase and corridors carry sounds of giggles and banter from room to room. With five singles and five doubles, I was lucky enough to have talked to my roommate Michela before we met in person so sharing our space was something we slipped into with ease. It definitely helps that our room is unbelievably grand as well, being the only one with tall windows, high ceilings and even a rustic fireplace to add to that cozy Canadian feel.


While it was the luck of the draw and we may have the biggest room, it’s easy to see that we all are winners here. Everyone puts their all into their rooms, with photos and decorations, and walking through them is like diving into a part of their lives and listening to their stories. Some sneaky little rubber ducks seemed to appear and they don’t stop either, which adds to the fun of it all. We all deserve awards as people coming from different places to adjust and trying our hardest to make this place as much of home as possible. And if I may say so myself, we certainly did a kick ass job of it.


Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog ( J

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