Period on Exchange: Semester 2, 2012

What courses did you study?

  • Space Law
  • Private International Law
  • Anatomy of a Murder Trial
  • Droit International Humanitaire (International Humanitarian Law)

Why did you choose that university?

I was looking for a university that was academically strong as well as providing a vibrant campus life. McGill met both of these expectations. The students were very engaged and most of the professors taught intellectually stimulating courses, while the social aspect of the campus was still very strong. The students and faculty in Law are incredibly welcoming and organise an array of activities for exchange students, including being able to participate in the weekly ‘coffeehouse’. (Disclaimer: coffeehouse contains no coffee, nor is it in a house. It revolves around free/subsidised drinks in the atrium of the Law Faculty.) McGill was also perfectly situated in the centre of Montreal – a stunning and exciting city full of culture, music, and art.

How does studying law overseas compare to studying at UNSW?

I found McGill and UNSW to be academically on par – the only major difference was that the professors had more licence to individually construct and shape the syllabus for their courses. Being both common law countries, the content of the courses isn’t markedly different (apart from the fact that Canadian criminal law is federal?!) and the transition from studying Australian law to Canadian law is easily accomplished. However, being situated in Quebec, I had the opportunity to study civil law alongside common law, which provided insight into a unique system and a chance to learn about the other dominant legal system of the world.

Moreover, there are a wide variety of international law subjects on offer. The McGill Law Faculty is quite small, so a sense of community is easily felt, which is made stronger by the support the exchange staff provide and the constant social events. I particularly noticed how engaged and interested the students were in each subject. Classes ranged from 10-30 people, providing a great opportunity to delve into the interesting course material on offer.

What was the cost of living compared to Australia?

Rent and food are much cheaper than Sydney, but hidden costs creep up in the added provincial tax and tipping.

What was your accommodation arrangement?

I stayed in an apartment on the Plateau – the Surry Hills equivalent of Montreal. It was an excellent suburb filled with bars and cafes and within walking distance of McGill. I would recommend staying within walking distance, as the public transport system can get a bit expensive, and when winter comes, it’s best to limit outdoor exposure (although the city is excellently set up for dealing with the cold). The university has a classifieds page on its website where people post adverts for rooms to rent.

What were the highlights of your experience?

I was able to meet and become friends with a fantastic, spirited group of exchange and local students. We were able to experience the excellent academic opportunities McGill has to offer, as well as soak up the cultural life of Montreal together. Montreal is well known for its appreciation of all kinds of music and has an excellent music scene – I was able to see live gigs almost every week. It’s also a particularly unique city – straddling the cultural divide between America and Canada, North America and Europe, English and French – such a mix of cultures and experiences creates a remarkably interesting city. Classic Montreal experiences that every exchange student must have include: Tam-Tams, Piknik Electronik, coffeehouse, enjoying a Thanksgiving feast, watching an ice hockey game, and eating poutine after every night out.

What were the main challenges you faced, if any?

The only challenge I faced was not having enough time to enjoy everything that McGill and Montreal had to offer. Oh, and taking a class in French.