Having been raised in the small village of Coteau-du-Lac, approximately an hour West of Montreal, I had always seen Montreal as the big city where everything can happen. When the time finally came for me to move out of the family home for university, Montreal was first on my list. Ever since I made the move, I haven’t regretted it for a second.
Montreal did not make the list of the top 10 most liveable cities in the world released by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit. However, three Canadian cities, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, did. Despite this, Montreal could easily grab a spot in the top three of the most student-friendly cities in Canada, for many different reasons.
First of all, Montreal universities make it a priority to ensure that your university years are never forgotten.
“Frosh is an incredible way to meet people,” said former Concordia student Joel Balsam, originally from Ottawa, Ontario.“The fact that you are pretty much with the same people for five straight days going camping, to the water park, to movie nights and, yes, drinking, creates long lasting friendships that you may never lose. We don’t have this in Ottawa.”
To top it all off, Montreal universities, are big on clubs of all kinds. They organize after school activities to suit everyone’s interests. Concordia has everything from student associations to a wide array of sports, arts, and cultural clubs.
When it comes to tuition, with all the protests that took place in 2012, most people know by now that Quebec is the province with the lowest fees in Canada. Talk about student-friendly. However, these fees are not as low for out-of-province students. According to the tuition fee calculator on Concordia University’s website, out-of-province students pay a little bit more than twice what Quebec residents pay for their tuition. A full year’s tuition for an undergrad from Quebec costs around $3,540.00, with health insurance. For an out-of-province student, it jumps to about $7,230.00.
Despite this, the price is only slightly higher than the regular in-province fees for many cities around Canada, such as Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. According to the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) webpage, University of Ottawa students pay an average of $5,665 a year in tuition, Ryerson University students pay between $5,605 and $5,686 and University of Calgary averages $5,333. So out of province students in Quebec pay approximately $2,000 more in tuition.
With regards to rent data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, cities like Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa had an average rent of about $1,100 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in 2012, which can be a little pricy for students. The friendliest city in this regard is actually Sherbrooke, which is a small student city, offering considerably lower rents in 2012 of more or less $575 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. A price one can hardly find for a one-bedroom here.
Montreal stands in the middle; in 2012, you could get a two-bedroom apartment from as low as $590 a month in Montreal-North, but price and quality really depends on the area of the city you live in. Apartments in the core of downtown are priced more or less the same as the other cities, for an average rent of $1,350 a month. Students who chose to live a little bit outside the downtown area can catch a bit of a break, that’s where prices average $800 a month.
Every student needs to get around. Public transit is one of the most practical things about Montreal. Take it from someone who owns a car, with all the traffic there is at all times of the day, the Metro system is a good alternative. Yes, it is old and breaks down often, but most of the time it’s on schedule.
A monthly pass for students is $45. The price is much higher in Toronto ($106) and Ottawa ($99), and once again the big winner here in terms of service/price ratio is Sherbrooke, with a bus pass costing only $27 and being charged directly in the student’s tuition fees, with routes serving the most strategic points in the city.
For all the costs that living in the city entail, such as paying rent, bills, and having extra money to go out and party with friends, students usually need a steady cash flow.
Taking into account the somewhat pricy Montreal bars, with a drink costing on average around $7, and sit-down restaurants serving meals from around $15 a plate, most students will need to find a job to finance their lifestyle. Cheap alternatives for food are the ever-growing healthy fast food restaurants, such as Cultures, or better yet small cafés that make their own recipes. If one doesn’t want to spend too much, getting a drink during 5 à 7 before heading to the movies half-price on Tuesdays can be a good alternative. This is among many specials offered by bars on different days.
As for job opportunities, many cafés, fast-food restaurants and bars are open to hiring students to work-part time, as long as they have a working knowledge of French.
“Montreal as a whole is more student friendly in terms of atmosphere,” said former Concordia student Erica Commisso, who now lives in Toronto.“Toronto is very business-oriented in comparison. In Montreal, people generally tended to be more understanding of student life, and generally more accepting of budget living.”
Overall, Montreal rates among the lowest in rent and tuition for residents of Quebec, but is slightly more costly for out of province students. However, public transport is cheaper in comparison to other big cities and drinking and entertainment costs are reasonable. There is always something to do, and new people to meet.