Exploring North America

7 February 2020

Isobel studies French and Spanish and is spending Term 1 at Université de Montréal. Read on to discover how she’s making the most of her time in North America.


With short-haul flights, ferries, trains, buses and car-sharing services at our fingertips, as a student in the UK I find that I can hop from one European city to the other with relative ease. Upon arriving in Montreal in August, I swiftly ticked off the tourist sites recommended to me by TripAdvisor, friends and family who had previously visited the city, and an array of blogs and articles that I found online. Although Montreal is the biggest city in Quebec and was previously voted as the best city for students in the world, I soon started to get itchy feet and fancied a change of scenery. I had only previously visited North America once, and felt strongly that I needed to make the most of being based in a new continent; I felt compelled to venture further afield.

- The Old Port in Montreal is one of my favourite places in the whole city. I contacted a school friend in Boston and told her to expect my arrival the following day. I applied for an ESTA which was fortunately approved within a couple of hours, and booked myself a seat on a Greyhound bus, departing Montreal at 11:30pm. Arriving at the gare d’autocars, I was both relieved and a little bit disappointed to discover that the vintage Simon and Garfunkel-style bus that I was expecting was in fact a stylish, WiFi and power socket-equipped coach. The journey went more or less without a hitch, but US Customs took a fair while. I was questioned regarding both my trip to the US and my stay in Canada; I recommend travelling with all of your important documents in case you’re asked to provide evidence of anything. Eventually I was allowed back on the bus, and we continued our journey to Boston, where we arrived at 6:50am.



-View of the Charles River from Harvard Bridge. I made the most of my short stay in the city, visiting tourist sites such as Boston Public Garden, going for a wander around Harvard, attending a concert, and walking the Freedom Trail. Also, it has to be said that although I know the purpose of the SELCS Year Abroad is language practice, it was a relief to be able to speak in English. When my visit came to an end, I was ready to return to Montreal, my wanderlust satisfied; or so I thought. It was no longer than two days later that my next Greyhound was booked for the following weekend, this time to Ottawa. My friends and I planned to leave Montreal after class on Friday and head straight to the capital for the weekend. The first couple of hours were spent trying to rid our Airbnb of a wasp infestation (what’s budget travel without the odd cockroach?), but we soon headed out to see the sites. As tends to be the case with my sightseeing style, we made a whistle-stop tour of the city’s highlights, including a tour of the Senate, the House of Commons and a visit to the Centennial Flame. Because we were technically staying in Gatineau, a city in Quebec, we walked each day to Ottawa across the Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge, representing the border between Ontario and Quebec.  


– Parliament Hill was stunning, even in the poor weather

There’s still a huge number of places I intend to visit before I leave North America for good, both within Canada and in the US. For the time being though, I’m planning to explore Montreal in greater depth; I will try to find the lesser-known, best-kept secrets that the city has to offer me.


By: Isobel Helme