Missouri State University
A Summer in Quebec
Studying Away, Learning French, and Enhancing Cultural Competency in Canada

J’ai Fini!

Wow, I can’t believe that my plane leaves on Sunday and I go back home. Being in Québec has certainly been an incredible experience. I have learned so much by just forcing myself into the language it is amazing. What feels like a whole semester has been pushed into five weeks and it is already time to go. I’m so thankful I was given the opportunity to attend this program for many reasons. The first, I will be applying to the Peace Corps this semester as soon as I get back. I would like to teach english or work in HIV/AIDS education/prevention. I knew if I was sent to Africa learning french before applying would be a great way to start understanding the french language and get that advantage on my application. I also knew that Laval is an amazing university with very rich history, it sounded like a dream come true. I most certainly recommend anyone that wants to be immersed in the french language to give this program as try because it is worth it.

I have learned the classes can be a bit challenging, however, there are so many people that are able to help you at reasonable hours. I have also become somewhat familiar with the culture. The people of Québec have be able to understand that I am here to learn and they really admire that, they locals are so understanding that they even try to help you when they see you are having a difficult time. I’m also so very  proud of myself and the amount of french that I have learned. I came here knowing almost zero french with having only a background with french 101 and have grown tremendously! Québec has been wonderful, again, I am very thankful I was given the opportunity to attend such a fun and alive program!

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Running on empty

I would give commentary, but I do not want record of my thoughts on the internet.

The following is a list of experiences I had over the last week.

  • Friday – I went to the museum of fine arts, Martello tower 1, and Aux Anciens Canadiens.
  • Saturday – I went to the island of Orleans and the Montmorency waterfall.
  • Sunday – N/A
  • Monday – I was required to go on a booze cruise.
  • Tuesday – N/A
  • Wednesday – I went to my last conversation workshop.
  • Thursday – I went to the end of the program spectacle.

Saturday I get to go home. I’ve enjoyed my stay, but I overextended myself by the end of the third week. Almost two weeks later, somehow, I’m guessing its by the grace of God alone, I’m still alive.


P.S. Should you, the person who is giving me a grade based on this personal log, desire a more detailed account of the above events, I would be more than happy to let you take a peek at my journal, though be warned, as I mentioned in logs past, it is in french.

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The Show’s Not Over Yet

Although this is my last blog post for my trip in Quebec, the title still is rife with significance.  Naturally, I have to juggle many things right now relating to this last week– exams, my piano performance tomorrow at the FLE Spectacle, and cleaning and packing up my room to bring back all the goodies I got from Quebec.  And on top of that, I have to edit a paper that has been accepted by Logos by tomorrow, so I have lot to worry about right now.  Fortunately, I can put that aside a bit when I write this.

The “goodies”:  On the suggestion of my parents that I bring back some souvenirs, I went to the Archambault at the mall Sunday and bought two books:   One in English that’s an easy-to-read introduction to Quebec, another in French that explains Quebecois expressions.  Since there are many anglicisms in Quebecois, it almost seems odd that I would understand some of the phrases better, either being directly taken from English, pronunciation and all, or otherwise claqued (translated directly).  On the flip side, the French “translations” don’t help at all for some phrases because I still don’t know what they mean, and even when it is used in a sentence it sometimes doesn’t give much of a clue as to its meaning.  (I’m talking about sentences that, if translated, would say “He is such a(n) X” and just that, the very sort of sentences I was taught to avoid in the fourth grade whenever I was prompted to use a word in a sentence.  Eh, you ain’t supposed to use no double negatives, either.)

Monday night pretty much 90% of the program went to a pleasure cruise on the St. Lawrence, myself included.  I took my work with me because I knew it was mostly going to be everyone dancing and drinking, two things I am not entirely fond of.  In fact, for a while I had this whole room to myself to study because everyone else was out dancing.  The views on the boat were very nice though– we were able to see the waterfall we had visited last Saturday (which was also a nice trip but will not be related here) and of course, Château Frontenac looks great illuminated, if it already wasn’t a pretty building to begin with.  It was kind of strange that we were out so late though, since many of us would be definitely having tests this week.

Overall I’ve liked my time here in Quebec, although perhaps I could have taken my classes just a little more seriously and make more of an effort to try to speak French.  I don’t know if my speaking has improved, but I know that my grasp of the language itself has, as it has helped me hone many things that I had already learned or taught myself.  Even still, I look forward to returning to the USA, to share more stories, to reflect on how I was able to live independently, and most of all, make poutine an Ozark dish.

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Almost There

This has been one wild ride. Finals week is here and it is almost time to return home. I must say that I am beginning to get excited about going home, although I wonder if it will be weird at all. I know that I have not spoken French 100% of the time but it has been a considerable amount. Besides that, everything is written in French. During the first few days back, I wonder if a stop sign will take me by surprise because it no longer says Arrêt or if I will go up to the cash register at the store and be unprepared for a conversation in English.

When I first heard about this program, I had reservations about how much I could improve in only five weeks. However, my fears proved unfounded as it has improved and I have gained a new sense of self-confidence. Now, I am looking forward to becoming fully fluent in the near future. Though, I am sad that this might be the last time that I get to see some of the friends that I made here and that I am leaving the beautiful city of Quebec.

This past week, I had a test, went on a few school sponsored event and trips, and explored a little on my own. The school sponsored trips were awesome and very beneficial, but traveling on my own was the best thing that I have done so far. There are plenty of small things to do that would keep a person busy for days. Every building in Old Quebec has a sign that tells of its history and around every corner there seems to be a park with statues and monuments to another historical event. I do not feel like I have wasted a day when it comes to exploring the city, however, I found that with each new thing that I did, I would find three or four more that I wanted to do. Needless to say, if and when I return to Quebec, I will already have a full itinerary. I would encourage anyone wanting to learn or improve his or her French that this program is worth doing! I loved it!

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Beginning of the End

The last week of our program here has begun. I can’t yet tell if this week will fly by just like all the rest or if it will trudge on because it’s last. Either way, I feel like my time here in Quebec was a little short. However, I am ready to go home. I’m ready to see my family and friends again and I’m excited for my classes at MSU this fall. Our final week here seems like it is going to be one big, long wrap-up. All the activities planned are geared toward ending the session, like the cruise tonight and the talent show on Thursday. Not to mention all the exams we will have this week. Throw in packing and getting ready to fly back to the States, and that makes for a very busy next few days.

Last week I didn’t do as many of the activities with the animateurs as I had done previously. I went exploring on my own a little more. I walked to some streets in Quebec that are well-known shopping areas with lots of stores and restaurants, just to see what else the city had to offer besides downtown. While I was walking, I made it all the way to the Saint Lawrence River, and found a really cool church right on the waterfront with a meditation garden. It was a nice, quiet little area that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I also came across a very pretty park closer to downtown, Parc de Bois-du-Coulonge. I walked around it for a while, and took some really pretty photos.

I wish I had done more of this, walking around and exploring Quebec City, because I found some really cool areas that I would not have found just doing activities with the program. If I had started doing this the first week, who knows? Maybe I could have covered the whole city!

However on Saturday I went on a program-sponsored excursion to L’ile d’Orleans, a large island about a 15 minute drive from Quebec City. It was an all-day thing, and I had a really good time. The island is mostly family-owned farms and workshops, where families grow and then make their products to sell to tourists who come to the island. A very popular thing grown there is strawberries and raspberries. We went to a cidrerie(cider shop), a boulangerie (bakery), and a chocolaterie (chocolate shop). We got to try some really good food and enjoy the pretty countryside on the island. After L’ile d”Orleans, we went to the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, and saw the Montmorency waterfall. That was a really amazing experience for me, because I’d never been to a waterfall before. It was a really nice park, too.

I’m glad I went on that excursion Saturday, because I got to see a little bit different part of the region of Quebec besides just Quebec City. I was hoping to do a little more of that while I was here, but transportation is a little limited. I guess that just means I’ll have to come back!

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Coming to a close!

Wow, I can’t believe I am already writing my forth blog here in Québec. What has felt like a whole semester is coming to a close with only one week left. I very excited for what lies ahead still, we has a group have two more activities to attend and finals to take before we depart for Missouri. The two activities that lie ahead are Ile d’Orléans and the Croisière: Soirée sur le fleuve. I can’t wait to experience the Ile d’Orléans and see the wonderful chutes Montmorency. It is well known all across Canada as a beautiful sight to see. It will also be a great bonding experience with the group. We have already experienced so much together in Old Québec, it’s gorgeous here. A few of the Cathedrals have been breath taking, the saint Laurent is captivating, and the language is so pleasing to here, it takes your mind across the Atlantic Ocean. Our last activity is going out with a bang! We will be attending the Croisière with the whole program. I’m looking forward to it because we have all learned so much together, about the language, about each other, and about ourselves. We will be able to enjoy great food and drinks and be able to dance the night away.

One thing that I have learned about myself since being here is the ability to be able to adapt to such a different environment. Some may think it is only Canada, but since being here, I have had very few people speak english to me and I love it. It really opens up your eyes to how much diversity North America really has. Before attending the program I knew Québec was french speaking but I was looking at it with an english perspective. Since being here my perspective has switch to more of a french understanding, and I think it is beautiful that they are preserving their language and really connecting with their culture. I’m looking forward to the week ahead and will be talking all about how my finals went! Till next time!

Clay 🙂

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Working title: the fourth week

So the fourth week is almost over. I’m socially exhausted, which means I don’t want to see people, I don’t want to talk to people, I just want a nice, hot cuppa and a good book.

That being said, the mid-term testing is done and everyone is gearing up for the testing during the final week.

As far as what I’ve been up to, last friday, I went to a used book store with exactly $20 in my pocket, and I spent every penny of it there. Then I went by an asian (korean) store to get chopsticks. I told myself before I left that I wouldn’t need chopsticks, but to be completely honest, noodles are so much easier to eat with chopsticks. And, being the poor uni student that I am, I’ve eaten a lot of noodles here. Then Friday evening I went out with some friends and had a pretty good time…and used up the last of my energy reserve. But all in all it wasn’t too bad for a “last hurrah”. From here on out I’m flying solo.

Saturday I went to the Grosse Île and Irish memorial, which was a major immigration facility for Canada for a little over 100 years, in fact some consider it Canada’s version of Ellis Island. Opened in 1832, the island was originally a quarantine facility to prevent immigrants from bringing cholera into Canada. When the great potato famine happened in Ireland, a large number of Irish people migrated to Canada, where they were stopped at facilites like Grosse île to prevent the spread of typhus. The main reason that there is a large Irish memorial there is because more than 5,000 Irish men, women, and children died from disease while quarantined on the island. Something else that I found interesting was that in the hospitals they built, they also had special dark rooms for people who were infected with small pox. The facility was decomissioned in 1937 after being used for 104 years.

Tuesday, I went to the Wendake nation’s village exhibit with a group from the FLE (Français Langue Étranger) program. It was quite an interesting visit as we got to learn a little about the Huron-Wendat nation’s history and culture. While they are now mostly integrated into Canadian society, they still maintain their cultural heritage. One thing I found interesting was that they mentioned customs and traditions of the Inuit tribes as well. It would appear that to maintain some semblance of their heritage while being incorporated into Canada, some of the various tribes have taken up presenting the cultures of other tribes.

Yesterday I went back to the used book store, because I can’t stand to be with out books. I only brought 4 with me on this trip, and they’re all in English. I’m trying my best to do everything in French, including reading. So I left with some other interesting tomes with which I will entertain myself whilst avoiding people. Among the books I got, there is “Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours” by Jules Verne, “Notre-Dame de paris” by Hugo, and I’m interested to see how the translation of  “L’Ombre du vent” has turned out. Granted I’ve never read the book in its original Spanish (La Sombra del viento), but something about the book caught my eye. My total book count now is 17, so that means I’ve bought 13 here. I also went to Tim Hortons to try their food, as that is something that one doesn’t find many places in the states. It was quite good.

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Wait, It’s Already the Fourth Week?

The univeristy actually offers a 15-week session for its foreign language program.  Although both my time and ability will not allow it, in some ways I wish I were in the 15-week program, because this session has already gone by so fast.  After our exams last week, we have our finals to look forward to the next, and I feel as if somehow the third week slipped past me.

This is not just a matter of time.  I will admit that my grades on the exams were something to be desired.  Although in some cases this was due to not studying enough or simply forgetting things that I had just learned and actually understood, in others this was due to the sheer difficulty of the tasks themselves.  French classes in America simply don’t emphasize proper pronunciation enough, and even less understanding the language as it is actually spoken, since it sounds far different than it actually looks on the page.  In addition, we’re actually listening to authentic Quebecois songs and watching authentic Quebecois television programs, so one also has a distinct accent to overcome that in many cases sounds radically different than the French spoken in the class, if the speed of the talking and its style of articulation isn’t enough.  I was quite disappointed in those grades– I passed overall, but not in the way I wanted– but I shouldn’t be too upset as it is only 20% of the grade and I am doing quite well otherwise.  I’ll be sure to prepare better for next time though.

In fact I already feel more optimistic.  I have a better command of the material that we are learning now in the oral class, in fact I even pointed out several errors in the writing of the worksheets we had to do.  Our teacher gives us “stars” when we point out things like that or otherwise impress him, and I got two that day.

On another note, I will be playing the piano for the end-of-session show, but not in the capacity that I had hoped.  The e-mail I got from one of the animateurs said that the number I played for the audition “did not correspond to the selection criteria”, but they liked it and thought I played it well and want me to play it in the time when people are coming in to watch the actual show.  I guess they wanted French/Quebecois stuff as opposed to Kitten on the Keys.  Although… they also said that “we favor numbers done by several students in order to permit as many students as possible to participate”.  This is understandable but makes the idea of the number not corresponding to selection criteria even more cryptic.  I’m happy I’m playing though.

This Friday I’ll be presenting a Quebecois song to my class, although I don’t know which one yet (the teacher gave me several suggestions to help me), and will also be going to a bonne bouffe, or a feast with social overtones, (at)* Chez Victor.  Might as well find out what these famous restaurants are like and to at least force myself an opportunity to speak French!

I think that’s enough for now, as I need to study now that more is at stake.

*the preposition “chez” signifies “at the house of”, thus, one does not say “manger à Chez Victor” but merely “manger Chez Victor” even though “chez” is part of the name.  It’s kind of confusing actually for an English speaker, who doesn’t even have a preposition like “chez” to begin with.  I can’t eat the whole restaurant, that hurts my teeth.

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The Downhill Slope

Time is flying by faster than I anticipated and I just realized that today. I do not know if I am ready for it to end next week.  Today, after having a class discussion over the health value of poutine, we did what anyone should do; we went out to get poutine for lunch. Afterwards, the group that went decided to go downtown to a thrift store to see what we could find. Of course this trip became a tour of the street artists before ending at the oldest building in Quebec. Formerly a house, it is now a restaurant named Aux Anciens Canadiens. This is typical of the days up here. Friends were made so fast and there is so much to do that there is no telling what you will be doing by the end of the day. The story from today illuminates that clearly because I had plans of dinning in and then going to the cinema to watch a Quebecois film with some friends but I ended up doing something completely else.

Since last week, I have biked all around the campus, have explored the less touristy areas of Quebec, bought some French language books, and bought a ticket for Cirque du Soleil on Thursday, as well as many other impromptu outings here and there. However, since my last post, things have not been all fun and games. I have had three tests since then and I am currently studying for my three finals coming up next week. Furthermore, the after class workshops have been becoming more intense. The good news is that I am doing well. There is a reward system in place where you can receive green cards for learning a new phrase or instigating a conversation in French with the animators. At the end of the week, you turn in the cards and you have the potential to win prizes. This past week, I have received more green cards than I have received the last three weeks combined. Hopefully, I will win something now.

The most difficult aspect of the entire trip is the fatigue one feels all the time. There is some much to see, learn, and do that you feel like you are cheating yourself if you sleep. However, that results in being tired all the time. I must say that is a burden I am willing to deal with. Before I forget, I sadly did not meet any ghosts on the tour but the best story was of the Empress of Ireland. Check it out. Until next week!

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Quebecois History

It’s the fourth week already, and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I’ve done so many exciting things here and I’ve learned so much. Last week, in addition to going to the Citadelle on Monday, I also went on the Ghost Tour Tuesday night, and to the Morrin Centre on Thursday. The Citadelle, Ghost Tour, and Morrin Centre were all pretty informative as far as Quebecois history goes. I didn’t know anything about the French and English occupations of Quebec, or about the battle on the Plains of Abraham. I almost feel guilty because a tour guide will mention a famous historical person or place and I have no idea who or where it is. But I’ve definitely become more familiar with Quebecois history since I came here.

The Ghost Tour was in Vieux Quebec at about 9:30 Tuesday evening. It wasn’t anything too spooky, just a walking tour to some places in Vieux Quebec with a guide telling us stories about people who supposedly haunt these places. The best part of it, in my opinion, was seeing Vieux Quebec at night. There were still lots of people out walking around and eating at restaurants even though it was around 10:00 PM. All the restaurants had lights on and it was really pretty just walking down the street. My favorite ghost story was the one about the criminal dentist who tried to board a ship called The Empress of Ireland. The captain saw him and recognized him from wanted flyers, so he turned him in to the authorities. According to the story, within minutes that the criminal dentist was put to death, the ship sank an almost everyone on it was killed. It was like a Quebecois version of the Titanic.

Thursday was the Morrin Centre, which is a building in Vieux Quebec that started as a prison, turned into a college, and is now a library. It’s also open for tours because some of the rooms have been restored to look like the prison and the college. It was really interesting too, and I was surprised that they had a decently-sized, functional library in it. My favorite part of that tour was when the guide explained why there was a statue of James Wolfe in the library. James Wolfe was a British Army officer who defeated the French in Quebec. It was odd to have a statue of a British officer in Quebec, because Quebec has so much French heritage and the people aren’t too keen on the British. There is irony to the statue, though. It only measures about three and a half feet tall, and the Quebecois agreed to put it there because it was more of an insult to James Wolfe and the British than an homage.

There’s more activities yet to come this week, although the ones that the animateurs have planned for this week are less historical and more cultural, like going to some famous restaurants, having a field hockey tournament, a trip to the beach, etc. I like historical excursions more than anything else, but I’m glad there’s other options this week. It’s important to know what’s popular now in Quebec, and not just what happened here in the past. I’m really excited for the next two weeks of the program and I don’t think I’ll be ready to go home once it’s over!

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