When Quebec native Jeremi Harrison-Lalande arrived at Bishop’s University for his tour, it was love at first sight. “I was shocked to see how beautiful and grandiose it was,” he says. “It almost felt like Harry Potter.”
Located in a suburb of Sherbrooke, Que., Bishop’s combines old-world architecture with small-town charm. Established in 1843, the school is older than Canada itself. Over the centuries, it has developed its reputation as a quaint university with robust school spirit and a close-knit campus community.
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Students clearly value what Bishop’s has to offer. Not only did it top our student satisfaction ranking for primarily undergraduate universities, it received the highest score for any school in the country, regardless of category. (For the record, Sherbrooke came first for Medical Doctoral schools and Wilfrid Laurier topped Comprehensive.)
While the newly renovated Victorian-era facilities certainly caught his eye, Harrison-Lalande chose Bishop’s for the intimate class sizes and ability to access professors. The true impact of these attributes was revealed one day in his second year when he decided to skip class. “At first I didn’t think they’d notice I wasn’t there,” he says. “But the professor sent me an email after class asking if everything was okay. He even took the time to send the slides they went over.”
Now in his fourth year, Harrison-Lalande is majoring in information technology and minoring in entrepreneurship. The relationships he has built with his professors have led to many exciting opportunities throughout his undergrad career, including an internship working as a consultant at a technology company and most recently the chance to travel to the University of Hong Kong on a six-month exchange program. “I have the dean of business on Facebook and he comments on the pictures I post, congratulating me,” Harrison-Lalande says with a laugh. “He’s a super nice guy.”
As further proof of their willingness to connect outside office hours, instructors at Bishop’s make themselves available through regular wine and cheese nights, where students can freely discuss challenges, academic interests and future career plans. “A lot of the professors are Bishop’s alumni, so they come from a similar educational background,” says 19-year-old Noah Jepson, who is in his second year studying finance and economics. “It’s cool to talk to them about how much the school has grown and how it’s changed.”
Jepson arrived in Lennoxville, Que., from Boulder, Colo. Coming from a French background, he was quickly drawn to the fact that Bishop’s is an English-speaking school immersed in French culture. Approximately 25 per cent of the university’s students are native French speakers. All classes are taught in English, but students can choose to write exams and assignments in French. “I longed for a bilingual setting where I could really maintain that dual culture, and at the same time excel in my academics,” Jepson says. “Bishop’s fit the bill.”
Jepson is a member of the Investment Club and also Bishop’s University Commerce Society (BUSC), a student-run organization that hosts networking events and workshops. In addition, he was selected for the school’s exclusive two-year SEED Portfolio program, in which students have the opportunity to learn more about portfolio management by making decisions on how to manage half a million dollars in assets. “It’s really cool because we have a board of Bishop’s alumni that are now working in banking, and we’re able to not only apply ourselves in the real world, but get some feedback from familiar faces,” he says.
Of course, the Bishop’s experience is far from all work and no play. Both Jepson and Harrison-Lalande elected to live on campus for the first two years of their undergrad, immersing themselves in the school culture. “It’s more of a traditional American-style experience,” explains Harrison-Lalande, referring to the extent of the campus amenities. Everything you could ever need is close—from toilet paper to a new cellphone plan.
Campus residences offer movie rooms on each floor and designated areas where you can practise your upcoming presentation without bothering your roommate. If you are on a meal plan, Dewhurst Dining Hall (or Dewies) will quickly become one of your favourite spots for study days, because what better way to cram than with unlimited access to meals and zero responsibility for cleaning the dishes?
There is no shortage of activities, either—from fashion shows to sporting events and happy hour Thursdays at The Gait. Of course, you can’t miss homecoming, or the school’s infamous Winterfest, where students congregate near the giant snowboard rail set up in the middle of the quad, donning their finest neon snowsuits.
And while campus life is always vibrant, there’s much to do and see beyond Bishop’s borders. The university sits at the confluence of the St. Francis and Massawippi rivers, and on warmer days it’s not unusual for students to trade in their books for an inflatable raft, opting for a relaxing float down the river. Surrounded by heavily wooded mountains, the region also features boundless outdoor hiking trails, as well as the oldest nine-hole golf course in the country. And the Golden Lion Pub is just a quick walk from campus. “Just like any other college campus, on the weekends we’re going to go out and have a good time,” says Jepson. “It’s about finding a balance between work and play, which is another learning experience in university.”
Anyone struggling to navigate that balance is encouraged to turn to their fellow Gaiters for support. As with any small town—or your favourite neighbourhood pub—everyone at Bishop’s knows your name and is happy to lend a hand. “We’re really close,” Harrison-Lalande says of the relationships he’s built across campus. “The thing I love most is there’s no bullying or hate. It’s very open, very liberal. If you need help with an assignment, you can just talk to someone—even if you haven’t met them before, they’re always willing to help. The people here are just very nice and genuine.”
Looking back on his experience so far, Jepson fondly remembers the day he took his campus tour at Bishop’s. The tour guide proudly described the tight bonds between students and professors, the distinctive school spirit and the exceptional opportunities for growth. “They said, ‘It’s hard to find this anywhere else,’ ” recalls Jepson. “I took it with a grain of salt; I didn’t think it would make that much of an impact. I was definitely wrong.”