When I first started the planning for my higher education 5 years back, Canada was hardly a destination that was considered by students then. However when I did move away from the conventional, I secured an admit at McGill University. Being consistently ranked among the top 25 Universities in the world, the downtown campus of McGill is an oasis at the centre of the busy Montreal downtown. The curriculum as is the case in many North American Universities, nurtures the learning of concepts not by force but merely by kindling the student's interest in the subject matter. Although grades indicate a level of expertise, the entire process of learning and understanding is targeted towards every individual's research interests and eventually putting them down to practical use in the industry. During the course of my research work at McGill, I got to play with some the most advanced facilities in the field of communication. This exposed me to the latest technologies in my field of interest, something which the industry might use, in say 3 years from now.
To take my mind out of studies and relax, I used to swim or play a game of squash in the huge gymnasium complex here. Aside this, the Foosball table was something that was hard to resist in the student lounge every now and then. There were various student organisations that came up with events and trips at pretty low rates to explore and enjoy life in and around Montreal. Some of my friends started a dance club which met once a week to interchange casual dance lessons. You can learn anything from bharathanatyam or bhangra to salsa or tango free of cost.
The visa issues for Canada are comparatively less hard as most graduate courses guarantee a 3 year open work permit which means, one has the option to move in and out of the country till you find a job within that period. Due to the proximity to the USA, those who still want to live the American dream can look for jobs south of the border too.
Aside studies, the city of Montreal is bustling with activities round the year. From -30 to +30 degree C (yes, you read it right!), Montreal has some form of entertainment for every season and every reason. The weather never deters people from the streets. Be it the igloo fest or the winter carnivals in the freezing snow or the Montreal Jazz Fest or the F1 grand prix in the summer, there can never be a dull moment. This city boasts of its winding underground routes which are home to some of the best fashion in the world culminating with the Montreal Fashion week.
The multiculturalism and the bilingualism (French and English) are the two main factors that make Montreal the city it is. The interaction with people from every nook and corner of the world exposed me to so many different cultures. With just English, I could very well find my way around the city, but learning French helped me understand better and mingle with the local 'Quebecois'. Merely using a couple of phrases in French is reciprocated with so much appreciation from the local communities.
Outside of student life, I recently became an executive member of a non-profit group that organises cultural events for the promotion of classical Indian music and dance. Leading musicians like TM Krishna and Priya Sisters have performed to packed audiences consisting of people from a wide range of backgrounds. Such gatherings also gave me a chance to interact with people from our community and in a way, made me feel closer to home 8000 miles away. There are many temples and ISKCON that organise kirtans and prayers aside the big functions to celebrate all the major Indian festivals. With the backing of a vibrant community, Montreal has been a home away from home. To party hard on a Friday night and to spend a pious Sunday morning in prayer, Montreal has given me all.