By Emily Martin
Living in Montreal for the ASLO LOREX Program has been a whirlwind experience, with every day bringing something new to learn/explore. Below I have described some of the most memorable moments of my trip: exploring the city as a tourist, navigating language differences, and beginning my research project at UQAM.
Being a Tourist in the City
Old Montreal is full of striking architecture; strolling down cobblestone streets lined with intricate metal and brickwork structures, this part of the city chronicles the rich history of this lively port city and is indicative of French culture. Humming with tourist activity, attractions of Old Montreal bring people together and illustrate Quebec daily life. With musicians playing on street corners and murals/standing art pieces distributed throughout the city, creativity and community are common themes. One of my favorite Montreal sights is the Notre-Dame Basilica. It is one of the main tourist attractions, an absolutely stunning church and city symbol. Its stone exterior is impressive by itself, but its interior is extraordinary, lined with dramatic colors and artwork that spark awe in all viewers.
As an avid coffee connoisseur, I have enjoyed café-hopping on the weekends, trying out fresh pastries and local drinks. Having to be a true Montreal tourist, I got my hands on the Quebec delicacy- poutine. It is a fan-favorite in the area, a dish of crispy french fries and hefty cheese curds that are smothered in brown gravy. Agreeing with most Quebec-ers, it may be my favorite Montreal “junk” food. While tasty, I do think it is best when shared with friends!
“Je ne parle pas Français”
In Montreal, Quebec, English is widely spoken throughout the providence; however, French is highly encouraged in some areas, especially at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Some lab meetings, daily conversation between graduate students, scientific presentations, and even university emails were in French- a challenge that I did not fully grasp before arriving in Montreal.
Through this solo experience and different perspective, I better understand how challenging a language barrier can be at times. I recognize and appreciate the privilege of speaking the same language, notably when communicating science with others. However, the Derry Lab and the rest of GRIL- UQAM were so welcoming and willing to translate whenever needed; I was very fortunate to have people to rely on when communication was unclear due to differences in language. While I am still not fluent in French, it has been fun to pick up small French phrases while living in the city.
Stepping into the World of Bioinformatics
Learning something new can be uncomfortable. Before arriving in Montreal, I had a lot of hesitancy about pursuing a research project within bioinformatics, as I am just starting to get a grip on coding (R) as a new graduate student, and bioinformatics is all coding. Receiving training from an amazing postdoc (Dr. Louis Astorg) and working through coding issues with another graduate student (Annabelle Fortin-Archambault), looking at bacterial communities through eDNA has been a positive experience and is a research technique that I can implement in the future. Overall, I have barely scratched the surface of bioinformatics, but I am excited by the research possibilities that it opens. Using eDNA in community ecology is relatively new; however, it can provide invaluable insight into community composition and is applicable to conservation/management practices.
In my final weeks at UQAM with the Derry Lab, I will be wrapping up data analysis, finalizing some figures, and beginning to write the methods and results of my research for a future collaboration project. In my remaining free time in Montreal, I will continue exploring this great city.
Merci d’avoir lu ce blog! Thanks for reading this blog!