Godwin - HEC Montréal

B. Business Management
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

HEC Montréal has a great range of International Business courses. In fact, I was able to acquire #8 of the #12 units needed to complete my IB major. My courses included: Operations Management, Purchasing Management, American Political Institutions and Business Practices, Internationalisation Strategies, and Ethics and Regulation in the Investment Industry.

UQ only deems 1 business course at HEC equal to #1.6 so you will need to complete 5 courses abroad. The 5th course will be considered a ‘filler’ course; you will still need to have it approved by UQ, but you won’t receive direct credit for it. The ethics course was my filler course, which matched an unspecified general elective. If you intend to study IB courses, the UQ Business school recommended me to complete IBUS2301: International Business Management before departing in order to acquire some foundational knowledge. 

Every course I enrolled in was taught in English. Every professor I had, spoke perfect English. However, English speaking courses were a minority at HEC, with the vast majority in French and a few in Spanish.

Each of my courses at HEC involved a 3-hour class once a week. Attendance is very important and can be considered very rude to not attend or show up late. It’s common to find participation marks as part of your grade. At HEC, participation means being engaged not just being present. Lecturers are always referred to as Professors and teach a class usually between 30 and 60 students. Enrolling in a class at HEC Montréal is like sign-on at UQ — make sure you are ready on the hour based on the time zone conversion.

Textbooks are usually prescribed for each class however, I did not purchase any and did not feel drastically negatively impacted by this.

Grading at HEC is very different and it’s almost impossible to know what you may get as your final score. HEC uses a letter system: A+ through to D. (Note: E is a fail, whereas F is a fail due to absence). The percentile conversion scale is set individually by each professor, which they amend based on the performance of the class. They only publish this — if at all — when the final grades are released. It’s quite possible for the passing grade (D) to be higher than 50%.

Regarding examinations at HEC, both Mid-Semester (Mid-Terms) and Final Exams are usually given the same weight, if there is a Mid-Term. The highest final exam I had was worth 45%.

Determining whether a class will need a lot of study will become apparent in the first week. I experienced easy and hard classes. For the latter, it’s especially important to complete the pre-readings in order to participate effectively in class. The course I enjoyed the most, Internationalisation Strategies, was the hardest, I felt that was the course I learnt the most from during my entire degree.

Personal experience

Starting an overseas student exchange is not easy. My aim was to get out of my comfort zone and that is exactly what I got. While HEC offers courses in English, the city of Montréal itself is very much French Canadian. Public transport is almost all in French, as with most signs around the city. However, most people do speak at least some broken English. If you don’t speak French like myself it just requires you to initiate an English conversion. By the end of my semester I felt completely comfortable in Montréal.

While I met local students through my classes at HEC, most friends were also on exchange as well; Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland and many more from around the world. HEC Montréal has an excellent exchange program (HEChange) to help students met others, get to know Montréal and travel throughout North America. I strongly recommend any students going to HEC to participate in the HEChange Welcome Week. This week involved many social and travel activities in and out of the city where I formed most of my exchange mates. The week is also preceded by an official HEC Montréal International Orientation Day. During the semester, I also travelled to Québec City, the capital of Québec province with the HEChange group. On this trip, we also had the opportunity to go husky sledding. Don’t miss out on that experience.

Living in Montréal for over four months places you in an extremely convenient position to travel across North America. During my trip, I visited New York and Pennsylvania in the eastern United States, which are both only a short flight away. Over the Spring Break in March I flew direct Barbados in the Caribbean, and on return travelled via Miami and Key West in Florida. After the completion of my exchange, I travelled across Canada by train from Montréal to Toronto via the capital Ottawa, and then all the way to Vancouver in British Columbia, on The Canadian. My trip included a stop at Jasper which I would recommend to anyone interested in driving south to Banff National Park amongst the Canadian Rockies. Finally, I was able to see the states of Washington and Oregon, where I visited Crater Lake, Mount Rainer, and other landmarks in north-western America.

In the end, my exchange allowed and forced me to develop strong independent skills to live in a foreign place on the other side of the world. Skills like these now make the world seem a lot smaller.


HEC Montréal has information on their website about accommodation, and it is possible to reserve your accommodation a few months before travelling. This is what I did.

As the school is not as large as other universities it does not have on-campus accommodation. Most options available are shared houses, possibly with other exchange students. HEC does own and operate a block of off-campus shared apartments. I had friends I met at HEC stay there and they enjoyed their stay. My accommodation was a shared house. Rent is usually paid by the month and seemed range between $500 and over $1000 CAD depending on the room booked. Most places will be furnished as they are often designed for international students with short-term leases. Look for the bedding arrangements however as some places may not include sheets and pillowcases.


Expenses in Montréal were excellent and almost like Australia. Public Transport is even cheaper; students can access discounted transit fares by purchasing a concession card from the main metro station: Berri-UQAM. It costs just under $50 CAD per month for unlimited travel on the metro and bus network.

My budget for groceries was $400 CAD per month. This was more than enough. There are many large groceries store in the city. Make sure to shop at Provigo, Maxi or Walmart as these are cheaper stores. IGA and Metro are more expensive. There is a Costco where you can purchase bulk items at the start of your semester if you meet someone with a membership.

You will need a winter jacket while in Montréal and I would not recommend buying one before you leave, as you may pay more in Australia or not have as many options. A good jacket can cost more than $500 AUD. Factor this large expense into your budget early on. Expect the jacket to cost more than you think.

The price of a phone connection is more expensive than Australia especially considering the quotas are much more restrictive. It is possible to get month-to-month plans however, and I would recommend this over roaming. My plan included 2GB Data and unlimited calling/texting within Canada. It cost under $50 per month.

Travelling with the eastern part of Canada or the United States can be reasonable flying if you book ahead. Otherwise train is available with VIA Rail in Canada or Amtrak from Montreal to New York City, as well as bus. Travelling to the western side of the continent is similar to flying from Brisbane to Perth. I would recommend The Canadian operated by VIA Rail, if you interested in seeing Canada. It’s unlikely to be lower than the cost of a flight and certainly takes longer but it allows you to see the interior of the country without stopping everywhere. Regarding accommodation, I booked the majority on Airbnb.

Professional development and employability

Skills developed throughout my exchange are largely derived from HEC Montréal – it is a fine business school. You will be tested and pushed harder than at UQ but the skills developed will be greatly rewarding. My confidence in understanding International Business is much greater thanks to HEC. The quality of the education at HEC is also coupled with the foreign experience for each exchange student, i.e. in my experience, it is learning about International Business in an international environment. Due to Canada’s proximity to the United States, I also gained valuable insights into how business operates locally and between the two countries.

The ability to adapt to a completely foreign environment is not something I had before my exchange. I also did not estimate how ‘foreign’ it would feel. However, this level of independence that you are effectively forced to learn is greater than anything I have attempted before. You learn to live and interact in a city where you don’t speak the primary language (if you are like myself) and adapt to a world where the social norms are very different to Australia. Not to mention, understanding that an Aussie winter is not really a winter at all…


The highlight of my exchange couldn’t be anything other than the feeling that at some point in my time in Canada, Montréal didn’t feel like a place out of my comfort zone. That I had gone from the frightening experience of landing in a foreign ‘world’ completely out of my comfort zone to harnessing Montréal in such a way that if I was to live there in the long term, I could be a local.

Top tips

  • Taxes are not included and Tipping is required when served: Forget the idea of knowing how much something is going to cost before you see the final bill. There are federal taxes and provincial taxes and they are always in addition to the list price. As well as restaurants, bars, taxis, haircuts and other services may require a tip. The average tip is 15%.
  • Open a bank account in Canada but do not pay your Australia bank to transfer and convert the money, their own exchange rates will see you lose a lot of money. Use Transfer Wise, to move your funds as you please with the wholesale exchange plus a small fee. Regarding a Canadian bank account, you will need to make an appointment, you usually can’t just walk in. I opened an account with Scotiabank, however any of the ‘Canadian Big 5’ would be good. Look for the student type accounts to avoid fees. Each bank will give you a debit card, however note that some places with only accept Cash or Credit, thus its import to keep some cash on hand. Connect to a phone plan before opening a bank account as you will need proof of a Canadian address beforehand.
  • The city has an excellent underground heated metro network. HEC Montréal is right near a station. My advice is to choose accommodation within proximity to a metro station or if you can live nearby the school. When purchasing the monthly pass, note that the pass does not expire 30 days from when purchase, it expires at the end of the month literally. Therefore, purchasing the pass as soon as possible will make the most out of your funds.
  • HEC publishes the dates of both mid-term and final exams at the same time as class times. In my semester, the mid-semester break was immediately after the mid-terms. If you happen to have early in the week exams or none at all you can potentially book travel in advance or early upon arrival.
  • While you will need to purchase health insurance through HEC Montréal, and UQ offers insurance, these policies will cease to cover you only a few days after the official end of HEC’s semester. If you’re staying longer you’ll need private travel insurance.
  • Your experience with applying for a visa to Canada will be easy; however, the US is a different story. If you want to travel frequently to the States while on your exchange, you will probably need a full visa, which requires a visit to the US Consulate in Sydney. You’ll need to complete a long application and pay a hefty fee and book an interview in advance.