If you are anything like I was and are thinking about going on exchange, there are a multitude of variables that might influence your choice. What courses might your chosen uni offer? Is the city liveable? Can I travel easily from it? And will I survive the weather?
I ultimately prioritised culture and liveability over climate which is how I ended up in in Montreal in the dead of winter. The promise of – 20°C temperatures had me shaking in my boots, and at a few points has had me cursing my decision. But, after two months of braving the cold and living in this city I can tell you one thing – Montrealers don’t let the cold stop the fun. So, here’s a few things I’ve learnt about living in the cold, and a few tips on how to be an absolute baller while being freezing.
Check how cold it feels and not how cold it is:
Your weather app will usually provide you with two temperatures – the temperature outside, and the temperature with wind chill. The wind can increase the feeling of the cold by 15°C, making -5 feel more like -20. So, invest in a warm jacket – and when I say warm, I don’t mean a puffer jacket I mean, lined with down, will keep you cosy at -30°C warm – and you’ll be good to go. After a week or two I really did acclimatise and found myself going to class in one layer under my jacket instead of three.
Do the things you can only do in the extreme cold:
Build a snowman, skate outdoors on natural ice rinks, go to an ice-hockey game, make snow angels and cross-country ski! One of the only ways to get through the winter is to enjoy it. One of my most unique ‘cold’ experiences was at Montreal’s world-famous electronic musical festival: Igloofest. This festival takes place outside in Montreal’s Old Port over the space of three weekends. I did a lot of things wrong – like assume a mosh pit would be warm enough place to not wear more than one pair of gloves – but the night could not have been more fun. It was incredible to be surrounded by hundreds of people dancing to Diplo while dressed like a marshmallow to keep out the frostbite!
Experience the food scene:
One thing I love about Canberra is its food scene, and a lot of the time, other cities can disappoint. Montreal however, does not. La Banquise offer’s dozens of variations on Canada’s classic poutine, and there are adorable cafes around every corner. So not only does taking advantage of the food scene give you a little extra padding to survive the winter, restaurants are also heated, so if you ever need a reprieve from exploring in the cold, coffee is a good excuse.
Get a gym membership:
This doesn’t sound fun – but let me explain. When you are avoiding the cold – which is sometimes inevitable – the cabin fever gets very real. Suddenly you’ve gone a week and haven’t moved more than 600 metres. The McGill gym membership is $40 for the semester AND it’s across the road from my building (more on that in the next blog post). It’s not quite the same as the Ainslie fire trail, or just sun-baking, but staying active definitely helps with the winter-blues.