In the summer of 2016, my nascent travel blog got its second wave of posts when I spent 5 weeks in a French immersion program in Québec City, Canada. My blog has evolved a lot since then, but I’m preserving those posts here for anyone who wants to explore them! Keep in mind, this is more diary than travel guide and really just commemorates the fun I had while in Canada that summer.
July 3, 2016
A week ago at this time, I was packing for a five-week stay at Laval University. Today, everything was unpacked because I am now in Québec City at the afore mentioned university. Of course, today was just check-in, so there isn’t much to tell except as an introduction to what I will be writing about for the next several weeks. The story for today though lies in the trip to Québec.
We left early Wednesday morning with more room devoted to luggage than to people (an admittedly common occurrence on family trips). My only real memories for that day are driving and a certain service area in New York State the name of which I unfortunately do not remember. Thursday again involved a great deal of driving, but we did cross the border into Canada. From there, we went to Ottawa, Ontario where I toured the University of Ottawa. It’s a very nice school, and I liked both the campus and the city. There’s a good chance that I will go there.
Friday was Canada Day (Fête du Canada), and I think it was my favorite day. We were staying in Québec province just across the river from Ottawa, so we went to the National Museum of Civilization. Since it was crowded, we only toured the Aboriginal gallery, but that was extensive and very informative. If I go to the University of Ottawa, I will definitely return to see the rest of the museum. Outside, there was a veritable fair going on with everything from lemonade vendors to clowns.
Saturday again involved a great deal of driving, but the countryside was new and bewitching – everything here seems very flat compared to West Virginia. That evening, we took a quick ferry ride from Lévis (where our hotel was) to Québec City. We visited a few shops in the old city and saw Chateau Frontenac before returning to Lévis for dinner and bed.
I was very tired when I woke up this morning due to the snoring that went on during the night, but I was also excited, if a little nervous, about Laval University. And here I am! My family helped me unpack and register, but left before ten so they could drive back to the States. Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure what to do after that, so I really just stayed in the main area to participate in the Welcome Workshop (a couple ice breaker games) and the Campus Tour. Thanks to those two, I ended up with a few friends whom I then met with at noon to go to the mall. Within a kilometer or so from the university dorms, there are three malls that do this strange fade from one to another.
At the mall, we all bought bus tickets for the month and ate lunch. It was only one o’clock then, so we decided to stay at the mall for a few hours before dinner. I do not honestly know how many shops we went to, but I had fun getting to know the other people in my group (total there were twelve of us). In the end, I only bought some soap because in all my packing lists it was the one thing I managed to forget. So, we ate dinner as a group, and I returned to my dorm to finish unpacking and look over the activities for the month.
I’m not nearly as nervous as I was this morning, mostly because I haven’t had time to think about anything. I think making friends like this was a good move because it kept me busy and ensured that I will have people to talk to throughout my stay. Before I end this, here are a few pictures of my adventures so far.
Until next time ~
French Immersion 101
July 10, 2016
ince I’m going to a concert tonight, I’m going to keep the actual written part of this brief and mostly show pictures from week one at French camp.
Monday morning was a mess for the most part because no one knew what to do and the classes were really just holding pens for students not testing at that time. The test was an oral “exam” to determine in which level of French students should be enrolled. It was actually pretty fun – just a conversation really. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I really like my class. It’s mostly grammar with a few games to help us practice speaking and using whatever we’re learning. Since it’s more or less the same every day, this is all I’m saying about class.
Monday afternoon was pretty boring – just a three hour seminar about all the rules – but Tuesday was the first workshop of the week. The workshops are like extra classes that happen twice a week. My Tuesday workshop was cinema in which we studied camera angles and shot types then began planning our own short films. Tuesday evening also featured a walking tour through Old Quebec so when we go out later, we will be less likely to get lost.
On Wednesday, I went back to the city with some friends to buy tickets for Festival d’été (more on that soon). Following that, we all took a trip to the big mall with an amusement park inside it. Tickets were fairly expensive, so I only rode the rollercoaster, but that was really fun. Since we had five hours at the mall, my friends and I decided to do some shopping, or really some trying on and not buying. We made it into a game in which we chose crazy outfits for each other to model.
Thursday was a nice afternoon with no plans until late, so I relaxed in my room with my book for a while. At seven, I had signed up to go to the movies. We saw the Legend of Tarzan, in French of course, so it was a little difficult at first. By the end of the movie, however, I was thinking just in French. That carried over to Friday and made that morning’s classes very easy. Friday evening, one of my friends needed to buy a swimsuit, so we went into the city with the goal of purchasing one. We completely failed, but we had fun trying on clothes in some of the designer stores and watching the street performers.
The next morning, I slept in late and did basically nothing after laundry in the morning. That was very welcome after a week of doing stuff constantly. This morning though, everyone went to a waterpark. Very fun! Even after we rode all the slides and got cold, we were able to hang out inside and look around and dance to the music on the radio. Tonight we’re going to the summer festival to see some performers, but I’ll write about that next week.
Concerts, Museums, and More
July 17, 2016
The first two weeks of camp have really seemed to fly by, and it’s hard to believe that July is already halfway over. Despite how quickly the days are going by, I’ve done so many things this week that it’s hard to know where to begin.
When I last wrote, I mentioned that I was going to a concert that night. Festival d’Ete is a ten day long party every year in Quebec City. There are about ten locations scattered through the downtown areas, and different artists perform each night. It would be impossible to see all of them, but the big stars are at the main Bell stage on the Plains of Abraham every evening. Last Sunday, I saw Hedley and Coeur de Pirate (one of my favorite French artists who is, it turns out, from Quebec City). Both concerts were really amazing, and I had a lot of fun.
To start off each academic week, there is a 45 minute meeting on Monday mornings where we learn what will happen in the week and all the things we did the previous week that we weren’t supposed to (e.g. Why are you people leaving your trash on the table? There are perfectly good trashcans right next to you). Monday for me was really busy since because of the meeting, the class times were a little different. Instead of going from 8:30-12 or 9-12:30, the class was instead 9:30-12 and 2-4. This wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that Selena Gomez was performing at the festival that night, and we planned to leave at 5. Needless to say, there were delays, and we left around 6:30. We still managed to get good spots though and saw not only Selena Gomez, but Bahari and Alessia Cara. Since I like all three artists, I had an awesome time, even if we had to leave early to make curfew.
I was tired Tuesday morning, but not terribly so since my class started half an hour later all this week, and I was able to sleep in some. (The class times alternate depending on what building a person’s class is in. With 400 some students, it’s not fun to have everyone eating lunch at the same time.) That afternoon, I mostly relaxed and only went out to shop with some friends at a thrift store for the dance Thursday. That evening, the monitors put on a show for us with hilarious skits that turned my sarcastic enthusiasm for the obligatory event into real enthusiasm. Although all the skits were enjoyable, my three favorites had to be the Grease medley, the Notre Dame de Paris performance, and the medley that I don’t know what to name. The Grease one is self-explanatory in that the monitors acted out and lip-synced parts of songs from Grease. Notre Dame de Paris refers to the musical based on the book of the same name (in English, the Hunchback of Notre Dame). I probably enjoyed this one because I’m reading the book right now, and also because it was one of my favorite songs from the musical – “Belle.” The other medley was one of the longest skits, but probably the crowd favorite. With four actors, the monitors performed their own little musical accompanied by popular songs, everything from Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” to Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love.” The simple plot involved two couples having every stereotypical problem with their romances. The entire thing was done with lip-syncing and exaggerated dancing, and it generally hilarious.
Wednesday was like a rest in the middle of the week. After class, I had my Cinema workshop, but since we were just doing the filming for our project, my group was able to finish early and spend half the class playing Uno. Next week (or really in a couple days), we will edit the footage and add music. After that, there was a quick room inspection and bed. Thursday was again busy since my class took a field trip to Parliament, and I had to leave almost as soon as we returned because I had signed up to see the Musee des Beaux Arts (5/5 stars). That evening was the Disco Retro. This was the first of the three dances that will be held here. Since I’m not really one for dances, it wasn’t the highlight of my week, but I still had fun dressing up and hanging out with my friends. Towards the end, I even danced a little, but I spent most of the time just watching. Friday was supposed to be my Explore Quebec workshop, but due to the torrential downpour, we went to the mall where I spend a trend total of $3 on coffee.
Saturday was pretty chill as well after I went through another ordeal trying to do my laundry. I read some and skyped my family and ate all three meals of the day in the cafeteria (not a good experience). Finally, that evening, the monitors were showing a movie downstairs, and I was bored enough that I would have watched anything. I was lucky though and it was a French romantic comedy that I had actually wanted to see – Amélie. Not only that, they served us free popcorn. I don’t actually like popcorn, and this particular kind didn’t even have butter, but I also barely ate dinner, so I finished my whole bag within about twenty minutes.
This morning, I had planned to go to church since I haven’t gone for a few weeks, and there are a lot of really cool old churches here. Unfortunately, Google Maps is highly untrustworthy, and we got a little lost on the way. We eventually got off the bus just to figure out where we were. Realizing we had more or less missed the service, we decided to make the best of it and eat lunch at Tim Hortons. Just to make the trip a little more worthwhile, we also stopped at Starbucks before heading back. Basically, there were four girls dressed up for church just going to different coffee places. This afternoon, the plan is to stop by Metro and buy some real food then go have a picnic for dinner. I’m really having fun being here, and even getting lost (not really lost since the bus eventually circles around). My French is definitely improving, and I’m making a lot of friends. It’s really great, so before I go, here are a few pictures from the week.
Fun Times and a Masquerade
July 23, 2016
For the most part everything has settled into a routine by this point. Besides classes and reading, I didn’t do very much, so here are some quick highlights and pictures. I’m writing a day early because I’m going rafting tomorrow.
Monday evening was the Guerre des Sexes (War of the Sexes). I really wasn’t expecting much from this, but the competition was really fierce, and I had fun just watching everyone try to answer the trivia questions and complete the challenges. In the end, the girls won by one point.
Tuesday afternoon, I had my cinéma workshop where we edited the video we shot last week and submitted it, meaning this week we’ll go out to the actual cinema for class. Thursday was another field trip with my class, this time to the Museum of Civilization. That evening was the Masquerade Ball, at which I actually danced and participated and managed to have fun.
I had my other workshop Friday to Explore Quebec, and we went to Petit Champlain to do a scavenger hunt. That evening, I went out to dinner with some friends only to come back and immediately leave for a park with some others. Today, I was expecting to be bored, so I planned ahead and found people with whom I could go to the city. We spent about two hours walking around without much of a plan, but it was still a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to everything tomorrow as well.
Penultimate Summer Post
July 31, 2016
It’s hard to believe that this will be my last week at Université Laval as well as my last week before school starts. Basically, I’m trading one school for another, but I’m still looking forward to senior year. This week’s post will probably be brief again, sorry, but I am once again busy this evening.
Rafting was last Sunday, and it was rafting, which means it was really fun. We spent about three hours on the Jacques-Cartier River, which was honestly a little disappointing compared to the New River. However, there was one adventure when, during a Class V rapid, there was a small waterfall we were supposed to and did not avoid. We were pretty terrified in the moment, but afterwards it was fun to laugh about. That evening we also made the camp video, which is not yet on YouTube, but I’ll post a link when it is.
Monday evening was the talent show put on by the students in the camp. It was a great display of the musical talents in the group, and it was so much fun to listen and laugh with the friends I’ve made here. Tuesday, I had my last cinema workshop, and we went to the actual cinema to watch a movie. It turned out the moderator had picked the movie based on the time alone and didn’t know that it was actually an English movie with French subtitles. Despite that, it was a cute movie, and I left with Guns & Roses stuck in my head. Wednesday evening, I tie-dyed shirts with some friends, but since none of us knew what to do, we mostly just talked.
For some of the people here, Thursday was the last day. They took their final exam that morning, and we had a Soirée Québecois that night. It wasn’t my favorite of the dances, but I liked the chance to say good-bye to my friends who were leaving. Even though I wasn’t really a fan of the band that played, I did dance for once because I was actually feeling comfortable enough to have fun with people, especially since some of them would be gone come morning.
Friday was a pretty relaxing day, and I had my final explore Québec workshop that afternoon. We went to a new place that I’d never heard of – Cap Rouge. It’s a calm little inlet on the St. Lawrence in a predominantly residential area of Québec City. Not only was it a nice place to relax and eat ice cream, I also got to go on the paddle boats there, which were surprisingly cheap. Yesterday was whale watching, and while I didn’t get any pictures of whales, I saw several and enjoyed spending time on the boat. Today I visited the Maison de la Literature, which is a library of Québecois literature. Although the building looks on the outside like an incredibly old place, because it is an ancient building, the inside is all modern. It was a nice walk around, and I’m enjoying the rest of the afternoon too before the Cinema outing. I’m looking forward to my last week, and though I’ll be sad to leave, I’ll also be glad to be home.
Despite the name, the “Penultimate” post was the final post I did on this trip. The program I did was through the College Saint-Charles Garnier and was hosted on the Laval University campus. I was unable to find the camp video that I mention above, but I did have a fun time participating in this immersion program and really improved my French skills.