Agnes - HEC Montreal

B. Commerce / Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I studied a full course load on exchange which at HEC was 5 courses. I took 3 Finance courses, 1 French course and 1 Economics Course, of which 3 classes were taught in French and two in English. There was one three-hour seminar per week for each course. I found this the most challenging as it was hard to concentrate for such a long time, especially in French. Also, often we would do a quiz or tutorial type workshop in the second half of the seminar. I found this did not leave a lot of time to let the information sink in or to ask questions before doing the work. However, because the class sizes are a lot smaller (max 45 people) it is easy to ask the teacher any questions you have. Also, because of the small class size, it was easy to meet people in the class and work together with them. It's best to do the readings before class so that you do not get completely lost during the three hours!

Personal experience

HEC has a large population of exchange students, about 350 people from 40 different countries. Thankfully, they have an exchange committee called HEChange that organises a bunch of trips and activities throughout the semester. Do not miss the Welcome Week organised by HEChange! It is well worth the price as this is where you will get to explore Montreal and meet everyone. I was about to travel to Boston, New York, Quebec City, Vancouver, Whistler, Burlington, Ottawa, Toronto, Cuba and a whole heap of National parks during my exchange. If you are heading to Montreal in the fall semester get to as many national parks as you can. They are beautiful!

Accommodation

Most exchange students chose to live with other exchange students at HEC. This was organised through a portal called "Get Your Place." I chose not to do this because I want a more varied experience. I ended up living with two guys from Montreal. It's worth noting if you choose this route, most people only want to rent out a room to people staying for a year so you might have to go over a little bit sooner to allow time for house hunting. Most people live in shared houses or apartments in either Mile End or Le Plateau which are easily the most interesting suburbs.

Budget

Food and Rent are generally cheaper than Brisbane but it's worth saving up a lot of money because at the end of the day you don't want to miss out on any opportunities and if you don't spend it then you have the added bonus of coming back with savings.

Professional development and employability

The final exchange gala
The final exchange gala

I think the biggest thing you gain from doing something like exchange is being independent, gaining confidence and being able to think on your feet. These are all important in the workplace. You gain independence because you have to learn how to live out of home and out of your comfort zone. Not having all of the normal familiarities and people to depend on means that you have to become a lot more resilient and learn to solve your own problems. This also helps you gain confidence because you become surer of yourself and what you are capable of. You are no longer able to rely on your friends so you have to go out and meet new people. Being able to problem solve quickly is also a skill I picked up, this often happens when you land in a new city and have to learn to navigate and trust your instincts in an unfamiliar environment.

Highlight

The highlight was easily the people I met. I was really lucky to form a great group of friends that meant no matter where we visited or what boring three-hour lecture we were sitting through, we were having fun.

Top tips

  • Exchange is what you make it. 

If you want to go out and party every night, you can do that. If you want to benefit from learning another language or taking your courses from a different perspective you can do that too. If you want to use the city as a pit stop for all of the travel around it and go away every weekend you can do that too. Think about what you want to gain from the exchange before going and prepare accordingly because there will be a tradeoff between these options. Also knowing what you want to gain from exchange beforehand will help you choose an institution or a destination. 

  • In saying that, throw any expectations out the window 

You never know what you are throwing yourself into and things always change along the way, so just go with the flow. Exchange can be the most fun you have ever had in your life. It can also be a lot more nerve-wracking or unsettling than you thought it would be. Either way, you are going to come out of it with amazing memories and a much stronger person. So just enjoy it for all of the ups and downs it is. 

  • Do it!

We are incredibly lucky that we go to a university that offers so many exchange partners. We are also lucky that we live in a country that is willing to loan the money for exchange to encourage people to travel. So make the most of it because you will never regret going on exchange.

Agnes - HEC Montreal