In the weeks leading up to the end of the Winter semester, many students field questions regarding their summer plans and the answers often only come after long months of searching for the right job or internship. As in every city, a long list of factors can influence where Montreal students choose to spend the season. During the summer, Montreal is filled with festivals, concerts, and other seasonal events such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Piknic Électronik, and Montreal Pride, as well as a multitude of restaurants showcasing sunny and social patios. For many, winter in this city can be a dark few months, so it seems like everyone would want to stick around and get the most out of the too-brief period of warm weather it offers. However, even after braving a long season of icy sidewalks and sub-zero temperatures, some students rightfully choose to leave Montreal when the mercury starts to creep up again. While this move is often met with criticism by die-hard Montreal summer fans, leaving town for a few months to process the pent-up stress of the school year is a valid act of self-care.
Some students may choose to leave Montreal because they feel that they need a mental break from university life. For those whose mental health has suffered during their studies, or even those who have tired of a city that they used to enjoy, a change of scenery may be necessary. Leaving town for the season can equate to leaving overwhelming and stressful memories of the school year behind, even if only for a few months. That can do a lot of good for students who associate Montreal with mountains of schoolwork.
However, students may also leave for other reasons. The ever-present language barrier can be a factor for those whose potential lack of French may inhibit their search for summer employment. A need to make money during the summer can push non-Francophone students to leave Montreal for work, especially if they are supporting themselves financially. Others may be more comfortable in French and still end up working in Montreal for a variety of reasons, one of which being that working in a non-native language can be intimidating. Others who come from outside Canada may take summer as a valued and rare opportunity to see family and friends from home. For students who are fresh off of a stressful exam season, going home to work can be a welcome dose of familiarity.
Despite these things, there are some factors that may entice students to stay here. Given all of Montreal’s summer-specific activities, it is nearly impossible to be bored during the summer. I spent last summer in the city, jogging through Parc La Fontaine and seeing a microcosm of the city’s population sitting on the freshly cut grass, each with an assortment of picnic snacks and drinks; my mouth watered at each food truck that I passed as my wallet somberly begged me to resist the temptation. For people who enjoy these things, staying in Montreal might be an easy decision.
As magical as Montreal may be in the summer, with people taking full advantage of the sunny days and warmer temperatures, staying here during this time isn’t for everyone. For many students, the positive aspects of being here in the summer do not outweigh the valid reasons for leaving, and that’s ok. Spending a summer in Montreal is not necessarily better than spending a summer anywhere else. To return in the fall feeling refreshed and mentally healthy, students should do what is right for themselves, even if that means being away for a few months. Take some time this summer to be elsewhere—the city isn’t going anywhere.