Perhaps it is too early for some students to even begin planning their summer vacation. However, with many internship application deadlines just around the corner, it might be worth giving a thought. I will say with confidence that one of the best summers I ever had was the summer I spent in a french immersion program in Quebec at the Université du Québec a Trois-Rivières, and I have the Facebook photos to prove it. If you’re not planning on applying for internships this summer and can spare a few weeks of your summer vacation to not work, I would suggest applying for a bursary for the five-week french immersion course through the Explore program like I did two years ago.
Considering the bursary program is only available to high school and full-time university students, it’s a great opportunity to seize while you can. We all take advantage of student deals whenever they’re offered, so why not take advantage of a program that lets you improve your French, meet some amazing people, and a hang out in another city for a few weeks?
During the course I participated in, I lived rent-free for five weeks in the residence at the university and had my meals during Monday to Friday provided for me. Considering I was living with my parents when I was accepted into the program, I don’t think I truly appreciated how awesome this was at the time. I wish I had. Now that I’m on my own, ramen noodles have become a staple in my diet. However, the program doesn’t cover the $200 registration fee you have to pay if you are accepted, or spending money once you are there, so the five weeks weren’t completely cost-free.
While the prospect of being forced to speak French for five weeks straight may seem like a grueling experience, everyone in the program is stumbling along with you, making it a very supportive setting that makes it easy to get a handle on the language quickly. Although I did have to spend my mornings in class and complete some homework, I found that what helped me the most was that I was surrounded by so many new people that I wanted to get to know. This facilitated much more conversation than your typical classroom setting, and was much more useful in learning how to speak French than completing exercises from a textbook.
That being said, you shouldn’t go into the program expecting to become completely bilingual. When I first arrived in Trois-Rivières, I envisioned myself emerging from the program fully fluent in the language, able to wander around Montreal conversing in both of my country’s official languages with perfect grammar and pronunciation. Oh how naïve I was. Although I was able to converse much more effectively in French, I was nowhere near fluent after the five weeks were over. It is obviously nearly impossible to prefect such a complex language in such a short time span.
While I haven’t kept my proficiency in the language at the level it was when I came back home two years ago, I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made there. Along with giving me the opportunity to work on my French, the program was also one of the only opportunities I’ve had to meet students from across the country with a vast range of backgrounds and different perspectives, considering I’ve lived in Manitoba my entire life. Even if you’re not super keen on spending five weeks being surrounded by people speaking French, the people you meet during those five weeks are enough of a reason to go.