Why Canada is a perfect location for finance students

McGill MMF graduates Laura Santiago and Yayu Xu reflect on the time spent in Montreal pursuing their studies in the Master of Management in Finance program

Canada’s cultural hub of Montreal, rated the top student city in North America, is a haven for international students. Master of Management in Finance (MMF) students at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management flock to Canada from 30 countries around the globe to enjoy the diverse culture, generous immigration policies, and thriving job market. Recently ranked the top program in Canada and 17th globally in the QS Masters in Finance Rankings 2021, the MMF program is recognized for its diversity, alumni outcomes, employability and value for money.

A dream location for international students

McGill MMF graduate Laura Santiago moved to Montreal from her native Bogota, Colombia after falling in love with Canada during her exchange term abroad at the University of Calgary.

“From the age of 17, I thought that Colombia was too small for me,” says Laura. “I always liked finance but the finance market in Colombia is very small. I worked there for a year after graduation but felt that I didn’t have much left to learn.”

Impressed by the welcoming, respectful and diverse culture that Canada offered, Laura set her sights on completing her masters in Canada after finishing her undergraduate degree and entering the workforce. When weighing the choices between Montreal and Toronto, Laura leaned toward the nation’s cultural hub of Montreal, citing a low cost of living and relaxed culture in helping her make the decision.

Laura’s classmate Yayu Xu, a McGill MMF graduate from Wuhan, China, shared a similar experience with a summer semester abroad at University of California Berkeley igniting a desire to study in North America. Knowing that Canada’s immigration policies were friendlier for graduate students, Yayu turned to Canada, with McGill’s reputation attracting her to the Master of Management in Finance program.

While Laura and Yayu both enjoy the charm of Montreal’s diverse and welcoming nature, their favourite activity in the city centred around one key activity: devouring dishes in Montreal’s iconic food scene. From the world-famous bagels at St. Viateur Bagel to heaping plates of poutine at La Banquise, Montreal’s culinary scene lives up to the hype.

Laura appreciated that even on a different continent, she could still find little slices of home. “There are Latino clubs and restaurants everywhere, and wherever you go you can meet a Latino, Mexican or Colombian,” she comments. “It’s so diverse.”

Both Laura and Yayu migrated to Montreal knowing only the basics in French but were pleasantly surprised by the city’s bilingualism. “In the city, everyone speaks English and if they don’t, they find a way for you to understand them so that hasn’t been an issue.” Now working in Canada’s financial hub of Toronto, Yayu looks back longingly on her time in Montreal: “I enjoyed the mixed culture of French and North America. I was happy to have the unique culture and now that I’m in Toronto and don’t get the French culture, I kind of miss it.”

Becoming part of the Desautels family

One of the drawing cards in choosing McGill for both Laura and Yayu were the small class sizes offered in the MMF program, averaging 40–50 students per cohort. “You really get to know everyone. I was attracted to that because I don’t have family here,” Laura reflects. “I knew that at least everyone here is in the same boat. It's going to be easier to make friends; we’re going to support each other.”

“I really enjoyed the small class size,” says Yayu. “This was especially important when we were assigned to different groups in the Desautels Capital Management. It's only possible if we all know each other and cooperate really well. Some programs have 100–200 people and that makes it hard to have a close bound relationship with your classmates and professors.”

The unique part is that lots of people aren’t born here but moved to Canada for study or their careers. When you look around, people have similar experiences as you,” Yayu adds. “They understand how difficult it can be at the beginning and that resonates; they are willing to offer help and that’s good for international students.”

Small class sizes also make navigating the alumni network an easier task. With cohorts of around 40, Laura and Yayu were able to get to know students in the class before them. “We had this network where the previous cohort taught and passed their knowledge to us, and we tried to do the same with the cohort starting this year,” Laura explains.

Building a career in Canada

With the help of their close-knit alumni network and the Post-Graduation Work Permit allowing them to work in Canada up to three years after graduating, Laura and Yayu were able to set up careers in the thriving cities of Montreal and Toronto.

Eager to find work in Canada, Laura knew her goal from day one. She was the first in her class to go through the process and was able to pass her knowledge onto classmates also taking the leap to building a career in Canada. Laura’s experience as an Equity Analyst at Desautels Capital Management as part of the MMF program helped prepare her for her current role in Montreal as an Equity Research Associate at Jarislowsky Fraser, one of Canada’s leading investment management firms.

For Yayu, her initial goal was simply to complete her degree but soon realized the abundant opportunities available to her in Canada.

“McGill opened the door to a whole new world for me. I saw myself gradually having more understanding of Canadian financial markets and developing a networking base in Canada,” she explains. “I think it’s really important to take advantage of the resources we have and make good use of the alumni network in the big cities like Montreal and Toronto.”

Conversations with a friend and an MBA alumna helped her land two internships at Scotiabank in Toronto, which set her on the path to a full-time position as Manager of Asset and Liability Management in the bank’s Treasury department.

Yayu notes: “I feel very lucky to launch my career in important functions at the bank; I may not have achieved this if I studied in China. I feel very supported in Toronto where I can meet McGill alumni and build meaningful connections with them.”

Both Laura and Yayu credit the resources provided to them at Desautels in helping them land their jobs.

“I really appreciated the help of career services,” says Yayu. “They helped me understand which financial area suits my personality, ability and career interests. As I realized corporate finance is a great fit for me, they helped me search for alumni in the area and made introductions. There were ups and downs in the career search process, and I feel so grateful to have their support throughout the journey.”

“I got a lot of help from career services to get my job and prepare for interviews,” Laura adds. "You should leverage the university tools that you’re given: the international office, admin staff, professors, the library—they're all amazing.”

More about our MMF

The McGill Master of Management in Finance (MMF) degree is a pre-experience, specialized program in finance that can be completed in 12 or 16 months.  

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