By Amanda Gates (GDES ’19)
The sun was just rising, the car packed like Tetris, and Montreal, Canada written into Waze on the dashboard from Concord, Massachusetts. The whole family was stuffed into the handy dandy Buick SUV, papers ready and a plan set. Our dog Pepper content in his bed on my brother’s lap, and our cat left at home as the king of the house for the weekend. It felt like vacation, yet it wasn’t. Nerves tangled and butterflies wild, I was excited, but absolutely terrified. Three hours later we were in Vermont, dropping my brother’s luggage off at McDonald Hall, and another hour later we crossed the border into Canada. They say the biggest cultural difference in the shortest amount of time is the leap from Burlington, Vermont to Montreal, Quebec, and they’re not wrong. It was little city to mini New York (with a bit of Paris thrown in for good measure).
The rush of a new country fogged my perception and my first impressions were blurred. I walked through the residence lobby to the Champlain greeting booth, got my papers and keys, and scurried up the elevator with a trolley of luggage to find my room number. I wanted to get away and hide, but everything was foreign and my comfort zone was screaming because there was nowhere to go. Little did I know, two weeks later I’d be in love with my new home.
Our group of twenty-some students are the first to experience the new and pristine residence, called Evo Centre-Ville, two blocks from the old dorm. Hotel turned dorm, Evo also hosts McGill students, an American university, and holds events on the conference floor. Right in the downtown part of the city, we are surrounded by fellow hotels, 24/hour pharmacies and restaurants, and store after store after store. Being bored isn’t acceptable.
Champlain was given a designated floor for all students, so your new or existing friend is literally a few steps away. Inside, where it all matters, are designated double occupancy rooms. Picture a hotel room designed for young adults with space and storage in mind. You are given two full beds, a partition wall to separate each for privacy, a table, two wardrobes each with a pullout desk and large whiteboard, two chairs, bathroom with a tub, and a separate section for the sink, fridge, and microwave. On one side of the room spans a window from wall to wall with a beautiful view. Because our rooms are on the twelfth floor, we sit up high looking down at the hustle and bustle of Montrealers. Compared to your typical dorm room, there is a drastically different vibe with this new living arrangement.
Evo holds a lot of experiences waiting to happen. Need someone to explore with? Knock on your neighbor’s door. Hungry? Go upstairs to the large kitchen and create a concoction. Feeling stressed? Head to the game room, gym, sauna, or pool to let go. Just need to get away? Take a stroll down the city streets and catch the metro, explore the underground city, or find a new cafe around the next corner.
And, at the core of it all, need somewhere to get some work done? Study rooms, large scale to single rooms, are provided in the residence. If that isn’t your style, you can take approximately an 18 minute walk to the Champlain Academic Center and use a variety of amenities. Although it may seem like a hefty distance, it goes by quicker than it sounds. The walk is a straight stroll down Sherbrooke Street, past many restaurants, little shops, and mesmerizing skyscrapers and Canadian architecture. Among everything, the AC feels like a second residence. Equipped with hot chocolate, coffee, tea, a microwave, fridge, and even a Nintendo Switch, there isn’t much of a point leaving in between classes. It’s also a great excuse to get yourself out and about before the next work session.
Combine the new residence, the academic center, a small group of great Champlain students, and a foreign country, and you get a great start to an unbelievable journey. Ready, set, Canada; here we go!