Student Stories from Abroad - Juan F.-G.

Join McGill Abroad as we take a tour around McGill's global learning opportunities. Architecture graduate Juan completed an exchange in Venice, and shares his highlights, insights and tips with McGill Abroad.

I have always loved to explore new cultures and places. Before starting university, I knew that I wanted to go on exchange

I got really excited to see that Venice was an option. As an architecture student, living and studying in Venice seemed like a dream. I was extremely attracted by the beauty and uniqueness of the city, its history, Italian culture and the Italian language. It also happened to be during the Venice Architecture Biennale, which is the greatest Architecture event in the world!  I also wanted to experience studying in a different educational system, knowing that architecture is taught very differently from one country to another.

My first day in Venice was definitely one of the highlights. All the cool things happened because I was willing to meet people and talked to them! And I also think I had a lot of luck...

When I got to the student residence, I asked the doorman if there were any Italians living there. He introduced me to an Italian who then took me to the kitchen where I met other great people!

Then, as I took the vaporetto (boat) to go to San Marco, I saw some French people waiting just like I was. I simply walked up to them and said "Hey! I also speak French!" We talked and they said they were going to a party at some Italians' house, and they invited me. So I ended up at an Italian apartment party on my first night of the exchange! The friend groups of the residence, the French people and the Italians remained close friends for the rest of the exchange.

LESSON: Take all your opportunities and talk to people! They most probably want to make friends too :)


I really wanted to work or volunteer at the Venice Architecture Biennale (known as the most important architecture event in the world!).

I went to the Biennale's office and asked if I could work with them and they said no. But I wasn't going to give up that easily! After looking at the Canadian Pavilion's website, I found the name of an architect that had given a lecture at McGill. After many emails, which started with me reaching out to a McGill Prof., I ended up volunteering for the Canadian pavilion! I felt honoured to help represent Canada in some way. I learnt sooo much and met three of my favourite architects in the world.

LESSON: Don't stop emailing people and asking for help, and reach out to McGill people for help!


One of the highlights happened after the studying term ended.

Since I was already in Europe, I decided to stay there during the Summer and went to France for about six weeks. I volunteered to repair Medieval Castles! I worked with a couple experienced stone masons and several volunteers who knew just as little as me. We lived in an abandoned village without running water. Every morning, we would drive for about 45 minutes on a bumpy road to arrive to the ruins of the castle on a plateau. I learnt some Medieval construction techniques and saw truly beautiful landscapes. I met incredible people who spent a couple weeks of their Summer repairing ancient ruins. I had lived in cities all my life and this made me fall in love with the country, and with abandoned places and ruins.

LESSON: Go live an adventure far from home! Please visit for more information on volunteering abroad like I did.


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Have you been abroad and want to share your story? 

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