Tom is our Events Peer Advisor, who spent a year abroad in Canada in our 2019/2020 cohort. Tom is a perfect example of the opportunities outside of academia available to you- he did an internship with Ubisoft whilst he was abroad!
By Thomas Groves, Computer Science
International Year at Concordia University, Canada
It seems like only yesterday I was arriving at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada but here I am starting 3rd year and I can honestly say study abroad was the best decision I’ve made so far period. Why is that you might ask? Well the answer you’re looking for isn’t so simple! Whilst you may enter the year with a few goals in-mind, how you actually go about achieving them can change in an instant.
When I first started applying, I wanted to gain experience in a Computer Engineering classes which is similar, but not the same as I study at Keele. I felt that Concordia was the perfect place for this as it ranked high compared to the other partners when it came to Computer Engineering. This was a good starting point to then begin looking at where the university was situated. I was immediately sold when I read about the city and its French heritage.
Montréal is an amazing city and strikes a nice balance between urban jungle and greenery. The city has 19 parks all of which are amazing all year round with lots of green in the summer and a shed ton of snow in the winter, something I quickly learned affects your everyday life. In the UK you put on a hoodie and a coat whereas in Quebec you need bigger hoodies and even bigger coats! But when you get inside its rather hot so then you’re stuck lugging round a massive coat all day. Oh, and get used to being sopping wet half the time due to the melting snow on your clothes and shoes. The coldest it reached whilst I was there was -28 degrees with the wind chill making it -36! When its that cold if your hair isn’t dry when you step outside (Especially if its long) it is going to freeze into a sheet of ice… and no that is not a metaphor.
There are so many great hiking spots around Quebec which you just simply cannot get even close to in the UK. I have never seen so much green (or replaced with snow in winter) with my own eyes and you can truly get lost in the awe of the landscape. However, number 1 priority when arriving is make a friend with a car because Canada is big! A 3-hour drive or commute is honestly nothing to these people. One of the best things I did whilst there was a chalet trip to Mont Tremblant there was just under 2 feet of snow, my friend brought her husky and we even came across wild wolves on a midnight hike which was truly spine chilling to say the least.
Nightlife in the city is also amazing as there is always something going on! Frosh which is the Canadian version of freshers is honestly god tier stuff. They run events with fairground rides, total wipe-out styled obstacle courses, wine and cheese night, beach clubs… Oh and not to fail to mention most of these events have an open bar! I think one of my favourite events that ran in the city was the “Fest de lumin” which roughly translates to festival of lights. It had an ice slide, Ferris wheel, food stands, firepits and daredevils performing stunts. Big events such as that take over the downtown area at least once a fortnight which is an amazing if you want something to do that’s free! The infrastructure in the city makes it super easy to get about too as they have an underground metro which is open until 2am on weekends and when it does shut there are still the night busses which are also included in your metro pass.
One of the main reasons I chose Concordia was to gain experience in computer engineering, but I could not have predicted I would’ve ended up interning at Ubisoft! This was probably the biggest opportunity of my life so far and has increased my employability tenfold for when I graduate. I also managed to compete in many academic events where I came 3rd in a hackathon run by the university which had over 125 teams consisting of over 800 people total. This also looks amazing on my academic profile.
To summarise I think study abroad has been an experience of a lifetime and it doesn’t end when you come home. This has shaped my future and given me lifelong connections. I now can return to Montréal to work thanks to the connections I made which I may take advantage of as I love the place! However, thanks to the experience I have gained I can now go anywhere as I manged to network with lots of people whilst there thanks to the many events the city and university hosts.
Yes, its an extra year but it massively increases the number of doors open to you. So, if you’re thinking about doing it then please apply as I promise it is life changing. Your experience may not be the same as mine, but it shouldn’t be! Your experience will be life changing for you, not for me.