Never was I as excited as the day that I stepped onto the plane to Montreal, where I was about to spend the next six months.
I was doing my studies at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Wien) and I had successfully applied for an exchange semester at HEC Montréal. It was a French university with an excellent reputation and an unbelievable exchange organization called HEChange, who ensured a great exchange mentality among the students by organizing trips to Cuba, Boston, Toronto and Québec City and so many great parties 😉
That was the first massive difference compared to our ÖH in Vienna. Something like that has never even come up at any point, and if it did, it was badly executed.
In any case, all the exchange students formed a very strong bond over the next 6 months and I dare say that out of the 250 exchange students I know, 150 of them I know relatively well and 20 very well (PS: I am still in touch with most of them today!)
But let´s continue where I stopped. So I flew with Swiss Airlines, which took me to Zürich first and from there on straight to Montreal on an 8 hour flight. That was the plan.
The flight to Zurich was quite unspectacular and after less than an hour I arrived in Zurich. Then I had to rush to the next boarding gate. You will not believe how huge the airport is. So big, that there is a train that connects the first and the last gate.
So when I was boarding for my second flight I was told that my seat had been changed due to overbooking. I had reserved a window seat but got an aisle seat. I told the flight assistant,. “Well that´s just perfect.” Then she replied, “No,no, you have been upgraded and you are now traveling on Business Class!” 😀
I did a little happy dance and boarded the plane. Such seats normally cost over 5.000€.
What a nice start 😀
After a delicious 5-course meal, several Chardonnay glasses and a lot of red wine I transformed my seat into a bed and dozed away while listening to a Radiohead album.
Next to me was a young Canadian from Montreal with whom I got along quite well and she gave me a lot of useful tips about bars, clubs and traveling in Montreal in general.
After 8 hours of flying, which I did not want to end, and was quite drunk, I arrived at Elliot Trudeau International Airport.
At the Border Control, I got extremely nervous again. What if I forgot some important registration or regulations? Would they just send me back immediately? Was the confirmation letter of HEC Montréal really enough?
Luckily, I had properly filled out my eTA (electronic travel agreement) and together with the letter of the university I was welcomed to Canada by a extremely gorgeous young Border Control woman (is that a word?)
After I had immediately found my enormous bag at the baggage claim, I slowly felt the a very strong feeling of euphoria rising inside.
Luck knows no boundaries!
THE WAY TO MY APARTMENT
I took the bus 747, which was about 5 CAD. It took me directly to the city centre of Montreal, Berri-Uqam within 30 minutes. When I got off the bus I looked around. The first thing I noticed: The streets were much wider and the buildings were higher! On top of that, some sort of EDM-Festival was taking place right on the main square and ear-splitting basses welcomed me the moment I stepped out of the bus.
On the way I called my roommate’s father who was such a friendly guy and offered to pick me up in his car from the St.Michel metro station and took me to my apartment. He also provided me with a mattresses, several towels, a freezer, (since we did not have a fridge yet) and other necessities such as toilet paper etc.
At the beginning I could not understand a word he was saying. The accent in Québec is completely different from French, Belgian or Swiss accent.
So I just nodded and smiled and thanked him many times for his help.
And then I was alone. Completely alone. In another continent. In Montreal.
What an amazing feeling of freedom.
But that was just the beginning. Back then, I couldn´t know what was yet to come.
Have you ever been on exchange program? 😉
If not, would you like to? And where? 😮
Write it in the comments below! 😀
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