28 Jun 2018
Life at ÉTS
Studying Engineering in Montreal—A Warm Vibe in a Northern Climate
Julien Forgeois is a French student working toward a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering at ÉTS, as part of the double-degree exchange agreement between ÉTS and ENSIAME—École Nationale Supérieure d’Ingénieurs en Informatique, Automatique, Mécanique, Énergétique et Électronique, an engineering school of the University of Valenciennes in France.
The featured image is from the author. Substance CC license applies.
A New Land to Discover
Living in Quebec is a truly unique experience. You feel both lost in a new land with a very distinct climate, and at home because of a particularly welcoming, friendly population and because of its relatively large French community.
To study at ÉTS means being able to take advantage of American academic institutions while following courses in French, which is really beneficial, especially in a field with a highly technical vocabulary.
Having just returned from a five-month stay in China, I came to Montreal firmly convinced that my settling-in would be facilitated by the France-Quebec agreements and the common language. But the snarl of red tape quickly kicked in—study permit, CAQ, social security, and even money transfers from mom and dad to pad the accounts and show the authorities that money was not a problem—no easy feat! By choosing shared housing with Quebecers, I quickly became acquainted with the history of Quebec, the multicultural spirit of the city, its immigration policy, and especially the sizeable French presence, with the ÉTS Master’s program serving as a hub.
Differences in the Academic System
Once at the ÉTS, I was pleasantly surprised by the infrastructure at the school and by all the local shops: everything is set up for living and leisure, study, work, sports, or meeting with friends. The academic system is really different and, after so many years spent in the French system, good or bad, change is good! I felt freer in managing my working days, and in choosing the types and number of courses I wanted to take each semester. Academic work is done through group projects and oral presentations where we faced project management issues similar to what we might find in the workplace.
Enthusiasm for the projects is palpable as are stress and tension: it is all about learning at a theoretical and technical level, but also about dealing with human and relational aspects that sometimes prove difficult to manage. Relationships between students are more frequent, but much more superficial because we see different groups of people on a weekly basis. In general, professors are approachable and available, and maintaining good relationships boosts self-confidence, making classes more fun and interactive.
What the Master’s degree offers in mechanical engineering is clearly beneficial: to learn and reinforce our knowledge in our field of interest while taking management courses, which are inspiring for some entrepreneurial engineers, and necessary for other future managers. This curriculum also offers the opportunity to complete an internship, and this with the help of a department dedicated to facilitating the search for the right fit—a department that enjoys a permanent relationship with companies based in the Greater Montreal area.
Montreal, a Cold City?
As for my experience in Quebec, my first winter was tough. Nevertheless, I managed to take advantage of the climate to participate in activities that I never thought I would: for example, a unique end-of-day cross-country skiing experience on Mount Royal or ice skating on frozen ponds, not to mention a weekend in a cottage in the Laurentians to go dogsledding! In winter, Montreal becomes a huge playground, offering a wide range of activities.
Montreal is also a much more economical gateway to North American cities. A bus takes us to New York, a plane to Mexico, and a car to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Studying in Quebec is a life experience full of stories. Quebecers promised me a harsh winter full of sporting events, and a hot and sunny summer. Clearly they did not lie to me about the winter, so I cannot wait to enjoy the summer!
Julien Forgeois is a French student in a double-degree exchange program with the University of Valenciennes where he specializes in energy mechanics, working toward his engineering degree. He is studying for a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering at ÉTS.
Program : Mechanical Engineering