Should you move to Montreal while classes are still online?
This article is intended for students already residing in Canada. If you are currently located outside of Canada, please follow latest travel restriction updates on the Government of Canada's website.
The fall term may be happening online, but many students across Canada are considering moving to Montreal anyway, to settle in to their new city ahead of classes returning to Concordia’s campuses.
Making this choice adds an additional layer of uncertainty to an already unusual time. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when is the right time to jump into living independently in Montreal?
There are no right or wrong answers to this question, but there are some important factors to contemplate while making your decision. Students considering moving to Montreal this fall should bear in mind that a second wave of the virus could mean another round of closures and shelter-in-place directives.
“We’re in uncharted territory here, in terms of what to expect,” says Leanne Ashworth, the director of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO).
Timing your move
Despite the possibility of a second wave, many students may still want to get their student life started in Montreal. So, is it easier to find an apartment in the fall or the winter?
“If you’re arriving in December, it’s typically a bit more difficult time to find housing,” Ashworth says. “With the holidays, landlords are more likely to be on vacation or not working. The weather can be an issue. Sometimes we have snowstorms — and Montreal winters are an experience.”
Students often find it easier to arrive in Montreal in late August and look for a lease beginning on September 1.
“It’s important to walk around and see what’s nearby — a laundromat? Groceries within walking distance? Transportation? In winter, depending on the weather, it can be harder to check all this stuff out.”
Ashworth adds that normally she doesn’t recommend students rent an apartment sight unseen, but the pandemic has changed that rule of thumb. Instead, consider asking prospective landlords for remote walk-throughs via FaceTime or Zoom.
“Ask to see specific parts of the apartment,” Ashworth suggests. “You can request that the landlord turn on the tap in the shower so see how the water pressure looks. You can ask to have the windows opened to make sure they work. Or ask to look outside. Is the apartment near a highway? What’s the noise level like?”
HOJO’s updated site LikeHome.info is a great resource, with apartment-hunting checklists and information about your rights as a tenant.
Co-op living at Woodnote
The CSU is in the final stages of completing its co-op housing unit, Woodnote, which is located near beautiful Parc Lafontaine in the Plateau neighbourhood. Students will be able to move in as of September 1.
About 90 per cent of the units are currently rented but the remaining ones have the benefit of being self-sufficient studio apartments; they include all appliances — except washer-dryers, which are shared — as well as heat and internet.
“It’s a student environment, which could be a nice thing while studying from home — knowing that there are people you can meet in the building. And, there’s a park very nearby,” Ashworth says.
Consider where you will thrive
Irene Petsopoulis, a psychologist with Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services, says that students should consider where they feel most supported when deciding whether to move.
“If you’re used to studying away from your hometown, the environment of a new apartment or neighbourhood might condition you to be in ‘student mode,’” she says.
“So, perhaps your productivity and focus might be better if you were in Montreal. If you’ve already made meaningful connections with some peers here, that might help you. If you’re at home and not around other university friends, there might be less of that shared understanding of what you’re going through while studying online.”
But Petsopoulis acknowledges there are also cons of relocating to Montreal at the moment.
“Students have to consider, if a quarantine is imposed again, would they want to be away from home? If they’re living with roommates, or living alone, how would that be? And then, they must think about finances,” she says.
“If they’ve been working, they could lose those same work opportunities during a lockdown. Will they be able to pay rent? If they’re at home with family, some of those stressors might be reduced.”
Petsopoulis emphasizes that deciding whether to move to Montreal before classes return to campus is a deeply personal choice that depends on your individual personality and life circumstances.
More important than ever: your support networks
“Staying close to your support networks is going to be essential no matter what,” she adds.
“One of the biggest reasons students drop out of university is social isolation. It’s not GPA — it’s the struggle to connect. We’re human beings; we don’t live in a vacuum. And a huge way that we fuel our mental health is by being with others.”
There will be cause to celebrate when Concordia is back in-person. Until then, Canadian students should feel empowered to make their own decisions about where to live. Above all, Petsopoulis advises they remain close to where they feel supported and connected.
Arriving in Montreal from out of province? Keep checking the Government of Quebec’s Instructions for travellers during the COVID-19 pandemic for the latest information on protocols and isolation measures for people entering Quebec.
Check out the following housing resources:
LikeHome.info has tips on looking for an apartment in Montreal.
HOJO’s classifieds site is undergoing a major revamp; a newly designed site will be unveiled later this summer with apartment, roommate and job classifieds.
Place4students is a comprehensive list of accommodations in Montreal.