Can you tell us something about yourself? What do you study? Where did you spend your exchange stay?
I am in my third and final year of Area Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences and I decided to spend my exchange semester at McGill University in Montréal.
Where did you learn about the Inter-university programme? Why did you choose this programme?
I always knew I wanted to do an exchange, so I looked for all possible options on the school site where I found the inter-university programme. I thought that I could always do Erasmus but going further seemed like an amazing opportunity I might never get again. I am also very interested in Indigenous history of North America and McGill has a lot of courses that specialize in that topic, which I could never attend here.
Why did you choose your destination? Previous visit, university reputation, other students’ recommendation, course offer…
I have never been to Canada before, but it seemed like an interesting and safe option outside of Europe. Plus, Montréal is a francophone city, so it was an opportunity for me to better my French (which I did). McGill University is one of the best in Canada and generally it has a high ranking in the world, and I wanted to try to study at such a prestigious university. The courses offered are completely different than at Charles University and I saw that as an option for me to broaden my knowledge in areas that I don’t have the possibility to study.
Did you have any previous experience with study mobility such as Erasmus or so?
No, this was my first experience with study mobility, all the information I had were therefore second hand. Although I did spend a few weeks in England when I was in high school.
Tell us something regarding your first days. Any acclimatization problem – culture shock?
I was very nervous and a bit lost because the campus is huge. I had to use a map for it for the first week. The smaller classes are strict on attendance, individual work, and a lot of interaction during classes. There is a lot more assignments during the semester so final exams don’t seem that hard or stressful. But at the beginning, this made me feel really stressed and I had to work much more than here. Otherwise, I got used to the system pretty quickly. It was more a culture shock regarding the city and the country itself – like the goods in supermarkets.
Would you share with us your favorite memory/ experience?
I have two favorite experiences. When we finally had snow, it was so much snow that I haven’t seen since I was a child. And secondly, watching the sunset over the St. Lawrence River close to the Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. We went on a small road trip for hiking but the view on the river is still one of the best views I remember.
Would you recommend McGill University to other students?
Absolutely. I think McGill University is an amazing experience for anyone. The style of teaching at McGill is completely different from the one at Charles University and you get to experience new ways of lectures but also assignments and studying. It might feel challenging at first, but you get a hold of it quickly and you learn more efficient ways. The selection of courses is enormous and, McGill University has everything from coffee shops to sports center with countless students’ societies that associate students based on religion, ethnicity, or hobbies. You can choose to become a part of an outdoor club, publish in a magazine, you can sing or dance or associate with people with the same political views. The selection is extremely diverse, and it is an amazing way to meet new people. Montréal is a vibrant diverse student city with limitless options of recreation. However, it is important to point out that it is not cheap, and you have to prepare for high costs that might be hard to cover.
Going abroad can be financially challenging. What percentage of your costs were covered by the scholarship of university?
The scholarship covered about 30 percent of all my costs. Finding an accommodation proved to be harder than I expected so I had to opt for more expensive option. Generally, cost of food and utilities is much higher in Canada than in the Czech Republic, therefore I had to operate with a very high monthly budget. I was also obliged to buy some books and other materials for courses.
What’s next? You are in your final year of your bachelor study. What are your plans after you finish? And are you thinking of returning to Canada?
Initially, I was thinking about doing my master’s degree back at McGill but the costs of studies there are just really high, and the options are not that interesting for me, so I decided against it. But I would love to go back either to travel or live there for a while. Now, I am planning on taking a gap year after I finish my bachelor’s, do an internship, and then travel for a bit. After that I want to do my master’s in Sweden or Denmark, I haven’t decided yet.
Anything IO should do differently or improve to make the preparation for the mobility easier?
The information was clear, and the communication was fast and easy, so even if I wasn’t sure about something, I could always ask. I think that the preparation on the side of IO was sufficient, primarily the distribution of other students’ experiences that were extremely helpful. I felt less communication from McGill itself.