‘Why I came to Concordia … from France’

Student Cléa Montanari talks research, sustainability and winter survival
April 5, 2018
By Cecilia Keating


"Why I came to Concordia" is a new series profiling international students. Check out the stories of students from Belize and from the United Arab Emirates!

Cléa Montanari had an eclectic childhood. Her father’s work as a specialist in tropical diseases and public health for humanitarian organizations meant a lot of traveling.

The fourth-year biology student lived in India, Bangladesh, Georgia, Serbia, Italy and France before coming to Concordia in 2014.

Passionate about sustainability, Montanari is also taking a minor in sustainability studies at the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability.

She is currently completing an honours thesis at the Fraser Lab with PhD candidate Elizabeth Lawrence. Montanari hopes their research into the central marginal hypothesis (CMH) will help inform where conservation efforts should be focused.

CMH is a theory that predicts that the genetic diversity and population of a species is directly related to where it is found within the species’ geographical range.

When she’s not in the lab, Montanari is running sustainability events as internal vice-president of the Loyola College Student Association (LCSA).

'I'm surrounded by students exploring their own identities'

Why did you choose Concordia?

I’m French and Italian, but I moved from one country to another throughout my childhood because of my dad’s job. I began attending English schools at age 11.

After finishing high school, I applied to various universities in England and Canada. I decided on Montreal because its bilingual. My mother tongue is French but I often feel more comfortable speaking in English, so I thought the city would be a good fit for me!

Knowing what I do now, I would pick Concordia because of its research direction, its commitment to becoming a more inclusive, sustainable and respectful university, and its active student body that strives for change.


What are the top three things you like about Montreal?

The café, food and art scene is one aspect I really enjoy. None of the cities I grew up in were as cosmopolitan as Montreal.

The city is also stimulating, addictive and full of hope! It offers many opportunities to pursue your interests — whatever they are. That’s the second thing I love about Montreal.

The third element I appreciate is its inclusiveness. Montreal is a multicultural, economically diverse city filled with individuals from different backgrounds who are able express themselves.

At Concordia, I’m surrounded by students and young professionals who are constantly exploring and testing their own identities.

What do you hope to gain from your degree?

During my time at Concordia, I have discovered my interests and passions. For instance, I love to conduct research at the Fraser Lab.

I want to continue doing research, especially in social sustainability. Although this may not seem to coincide with my biology degree, it actually does. Biology fundamentally understands that humans are part of a larger entity — something that I believe today’s society often forgets.

I am a very inquisitive person, so I want to keep learning and questioning everything that is around me. I believe it is only by asking questions that you remain analytical and skeptical of what you hear or are taught. It opens up room for discovery.

What do you get up to outside of class?

At the LCSA, I help organize events, including sustainability discussions, lifestyle workshops and sustainability mixers. I decided to get involved in the LCSA because of my interest in sustainability.

I took part in research at Rosemont College and I work as a door-to-door salesperson for a student-run house remodeling business. Oh, and I’ve waitressed at an Italian restaurant.

What are your top three pieces of advice for other international students?

  1. Ask questions and learn how the university and city operate.

  2. Get ready for winter! In an ideal world, this would involve planning a getaway to a warm, sunny destination during Reading Week! If that’s not an option, try to embrace winters in Montreal by staying active, participating in winter sports and drinking lots of hot drinks.

    I don’t think winter is for me, but it's an experience I will look back on in a couple of years and feel super proud for having lived in these conditions. Sometimes it feels as if I’m staying at a ski resort for six months.

    I’ve shuffled through the snow, spotted trucks I have never seen before and witnessed police cars and busses skidding across city streets.

  3. Take advantage and enjoy all the different activities Montreal offers. From Igloofest to board games at Randolph Pub, cafés to ice-skating shows, there is something for everyone. Whatever your interests are, it probably exists.

What are your favourite spots on campus?

Loyola is my campus home. I lived in residence during my first year and most of my courses are held at Loyola.

I also love both Hive Cafés. The one at Loyola is bright, has open windows and offers free lunch! The downtown Hive has great ambiance — it’s both cozy and busy.

The Concordia Greenhouse is also great, although I don’t go as often as I’d like! Working surrounded by plants almost feels like taking a short tropical vacation.

I also enjoy the silent calm of the Grey Nuns Reading Room and the Loyola Chapel.

Find out more about Concordia admissions for international students.


Back to top

© Concordia University