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JMU Office of International Programs Summer Study Abroad

The Culture of Montréal

Session Coordinator: Professor Chuck Dotas
JMU School of Music
540.568.6180 | email:

June 7 - 11, 2022

"I loved the Montréal summer session so much that I decided to move there after graduation…now it's my daily life."

 -- Lisa Malechowski (Music Industry)

"Studying abroad in Montreal truly changed my life. Beyond the classes and exposure to incredible food and culuture, it opened my eyes to the vast world of possibilities that lie ahead after undergraduate education."

 -- Kara Levchenko (Music Education)

 "The food is absolutely amazing and the city is one I'll never forget. This trip will change your life."

 -- Becky Eacho (Health Sciences)

 "Being in Montréal allowed to me to see the world from a different, fantastically cultured point of view. This trip truly changed my life."

  -- Samantha Leonetti (Mathematics)

"The Montréal summer session was a great experience for me, especially as a non-jazz studies student.  Being able to explore such a cultured city is something I will never forget."

 -- Phil Cangelosi (Organizational Communication Studies)

“Montréal is incredibly diverse—and the food alone has been known to change students’ lives.”

-- Melissa Ludwig (Music Education)

"The Montréal trip was easily one the best decisions I have made during my time at JMU. The experiences I had there are the stuff of movies..."

-- Matt Sorrentino (Music Industry)

“The Montéal trip was a great experience that had an immediate impact on my life, both personally and professionally.  I discovered many new things, I made friendships that I will value for a long time, and I got a job out of it--who could ask for more?”

-- William Kenlon, (Music Composition)

“Going to Montréal was one of the best things I have ever done…”

              -- Laura Vines (Music Education)


Program Highlights — all included in the Program Fee

The session fee includes all meals, room and board, class materials, Bixi Bike and Metro system passes, group excursions to Québéc City for La Fete de la St-Jean Baptiste (lodging at the Chateau Frontenac and weekly group dinners at world-class Montréal restaurants.

Extensive orientation to Montréal’s many neighborhoods, including the Old Port, the Plateau District, Little Italy, Little India, the Underground City, the Jean-Talon Farmer’s Market, Centre-ville, Chinatown, le Quartier Latin, and Parc du Mont-Royal.

Attendance at several outdoor festivals, including the Montréal Fringe Festival (, le Festival Francofolies (, the world’s largest jazz/world music festival, le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (, and the

Montréal International Fireworks Competition (

Program Fee and Tuition Costs

Program Fee: $3,500 USD (may be increased or decreased slightly due to student enrollment and exchange rate fluctuation)

Tuition: six credits of JMU tuition (per-credit amount varies by residency and undergraduate/graduate status); per-credit cost is identical to JMU’s regular semester tuition per-credit fee for a given academic year.  All financial aid plans used for regular semester tuition costs are eligible to be applied toward Summer Study Abroad tuition and program fees.

Scholarships: JMU’s Office of International Programs offers several $1,000.00 scholarships to help offset the expenses of a Short Term Study Abroad program.  Application deadline is November 1.  Visit and click on “scholarships” for the JMU Summer Abroad Scholarship application, and a list of many additional, non-JMU scholarship sources.


Classes offered

Students generally register for six credits (if you wish to enroll for nine credits, contact Chuck Dotas).

Course offered through the Cluster II General Education curriculum

Group 1 (Human Questions and Contexts):

HUM 251M  Modern Perspectives: Urban Culture and the Arts in Montréal (3 credits)
    Montréal is one of North America’s most cosmopolitan cities, and its unique mix of cultures is as integral to Montréal's identity as its bilingualism. This course will immerse students in many facets of Montréal life, including class field trips to art museums, cathedrals, club nightlife, jam sessions (including the Sunday afternoon drum jams on Mont Royal), festival concerts, soccer matches, and spoken-word performances.  Admission costs to these events are covered by the course tuition.  Several guest speakers will also talk to the class, including the young chef of a trendy Mile-End restaurant, a JMU alumna who now lives in Montréal, a Quebec political science expert, and representatives of the pro-separatist and pro-unification factions of Quebec’s ongoing efforts to secede from Canada.

Group 2 (Visual and Performing Arts):

MUS206 Introduction to Global Music (3 credits).  This course “double counts,” satisfying both General Education Cluster II and School of Music degree requirements.  The class will survey various world music traditions, including those of Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

MUS 220M Music in General Culture (3 credits)
    This course is cross-listed with HUM 251M (see above).  The two classes meet at the same time and share most of the class excursions, though students registering for this class as MUS 200M will focus more extensively on live musical performances.  Students may register for whichever course number best satisfies their Cluster II General Education requirements, but may not register for both HUM 251M and MUS 200M concurrently.

Group 3 (Literature):

ENG 221M Literature, Culture, and Ideas (3 credits)
    This course comprises a thematic approach to literature by examining multiple short-form literary texts that engage with a common course theme concerned with the human experience.  In-class discussion constitutes the majority of the course’s activity.

Non-General Education courses offered

1.  MUS 356M  History of Jazz (3 credits)
Fulfills upper level elective requirements for the School of Education, the School of Music, and other JMU degree programs.  An introduction to the most notable musicians and recordings in the American jazz genre.  In lieu of a written text, class meetings will focus extensively on classic jazz recordings, with guided listening and historical information provided by the instructor.  Students will have the opportunity to hear some of these musicians in concert at the world’s largest jazz festival, Le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and to attend weekly jam sessions by professional Montréal musicians. Admission costs for these performances are covered by the course tuition.

2.  MUS 440M  Jazz Improvisation (3 credits)
Fulfills Jazz Improvisation credits toward the Jazz Studies Concentration and Jazz Studies Minor in the JMU School of Music.  Students will work with professional jazz players living in Montréal, playing in class each day.  Specific repertoire will be determined based on the experience level of the class; the class may be divided into two sections (beginner and advanced levels) to maximize the experience of each student.  Attendance at, and participation in, one of Montréal’s several nightly jazz jam sessions will be encouraged, but not required.

Enrollment Procedure

1. Inform the Summer Study in Montréal Session Coordinator (Chuck Dotas, of your interest in the session.   We will schedule a brief interview (non-JMU applicants may be able to waive the in-person interview requirement).

2. Complete the required online application form. Click on this link:, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on “Apply Now.”

(Note, starting the application does not obligate you to attend the session; only completed applications will be reviewed for acceptance.)

3. The initial application deadline is November 1. If room exists in the program, we may continue to accept applications until March 1, but the program will usually be capped at 25 participants each year.  Once the enrollment cap has been reached, additional applicants will be wait-listed and may not be able to be accepted due to space limitations.  See the on-line application form for instructions to complete the application process.

If you are considering going, but need further information, please email Professor Dotas ( with questions or to arrange a meeting (see the FAQ).

Montréal Summer Session: Frequently Asked Questions

Is this program for jazz performers or music majors only?
    No.  This program is designed for anyone interested in learning more about the culture of Montréal, and courses are available for all levels of student, from the non-musician to the experienced performer.

Is this study abroad course open only to JMU students?
    No. JMU Study Abroad courses are open to anyone, including students at other universities and non-students as well.  Participants under the age of 18 are eligible with OIP Director permission.  If you have friends who attend other universities, or even friends who aren't in college, they are welcome to participate in this session; have them contact Professor Dotas.  The application procedure varies slightly for non-JMU applicants, contact JMU’s Office of International Programs for details.  Course credits earned as a part of this session can be transferred to another university’s major programs.

 Do I need to speak French?
    No.  English is spoken everywhere in the city.  If you have studied French, however, it is great fun to practice speaking it with the locals, when ordering at a restaurant, or reading the street signs.  The quebecois accent is quite different than Parisian French.  I lived there for four years and never became fluent in French, and I was fine.

What is covered in the Session Fee?
    The session fee covers all housing and subway transportation costs once you get to Montréal (including ViaRail Canada transportation to and from Quebec City and Ottawa, and lodging at the Chateau Frontenac and Chateau Laurier).  Taxi fare in Montréal is also included in the case of inclement weather, but the downtown core is very walkable, and you shouldn't need to take taxis except when returning from late shows farther afield (the metro stops running at 2 am most nights).  JMU is not allowed to cover transportation costs to and from host cities in the Study Abroad Program (insurance regulations), but getting to Montréal is much cheaper than traveling to any of JMU's overseas Study Abroad destinations  (an 11 hour drive from Harrisonburg; 10 hour train ride from Washington, DC; a short flight from anywhere on the east coast). Part of this experience will be to eat in several great restaurants; the cost of this dining is included in the session fee.  Each student also receives 25.00 (CAD) per day as a stipend for meals. All course-related costs (except for tuition), including concert tickets (up to $300.00 CAD per person), museum and festival ticket fees, and private lessons with Montréal musicians (if desired) are also included in the fee.

How will I be reimbursed for concert, museum, or festival admission tickets?
    OIP regulations stipulate that session money can only be distributed onsite, in local currency (ie: we can’t give you session money before you leave the US or after you return to the US).  If you purchase tickets in advance online, you will be reimbursed in CAD once you arrive in Montreal.  Tickets purchased in Montreal will be reimbursed as soon as you present the receipt to the Program Director (Chuck Dotas) or the Student Assistant.  The same applies for museum and festival tickets; for those events we attend as a group, the entrance fees will be paid ahead of time.

How will the food money be distributed?
    OIP requests that we distribute food money in increments over the course of the session, in order to prevent students from running out of cash before the end of the 4 weeks onsite.  Essentially, JMU acts as a banker: the OIP collects everyone’s session fee and deposits them into a Wells Fargo account; the Program Director is given a Wells Fargo debit/credit card that accesses the account, and we give you a big chunk of your session fee back in Canadian funds over the course of the session.  Food money (each student: $25.00 per day x 30 days) is distributed upon arrival in Montreal, and each ensuing Monday afternoon of the session.  Note: All of the group dinners are paid as one bill for the entire group (from the Director’s Wells card), but students still receive 25.00 cash for that day’s food.  We also have access to a wonderful, 7 days-a-week farmer’s market (le marché Jean Talon,;_ylt=A0LEVv4iHgxWAQsAmo4nnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=Montreal+Jean+Talon+Marche&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001), which comprises several blocks of vendors selling inexpensive, healthy food to keep in one’s dorm refrigerator.  The frequent group dinners and farmer’s market make it possible to eat very well for 25.00 a day.

What do the courses entail?
    All of the classes are held on the campus of McGill University in the heart of downtown Montréal (this is also the location of the student lodging).  The classes are designed primarily to let you experience the cultural scene in Montréal by immersing yourself in it, rather than by reading about it, and the course loads reflect that focus.  Classes meet 15 times over the course of the 30-day session.  Some weeks they meet Monday through Friday; other weeks (during our walking tours and out-of-town excursions) they meet only two or three days.  Classes are typically either 75 or 90 minutes in length, generally meeting between 10:30 am and 5:00 pm, staggered in a manner that allows all students to take whichever courses they wish.

How much time is devoted to full-group activities?
    This session is designed to allow students to explore different districts of Montréal at their own pace, and in their own way.  The initial week will include a great deal of group walking tours, introducing students to the incredible diversity of Montréal, with its thriving Latino, Cuban, Portuguese, north African, Asian, Caribbean, gay, and student communities, as well as Montréal’s famous underground city (see the description under “Downtown,” below).  Each week will also include at least one, and usually two, evening group dinners (students typically identify these as one of the best parts of the session), and of course the entire group participates in the Quebec City and Ottawa overnight excursions.  In general, however, group time becomes less structured over the course of the 4 week session, allowing students to spend time engaged in the specific activities and parts of town that most interest them.  I think it is important to experience Montreal in this manner if we want to begin to understand the cultural life emanating from this amazing town. It is much more than just the world's largest officially bi-lingual city and the world's second largest French-speaking culture. 

Where is the student lodging, and what does it include?
    Students are housed at the Royal Victoria College Dormitory ( on the main campus of McGill University in the heart of downtown Montréal.  Rooms are generally double occupancy. Wifi is available in all of the rooms and in the dormitory lobby.  The dorm rooms are not air-conditioned, though the main lobby and the largest classroom are.

I want to bring a musical instrument to the session.  Will I be able to practice somewhere? Can I rent an instrument?
    Practice rooms with pianos are available at the McGill University Schulich School of Music, which is located right next to the Royal Victoria College dorms.  Practicing in the dorm rooms is not considered good form (the dorms function as a public hotel in the summer).  Large instruments can be rented from local music dealers; the cost of the rental may have to be paid by the individual student, depending on the session budget in a given year (contact Chuck Dotas for more information).

What is the summer weather like in Montréal?
    Early summer weather in Montréal varies widely—it is not unusual to need a light jacket in the June evenings, and it can be as hot and humid there in July as it is in Virginia.  It rains fairly often, and when it rains, it really rains.  Bring a sturdy umbrella—you’ll need it. 

What is the drinking age in Quebec, and what are the drug laws?
    The legal age for consumption of alcohol is 18 in the Province of Quebec.  JMU students enrolled in Study Abroad programs are subject to drinking age laws of the host country, not Virginia statutes or the JMU Honor Code. 
Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor in Montréal and is generally not prosecuted, though possession of greater than one ounce is considered intent to sell, which involves much harsher penalties, including incarceration. It is important to realize, however, that the JMU Honor Code does apply to students enrolled in Study Abroad Sessions who are arrested for possession or use of marijuana, and are subject to disciplinary action including expulsion from the university. Possession of “hard” drugs in Quebec is illegal and is prosecuted aggressively.

More about Montréal and its Neighborhoods

Montréal: Literally, “Mont-Réal” (Mount Royal).  Though Montréal is an island surrounded by the St. Lawrence Seaway, the mountain in the center of the island dominates its geography and history (Mount Royal is part of the Laurentian Mountains, the oldest mountain range in North America, and, hence, the most eroded. It’s not really a mountain anymore, but is well known for Parc Mont Royal, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same architect who designed Central Park in New York City.


Below is a blurb from the New York Times website that describes some of the neighborhoods we’ll visit [additional comments supplied by me are in brackets]:

Montréal is Canada's most romantic metropolis, Québec's largest city, and an important port and financial center. Its office towers are full of young Québecois entrepreneurs ready and eager to take on the world. The city's four universities -- two English and two French -- and a host of junior colleges add to this youthful zest.

Montréal is the only French-speaking metropolis in North America and the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, but it's a tolerant place that over the years has made room for millions of immigrants who speak dozens of languages. Today about 15% of the 3.1 million people who live in the metropolitan area claim English as their mother tongue, and another 15% claim a language that's neither English nor French. The city's gentle acceptance has made it one of the world's most livable cities.

The city's grace, however, has been sorely tested. Since 1976, Montréal has endured the election (twice) of a separatist provincial government, a law banning all languages but French on virtually all public signs and billboards, and four referenda on the future of Québec and Canada.

The latest chapter in this long constitutional drama was the cliff-hanger referendum on Québec independence on October 30, 1995. In that showdown Québecois voters chose to remain part of Canada, but by the thinnest of possible margins. More than 98% of eligible voters participated, and the final province-wide result was 49.42% in favor of independence and 50.58% against. In fact, 60% of the province's Francophones voted in favor of establishing an independent Québec. But Montréal, where most of the province's Anglophones and immigrants live, bucked the separatist trend and voted nearly 70% against independence.

The drama has cooled; since 1998 the separatist government has turned its attention to the economy, and Montréal has prospered accordingly. Indeed, Montréal has emerged stronger and more optimistic.

Montréal is easy to explore. Streets, subways, and bus lines are clearly marked. The city is divided by a grid of streets roughly aligned east-west and north-south. North-south street numbers begin at the St. Lawrence River and increase as you head north; east-west street numbers begin at boulevard St-Laurent, which divides Montréal into east and west halves. [In spite of this, the city’s layout can be disconcerting, because the island does not orient itself on a north-south axis, even though the street grid is laid out as if it were. As a result, “north-south” streets actually run nearly exactly east-west in many spots. Mark Twain called Montréal “the only city in the world where the sun sets in the north.”]

The city is not so large that seasoned walkers can't see all the districts around the base of Mont-Royal on foot. Nearly everything else is easily accessible by the city's clean and quiet bus and Métro (subway) system. If you're planning to visit a number of museums, look into the city's museum pass (available at museums and Centre Info-Touriste).

Vieux-Montréal [Old Montreal]
Vieux-Montréal is a center of cultural life and municipal government. Most of the summer activities revolve around Place Jacques-Cartier, a pedestrian mall with street performers and outdoor cafés, and the Vieux-Port, one of the city's most popular recreation spots. This district has museums devoted to history, religion, and the arts. It also has a growing number of boutiques and hotel beds, especially in the quieter, western part of the neighborhood. [Old Montreal, aka “the Old Port” or “Old Town” is the original city, and dates from the late 1400’s. The architecture museum in Old Montéeal is fascinating; well-worth a visit. Also, the world-famous Notre Dame Basilica is located here—a tour of the interior is a must.]

Downtown (Centre-ville)
On the surface, Montréal's downtown is much like the downtown core of many other major cities. It's full of boutiques, bars, restaurants, strip clubs, amusement arcades, and bookstores. In fact, however, much of the area's activity goes on beneath the surface, in Montréal's Cité Souterrain (Underground City). Development of this unique endeavor began in 1966 when the Métro opened. Now it includes hotels, more than 1,500 offices and 1,600 boutiques, 30 movie theaters, 200 restaurants, three universities, two colleges, two train stations, a skating rink, 40 banks, a bus terminal, an art museum, a complex of concert halls, and a cathedral. All this is linked by Métro lines and more than 30 km (19 mi) of well-lighted, boutique-lined passages.

Quartier Latin and le Plateau Mont-Royal
Early in the 20th century, rue St-Denis cut through a bourgeois neighborhood of large, comfortable residences. The Université de Montréal was established here in 1893, and the students and academics who moved into the area dubbed it the Quartier Latin, or Latin Quarter. The university eventually moved to a larger campus on the north side of Mont-Royal, and the area went into decline. It revived in the early 1970s, largely as a result of the 1969 opening of the Université du Québec à Montréal. Plateau Mont-Royal, the bohemian neighborhood just north of the Quartier Latin, shared in this revival. The Quartier Latin and Plateau Mont-Royal are home to hundreds of French and ethnic restaurants, charming bistros, coffee shops, designer boutiques, antiques shops, and art galleries, and the grillades in the Plateau’s Portuguese neighborhood can’t be beat.

Boulevard St-Laurent and The Mile End
Depending on how you look at it, this street divides the city into east and west, or it's where east and west meet. After the first electric tramway was installed on boulevard St-Laurent, working-class families began to move in. In the 1880s the first of many waves of Jewish immigrants escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe arrived. They called the street The Main, as in "Main Street." The Jews were followed by Greeks, other Eastern Europeans, Portuguese, and, most recently, Latin Americans. The 10 blocks north of rue Sherbrooke are filled with delis, junk stores, restaurants and luncheonettes, and clothing stores, as well as fashionable boutiques, bistros, cafés, bars, nightclubs, bookstores, and galleries. The block between rues Roy and Napoléon is particularly rich in delights. The Jewish neighborhood north of rue St. Jacques is known as the Mile End, and is one of the most trendy parts of Montréal.  Both of the city’s most famous bagel shops (St. Viateur, founded in 1957, and Fairmont, founded in 1919) are located in the Mile End.

The Chinese first came to Montréal in large numbers after 1880, following the construction of the transcontinental railroad. They settled in an 18-block area between boulevard René-Lévesque and avenue Viger to the north and south, and near rue de Bleury and avenue Hôtel de Ville on the west and east, an area now full of mainly Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants, food stores, and gift shops.

Chalet du Mont-Royal
For a good overview of the city, head for the lookout at the Chalet du Mont-Royal. You can drive most of the way, park, and walk 1/2 km (1/4 mi), or hike all the way up from chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges or avenue des Pins. The views are spectacular on clear days, affording good viewing of all the local sights and more. [This is on Mont-Royal, which is located directly behind our dorms, and provides a fantastic alternative to the urban bustle of Centre-ville.  The eastern slope of Parc Mont Royal features a famouis tam-tam (hand-drum) jam each Sunday from 1:00 pm until well after dark, complete with a flea market, acrobats from the Montreal Circus School, and a large LARP battle that simply must be seen. The actual park has great hiking trails, a man-made lake, and abundant areas for picnicking and relaxing.]

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