ERASMUST – Kate Whitaker

It’s the start of a new year and my second semester at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Things are very different from when I was starting my year abroad back in September. I have a flat, friends, a bank, a working phone contract. I know how to register for courses, where the best library is, where to get the cheapest coffee on campus and what the best student night out is. It’s also about 40°C colder than it was when I arrived in Canada last summer.

Kate in snowy Montreal, Canada
Kate in snowy Montreal, Canada

Winter in Montreal is a pretty dramatic lifestyle change. With snow covering the ground for the best part of five months and temperatures likely to drop to around -35°C it does have to be taken seriously.  There’s no popping out to the shop without spending ten minutes piling on the layers and strapping yourself into snow boots. There’s no wandering down the street at night searching for a cool looking bar.

HOWEVER, saying that, Montrealers love to scaremonger and they especially like to pick on the new comers. I have been told countless horror stories about previous winter woes. Apparently, I will be snowed in at least ten times over the course of the season, the buildings will crack from the cold, once the power went out for over a month and oh did you hear about the yeti that comes down from the top of Mount Royal and snatches unsuspecting exchange students?

Despite this, I have become possibly a bit complacent about the incoming Canadian winter. In the last week of term we had about a metre of snow within a week and it transformed the city into a beautiful winter wonderland. The ice skating rinks had started opening up across the city, people were cross-country skiing up the mountain and the buildings and parks looked incredible in their thick white coats. They even transformed one of the main streets into a freestyle snowpark and held a snowboard competition there! Only in Montreal.

I cockily boasted to one of my Canadian friends that winter wasn’t so bad and I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, only to be informed he wouldn’t even call this winter yet, and followed by an ominous “just you wait”.

Nevertheless, I am really excited about the next few months. There are winter festivals such as Igloofest, an outdoor music festival in Montreal; Snowjam, a weekend ski trip to Mont Tremblant, a local mountain; and Fête des neiges, an event with dog sledding, music and other snowy activities.

That doesn’t sound too bad to me, but maybe ask me again in April and see how I feel about snow.

Kate Whitaker

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