Harvard- America’s McGill

McGill is rated in the Top 20 Universities in the World, which undoubtedly means that the work is going to be tough. This definitely was a shock to the system and it’s really only now that I’ve started to get my head screwed on and knuckle down to do some work. I’m taking 15 credits per semester, which is a full load and is equivalent to 60 credits back in Glasgow. Generally, classes are 3 credits, so 5 classes in total per semester. Being a 2nd year Biology student doesn’t give me much leeway with what subjects I can choose, unlike Arts students. However, McGill does offer a broad spectrum of courses, so finding classes that I needed as pre-requisites for 3rd entry weren’t too hard to come by.

Harvard- America's McGill

I think, but am not entirely sure yet that I want to do a Physiology degree, but I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. Glasgow has allowed me to do 3 credits per semester as electives, so I can choose anything I like, therefore I only have 4 classes of Science. And seeing as though I’m in Montréal, the largest bilingual city in the World, I might as well learn the lingo- Français!

My other courses are: Molecular Biology, Physiology, Psychology and Anatomy. On average, I have about 3 hours of lectures per week for each, plus I have a 1.5 hour lab for Anatomy where we basically study cadavers. In Quebec, the education system is different from the rest of the country. They have something available to locals called CEGEP College, which if completed means that they can skip 1st year, U0, and go straight to 2nd year, U1. Basically the equivalent of Glasgow’s 2nd year is U1, so I’m mainly doing 200-level courses, except for Psychology. The level of work is a big leap from last year, which is to be expected, but as I was saying, I’ve only just realised how much work I need to do to keep up to date.

Here, they have mid-terms, which I’m not used at all. I’m generally quite badly organised, so I’ll cram really hard the month before Finals, but here it’s not possible. You have to constantly recap lectures and remember everything as you go or else you will fall behind. The mid-terms are generally worth 20-30% and some subjects have quizzes throughout the semester worth a few percent here and there, so mainly the bulk of your mark is from the final. A slight shock to the system, as at Glasgow my subjects were mainly 50% coursework/labs/assignments – 50% exam, which seemed so much easier.

Arts on the other hand is different, many of my Arts friends have essays every week etc. And in my French the 100% is split between many different things, such as attendance, quizzes, dictations, orals, presentations and various exams throughout the year. It’s a great class, with about 20 people of a similar level, but language lessons here are soooo difficult. No English is spoken whatsoever, so if you don’t understand you’re screwed. Even though I’m not selling it very well, I would still recommend you to do one, as it’s one of the most rewarding. I’m able to have basic conversations with friends, maybe not locals because they have a Québécoise accent (very different to French French). Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have a good grasp of the language.

The course catalogue: http://www.mcgill.ca/files/courses/UGCourses.pdf is vital to helping you pick classes. Once you have a few that you like you then add them by going to Minerva, McGill’s equivalent to WebSurf, and hey presto. It’s not as easy as back home because there’s so many courses to pick from that there are clashes sometimes and you have to add/drop courses to sort it out, but finally I got it done. Make sure to email your head of department and advisor of studies to get approval, or else, no getting back into uni!

My mid-terms are coming up over the next few weeks and I am not looking forward to them at all. It’s really stuffed up my travel plans because I wanted to go explore at the weekends, but now I have to stay home and study. Luckily, last weekend I managed to get out of town for Thanksgiving. I went to the oldest village in Canada, Tadoussac, an awesome spot for whale watching, black bear encounters, mesmorising autumnal scenery (i didn’t realise how many shades of brown and orange and coppers there were). I went to Quebec City as well, which is only 3 hours away, so I’ll definitely be heading back next year in the winter.

The weather over the past month has dramatically changed, it used to be shorts weather (for me at least), but now, it’s around 4 oC during the day, so I’m thinking a wee bit of winter shopping is required to keep me toasty. Down jackets are a must! But it’s cheaper and better quality here than back home.

I’ve been trying to stay/get (probably the latter) fit by playing some intramural sports. Back in Glasgow I was on the Ultimate Frisbee team and I knew it was big here. Unfortunately, with the stress of flat hunting, I missed out on the “free agents meeting”, where teams look for players and players look for teams. However, I managed to get on a team and because they’re a beginner’s team I’ve taken the role as coach, which isn’t bad going. I’m also now in an A team, so I’ve got the best of both worlds. Plus, I’m in a Volleyball team with some of my exchange friends. It’s quite easy to keep 3 teams on the go, as it’s very relaxed and there’s no need to train.

It costs around $10-20 to join a team and then you play 5 games to try and make it through to the play-offs to see who will come out on top. www.mcgill.ca/athletics

I was also tempted to join the Varsity Rugby team, but Varsity is taken very seriously; training several nights a week, matches every weekend. The level of play is not the greatest, even though the 1st XV are considered one of the best in Canada, but I suppose that’s Canada for you. Ice Hockey is the no.1 sport. Kids are born with a puck and a stick in their hand, and it’s like a family tradition to go see your local team. Tickets to go see the Montreal Canadiens start at $60, but i’ve heard the atmosphere is incredible, so I’m tempted.

My next big trip is to Boston to go see my friends from the hostel, hopefully they’ll show me around and I might even meet up with some fellow Glasgow exchangees.

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