Insider's Guide - Syn Studio
Whether you’re already at school, looking to find a new school or even considering moving overseas to study, nothing beats hearing from the students themselves! We speak to Bettina Salvador about the ins and outs of studying at Syn Studio which has campus in Montréal, Canada.
What’s the name of your school?
I currently attend in Montréal, Canada.
What’s the name of the neighbourhood?
Syn Studio is located in downtown Montréal, on the busy street of Rue Sainte Catherine Ouest.
Closest train station or public transport option?
Syn Studio is just a 5-minute walk away from two metro stations: Station Place des Arts and Station McGill which lie on Montréal’s green subway line. It’s a 10-minute walk (or less) from stations Square Victoria-OACI and Place d’Armes.
The Montréal subway station is fairly simple and very convenient. If your apartment is not too near a metro station, bus stops are littered all over the city as well. Both are convenient and share the same transport card, the Opus card. This transport card is easily loaded at any metro station, and it’s possible to load them for unlimited travel daily, weekly, monthly and even per 4 months! (Uh. Just don’t lose it. Cough.)
However, downtown Montréal and its general outskirts are great areas to walk. I personally prefer walking to Syn (around 15-20 minutes). It’s a great way to wake up and get some light exercise before and after sitting and drawing most of the day.
How long have you been there?
I have finished 2 full-time intensive terms (3 months each) and am now taking some classes as a part-time student. In the past months, I have seen leaps improvement in my work and process.
Syn has been a great learning environment for me. The teachers have proven to be approachable and therefore, students can get more out of the classes by not being afraid to ask questions when needed. For people like me who decide my room isn’t clean enough, promise myself “just” 20-minute naps, and make unnecessary trips to the home refrigerator every 5 minutes hoping for a miracle before getting to work, the classrooms are open for full-time students to work in during office hours.
While in the full-time program, I would come in daily. It definitely made me more productive, and it’s a great way to socialize with classmates and staff compared to drawing alone at home. I’ve affectionately been labelled the resident Syn “gremlin” by many fellow students, pulling innocuous pranks like sneaking chubby cats into people’s work (on a new layer, of course!) and sticking googly eyes on marketing staff Stephanie’s desk cactus. It’s definitely an uplifting environment where fellow students and the staff boost your mood, keep you inspired, and lend a hand when needed.
Why did you choose to study at Syn Studio?
I chose Syn Studio for an amalgamation of reasons. Yes, there are a handful of well-known concept design schools in different countries, many in the USA. I did my research on schools, looking into their instructors and students. I would definitely want to get into a school where both teacher and student work impress me and also challenge me. But on top of that, an education abroad comes tied together with logistics such as accommodation, tuition, daily expenses, etc.
Furthermore, the point of an education is to find a job. With all these in mind, I found that Syn Studio and its location was the best fit for what I wanted. The motley of artists that act as instructors at Syn is impressive. They include a mix of professionals who have and are working in the fields of games, film, fine arts and comics. Many are also quite young, so you’re sure to get some insight on what it’s really like currently in the industry, including great tips on how to enter it.
Montréal is also a pretty good city for students. It’s home to Universities McGill and Concordia, which means there are lots of options for student accommodations. It also means a lot of cafes are designed for students (including WiFi and power sockets) alongside the many free-to-enter libraries and study halls. Transport is easy, too. And above all that, Montréal so happens to be a hub of gaming studios ranging from indie to AAA. If that’s not your thing, there are some animation studios too!
The first thing you see when you walk outside your school?
The building where Syn Studio is located stands directly across the Saint James Church. It’s definitely the first thing you’ll see with its large circular stained glass window. It’s definitely more stunning at night, when it’s lit from the inside and the colors of the stained glass become vivid.
The closest shop to outside your school is:
Saint Catherine Street is one of the busier streets in downtown Montreal, which means there are a host of shops, cafes and restaurants. But the closest ones include A&W and Pharmaprix, a large pharmacy that also sells lots of snacks for that midday pick-me-up. For supply runs, Syn lies between two branches of the art store De Serres, each less than a 10-minute walk away. On the same block lie Best Buy (for emergency cable needs or perhaps tech mishaps), Dollarama and Burger King. Did I mention Burger King? Burger King.
Your school is great, but you wouldn’t mind a bit less:
There are a lot of old buildings in Montréal, 460 Sainte Catherine included (it was built in 1910 and pictures of it line the lobby area). But Syn’s creaky floorboards always startle me. I also wouldn’t mind a lot less snow during winter.
The unofficial uniform of your school is:
Your favorite pair of comfy pants and a shirt. Classes and working in the studio involves a lot of sitting, so comfort is key. Also, never forget your jacket or umbrella, because Montréal’s weather is unpredictable! If you’re in the city over the winter, a good winter coat is key. Throw in some snow boots, too. Slipping on ice is a real hazard in the city during winter. But even winter boots can’t save you when sinking knee-deep in the snow to get to your apartment (true story).
A mandatory stop for anyone new to your city:
Montréal is not particularly known to be a boisterous city (bar the Grand Prix during the summer), but it has lots of interesting architecture. Most people make sure to climb up the eponymous Mont Royale. There’s also Old Montréal which includes the Old Port and Montréal’s Notre Dame Cathedral.
A common myth about your school is:
I don’t think I’ve really heard many myths about Syn Studio. The instructors have been great, and yeah some of the student amenities could be upgraded. But the classes aren’t crazy expensive and like many schools, you get more out of the classes when you put more effort into the assignments. It’s honestly been a very welcoming and productive environment so far.
A massive night out for students at your school is likely to be:
Many artists at Syn fit into the stereotype and nights out don’t get too crazy. But every other week, Syn hosts live figure drawing and students usually cap the night off with dinner and maybe a few drinks. A bulk of the students are usually international and it’s pretty much custom to have a big dinner after the term ends to celebrate and say goodbye to those returning to their home countries.
You won’t find a better place to eat than at:
Nearby? Check out Lee & Kim’s Korean rice balls at McGill Station! Definitely a hidden gem and the owner is beyond sweet.
The strangest thing you’ve ever seen at your school is:
The range of props for reference is impressive. But not when you don’t expect a long wig with a plastic bag over its head, mounted on the kitchen wall. In the dark.
One thing you’d never change about your school is:
The amazing staff.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is:
The chairs. They aren’t adjustable and I’m… not exactly the tallest of people.
Someone gives you $1M to pimp out your school. You use it to:
Buy adjustable chairs, then use the rest to deck out a student pantry with lots of snacks... And maybe a resident Syn Studio pet. Or 5.