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I had only been to Montreal once before last year, and the few days that I spent there were enough to make me want to go back one day. That day came a couple weeks after Hurricane Katrina, when McGill opened its doors to students affected by the hurricane.
As soon as I heard that McGill was accepting Tulane students, I contacted the admissions office and flew to Montreal a few days later. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and helpful people were, since I did not consider myself a victim of the storm because my family only lost a car and everyone I knew in the city was safe.
Since I was attending a university in Montreal, I decided to take a Canadian history course as well as a French literature course. The political science class I took exposed me to different ways of seeing the world. It was refreshing to hear views that were different from the general American or French perspectives [Editor's note: Augonnet is originally from France]. The eighteenth-century French literature course remains one of the best philosophy classes I've taken to this day.
The omnipresence of French on campus and in classes at McGill is one of the aspects of the university that I miss the most. Even though New Orleans was founded by the French, the cultural heritage of the city is shaped by Spanish, African and Caribbean influences. I felt a step closer to France while living in Montreal. Having lived in Paris before moving to New Orleans for high school, I was very comfortable in the bicultural atmosphere of Montreal. The city's culture derives from a unique blend of French, Canadian, as well as American, cultures. The official use of French, the metro, the older buildings, as well as the club scene reminded me of Paris, while the skyscrapers and the design of the city are reminiscent of big American cities.
During my stay in Montreal, I was exposed to hockey for the first time in my life and after going to one of their games in the Bell Centre, I became a fan of the Habs — probably one of the few in New Orleans. I also learned to appreciate poutine and smoked meat sandwiches as the temperatures dropped further and further. The cold Canadian winter was offset by the good food and all the fun that snow can provide.
The people I met throughout my stay at McGill remain the most memorable part of the fall semester. My best memories are associated with the variety of people I encountered and the various activities I engaged in, including soccer and clubbing.
Being part of the McGill student body for a semester was very fulfilling and I am grateful for all the help and support I received from the university as well as from the Montreal community. I would have probably stayed in Montreal if I had arrived under different circumstances. I felt the need to return to New Orleans almost as soon as my parents and I left the city a day before the storm hit. The extent of the disaster was an incentive to go back to the Big Easy and participate in the rebuilding efforts. I had a very good time in Montreal last year and I would love to return to the city in the future.
After attending McGill in the fall of 2006, Augonnet returned to Tulane University for the 2007 winter semester. Now in his second year at Tulane, Augonnet is majoring in political science with a focus on international relations.