Reflecting on Montreal

Hello, readers~ Liznel here and I’m sad to say that this is going to be my final blog post for the Montreal Abroad blog. It’s hard to believe that a semester has already passed. Finals are due next week and everyone is working hard to finish their projects and study for the rest of their classes. -not to mention checking off any remaining sights to see. This last blog post will simultaneously be a reflection post and also a post containing tips on what to expect when coming to Montreal.

Living in Montreal has sure been a different experience for me, compared to when I lived on campus or more recently, in Spinner Place. In this time, I’ve had to learn how to traverse the metro, find my way through a big city, overcome language barriers, manage a harder class load, and juggle going to industry events. I’m proud to say I was able to experience these things and the person I’ve become after this is different than the person I was when I started.

I felt very nervous when first coming to Montreal. Though I would be going with a few of my friends, there was still the trepidation of living in a big city and getting to classes everyday. Thankfully, the worries about getting to class were short-lived (as it’s only a fifteen minute walk to the academic center) and our location at the residence is mostly central to things we need in our apartment. The nearest supermarket is a stone’s throw away and the area is littered with places to eat that are (mostly) cheap.

There was a lot of culture shock in the beginning, though. This was especially so when trying to get to our hotel the night before move-in. I can assure you that the mood was less than stellar after almost 8 hours of driving in our car crammed with people and luggage; it didn’t get much better when we got lost over the border because the signs were in french. We powered through it, though and got to our hotel. Much in the same way that I overcame the initial language shock during my time here. I would highly suggest carrying around a small dictionary for the first few weeks. Any unknown words in signs will quickly be remembered with a little repetition of sight and some translating.

Translation skills were, thankfully, not needed very much for things like the metro. Though most of the signs there are in French, the maps are straightforward enough that, if you know what stop you need, you can make it there without needing any translations. The same can be said for grocery shopping; a lot of items sold here have labels written in French and English. This isn’t to say that one shouldn’t make the effort to learn a little French. Speaking to people in stores or restaurants in French seems to be appreciated, even if it is just an attempt. I personally had problems speaking in French, though my reading skills weren’t too bad. Taking one of the French classes here definitely helped in my everyday comprehension and pronunciation.

Regarding my classes, I’m very proud of the progress I have made. My game art related classes this semester were tough, but that has only made me better in the long run. Interacting with teachers still in the industry was a fun experience as well. I learned a lot not only technically, but also socially. My teachers have chatted with us about their lives, experiences they’ve had in the industry, good or bad, and given me a solid example of things I can possibly expect in the future. My teachers also showed me that game developers who are already in the workforce are just regular people, which is a comforting thought.

My COR classes for this semester, French and Writing about Food, allowed me to develop other aspects of my education that I wouldn’t normally have the chance to try. Through taking food writing, I’ve realized that I really enjoy blogging and expressing myself through writing. My teacher’s critiques have pushed my writing in a more positive direction and I feel more confident than ever in my ability (and also in my desire to improve). French class has affected me in a similar way. I won’t lie, French, as a language, did not come very easily to me. I would say ‘at first’ there, but I still find it difficult. Despite these difficulties, I shouldered through my classes, supplementing them with visits with the tutor (a wonderful teacher) and online French exercises. I discovered the facet of my personality that, even when facing less than desirable events, will continue on and look forward to the next opportunity as a chance to try harder.

Living here has made me realize how difficult change can be. I’ve never once lived in a city as big as Montreal, or had to travel the subway on my own. Though I lived with two other roommates, there were many times when I would have to go out and run errands for myself and I felt a sense of empowerment in that: taking the metro to the market, exploring that town area, and buying food in broken French, experiences like that were part of what changed me. I’ve come out of my experience feeling I’ve developed my sense of self. Though it might be scary at first, I can do more than I thought I could on my own, and I even enjoy it when I do have to do so. It’s even necessary to some extent. Some people can only spend so much time amongst others without having to have their own time alone.

I would definitely recommend going to Montreal for the following people: those who want to try something new, those who haven’t had the opportunity to experience city life, for those who want to go on adventures -whether they be through city streets or the multitude of restaurants in Montreal-, those who want to meet new people and professors, and lastly, for those who want to test their mettle and see what they can learn about themselves by going out of their comfort zones. And, of course, for students in the game majors. The people I’ve met here, and the events I was able to attend not only gave me some new contacts and friends, but a renewed sense of spirit in the path I want to take in my game developer career.

What you get out this experience is what you give. I hope, if there are perspective Montreal Abroad-ers amongst my readers, that you will accept this challenge and take on the adventure.

Thanks again for reading.

-Liznel Pina, Junior Game Art student, Fall 2012