Being a student in Montreal is kind of the best. With so much to do, eat, and drink in the city (combined with the overall affordability of the metropolis), Montreal is a mecca for those living the student life.
And yet, some students don't quite take full advantage of all the awesome Montreal has to offer. I'm looking at you, Ontario-folk, because students who hail from the nearest province to the west commit many of the same mistakes.
Hailing from Ontario myself, and having gone to McGill with a lot of students who made the same trip, I've learned there are some blunders far too many Ontario students make while studying in Montreal. It's a crying shame, because some of these errors truly detract from one's Montreal experience, which should always be classified as "amazing."
Leaving For The Summer
Lets start with the biggest mistake I have seen far too many students make every single year: coming to Montreal in September, then leaving in May.
Why is this such a crime? Well, because you're effectively missing out on the best part of living in Montreal, which is the summer. Leaving once the school year ends ensures you only experience the worst parts of the year, never getting to experience the distilled magic that is Montreal from June to August.
And where are you even going in the summer? To go spend time at home with your family in Kingston, or Toronto? Sorry, but no city in Ontario holds a candle to the amazing epic-ness that is a Montreal summer.
Not Learning French
A lot of students coming from Ontario have a better handle on French than most people give them credit for. I took French all throughout high school and came to Montreal looking to perfect my already solid French skills. But then I attended an Anglophone university, spoke almost no French for years, and had to relearn a lot of the language once I decided to live in the city.
Unfortunately, the same thing happens to a majority of Ontarians hoping to become fluent in French once they live in Montreal for a few years. It isn't a difficult task, given that students are literally immersed in a Francophone setting, and yet 90% walk away from Montreal without learning any French.
Really, it's an effort thing, as I've had friends all but master the language in a few years simply because they took the time to actually take a class and converse in French. That then opens a lot of doors in Montreal, both culturally and professionally, and altogether leads to a better experience in the city.
And yet, too few students put in the time and effort, pretty much wasting what could be the only time they'll have in their lives to learn French.
Living in The “Ghetto”
There are more than a few downsides to living in the McGill or Concordia ghettos. Rents are high, you're surrounded by rowdy students, there's almost no distinction between home life and school life... and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The real tragedy is, that by being so close to where you live and where you study, you're effectively trapped in a "bubble" that cuts you off from the rest of the city. School becomes intertwined with your Montreal life, and you neglect all of the amazing areas and features of the city not found in the immediate area around campus.
And the positives of living in the ghetto are? Yeah, I have no idea.
Only Going Out To Student Bars + Clubs
Sure, the drinks are cheap and everyone is around your age, but you know what happens when you only go on Saint Laurent? Well, you just meet more students, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but definitely cuts down on the diversity levels of your nightlife experience.
Of course, you probably don't want to go party with a bunch of old folks, but actually taking the time to party in a borough that isn't the Plateau or Downtown can lead to the most epic of nights.
Not Even Trying To Find A Job In Montreal
Being a full-time student is respectable. You just want to focus on your studies and all that jazz, I get it.
But come graduation, Ontario-folk automatically commit a mass exodus out of the city, convinced they won't be able to find a job in Montreal.
Most just assume that, without being bilingual/fluent in French, finding a job in Montreal is next to impossible. And then they don't even look. A stupid mistake, because there are more employment opportunities for Anglos/folks with basic French skills then you might think.
Comparing Montreal To Toronto
Seriously, no one wants to hear it. Oh, you're from Rosedale, where everyone is rich and pretty? Cool story, bro, just don't knock on the Plateau for actually having some character.
To be fair, Montrealers tend to ignite this debate just as much, but lets put and end to it once and for all and say that Montreal and Toronto are simply different, and that's okay.
Never Exploring Montreal
This kind of goes in line with the living in the ghetto/never bursting the bubble point, but in truth, you don't need to live anywhere in particular to go out and explore Montreal. And yet, such a small percentage of out-of-province students do so.
It pains me to hear about kids who have never gotten an OPUS card and never leave the Plateau. Don't get me wrong, the Plateau is an amazing borough, but it isn't reflective of all the amazing things Montreal holds. Like any metropolis, Montreal is multifaceted and layered, with many of the city's best bars and restaurants housed in boroughs far away from the city's English-speaking universities.
Ordering/Eating Chef on Call
Okay, so I actually have nothing against Chef on Call itself, I'm simply using the food-delivery service as a stand in for what a lot of students do when they need to feed themselves: they find the most conveniant solution and order from there. That results in a lot of shawarma, Subway, pizza, or whatever else happens to be around campus.
But limiting your taste buds to what's only found around campus is one of the largest crimes you can commit in Montreal. The food scene here is just so amazing. Housing some of the best culinary talent and iconic foods (and no, not just poutine) Canada has to offer, not heading out to at least some of Montreal's more refined restaurants is a major mistake.
Not Making Friends With A Local
Having a pal who has lived in Montreal all of their lives is like having a tour guide on a vacation, except way more amazing and far less boring. Unlike you, who has just moved to the city, they know all of Montreal's nooks and crannies, and would be more than happy to show them to you.
Becoming friends with someone solely so they can show you around is ridiculous, of course, but coming from experience, having a bud who knows the city like only a local can is an indispensable resource.
Letting University Ruin Your Experience In The City
School truly isn't everything. Actually, I think a fair amount of the university educational experience is what you learn outside of the classroom. And when you study here, that means what you learn in the streets of Montreal.
Unfortunately, some students take their studies really seriously. Which is commendable, but not when your life is effectively ruined when midterm or exam time comes around. And when you get super stressed out at school, all of those negative feelings are attached to a single place. Whether that be the library, or wherever you study, the end result is that it's a place in Montreal.
With that, by being too intense about school, you're creating a link between all those negative emotions and the city of Montreal. Sure, you have all of those drunken nights to balance things out, but still, the connections there, which might be why so many students dip out of Montreal come the end of the school year.
And if all that was too wordy, there's the simple fact that by letting school take over your life, you'll never have the time to experience the wonder that is Montreal. 'Nuff said.