Nov. 20, 2023

Living downtown: interview with McGill University student Naomi Askenazi


Some decisions change the course of our lives, and some places seem to have chosen us. Naomi Askenazi is a student at McGill University. This Boston native decided to study in Montréal in 2018 and has been captivated by the city ever since. From the comfort of Building 21 on Sherbrooke Street West, she shared with us her first impressions of Montréal, her fondness for downtown, and the bonds she’s forged here. With warmth and sensitivity, she told us about this life and this city that she calls her own.

Her first steps downtown

Right from the start, Naomi was struck by the intimate atmosphere of downtown. Having grown up in the hustle and bustle of a metropolis, this native Bostonian discovered a city she describes as both small and cute. “My downtown is a place that welcomes everyone’s needs and interests.” In one sentence, she captured the essence of the city, in all its diversity and conviviality.

Excited to explore all that Montréal had to offer, the student quickly realized that she could navigate this calmer, quieter city. And like a fish in water, she set off to discover the buildings, streets, and places where she immediately felt at ease and at home.


Here, it’s quiet and everyone is closer to each other. […] There are some streets that I find really inviting and welcoming. I’m not afraid, I’m more at ease.

Naomi Askenazi

The McGill campus, a key hub

For Naomi, the McGill campus symbolizes downtown Montréal. It’s at once open and accessible, an oasis where the hustle and bustle of Montréal student life meets the calm of the grounds. For her, the McGill campus is unique. It quickly became her second home. Beautiful and comforting in every season, she enjoys catching up with friends here. And—she said this with a smile—she often makes a detour to see if she can run into someone she knows.


It’s a place made for students, for learning but also for meeting people, that fosters interactions. It’s a place that’s accessible to everyone, and that’s what I love about it.

Naomi Askenazi


Despite the gate at the entrance, everyone is welcome. The first summer she arrived, she was surprised to see families with their strollers, elderly people sitting on the park benches, and a line forming in front of the hot dog stand.

Summer is a special time. Naomi noticed there are always people outside, sitting on the lawn, reading, socializing, and enjoying themselves. She too loves to sit back, chat, and have a drink with her peers. The ambiance is part beach, part festival, and it immediately appealed to her and set her at ease. “It’s not just a space for passing through. It’s a living space where I love to be.”

And it didn’t take long for her to get into a routine. From her daily coffee in the Burnside café, a secret little corner of campus in the basement of a building, to the nearby noodle restaurant where she takes refuge in winter with her friends over a comforting bowl of soup. Here, she feels right at home.

Montréal, the greatest accident of her life

Thinking she’d come but not stay, she surprised herself by falling in love with the city. For Naomi, Montréal is like a daily celebration. Used to cities designed to be more aesthetic than cozy, she found in Montréal a cocoon in which to settle in and enjoy with her friends. To her, the many parks that dot the city are each an invitation to interact with it and connect with the community.


I find downtown to be packed with activities for everyone, a place full of beautiful, spontaneous moments. If I’ve been here for five years, it’s because I love the place.

Naomi Askenazi


With a smile, she can recall everything she’s experienced here over the last few years. The memories she’s created all around campus and downtown are now a special part of her life. Montréal is her new home. She simply loves it here.

Studying downtown? 

Learn more about downtown Montreal and discover our suggestions for outings, activities and restaurants!

Studying downtown


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