Young woman learns French during Quebec exchange

I recently traveled to Quebec for five weeks to take part in a French immersion program called “Explore"

Clearwater's Katie Bieber stands in front of Campus Saint-Jean Pavillon de La Pocatiere that she attended during a five weeks French immersion program recently. It is the University of Alberta French campus in Quebec. During the school year it is a private high school and during the summer it hosts the Explore program.

Katie Bieber

Bonjour tout le monde!

I recently traveled to Quebec for five weeks to take part in a French immersion program called “Explore.”

I applied for the program in the spring after seeing an advertisement on the wall at Clearwater Secondary.

The interesting thing about the application form was that it didn’t ask for any information besides your name and proof of age; as for most of the programs you only have to be 16 and over.

As well, the selection process is a lottery so you don’t have to be a straight “A” student to have a chance to go.

However, if you do apply, you should be serious about wanting to learn French.

Although there are many locations where Explore has its programs, the place that I went was a small town called La Pocatiere and it is just a little bigger than Clearwater with a population of 5,000. It is located about 150 kilometers east of Quebec City along the Saint Lawrence River, or Le Fleuve St. Laurent, as I learned to call it.

I stayed in a residence that was right next to the college that I attended called the Campus Saint-Jean Pavillon de La Pocatiere, Université de l’Alberta.

On the second day, everyone (around 200 students with ages ranging from 16 to one who was 45) took a placement test to decide what level of French he or she was at. I was placed in a class for Faux Debutante Avances or Advanced Beginners.

That night we all had to take a promise to only speak French at all times for the following five weeks.

My program in La Pocatiere was really strict with that promise, because if a student was caught speaking English (or doing any other inappropriate behavior), they were given an advertissement or warning.

If a student received three advertissements, they had to leave the program and were given 24 hours to find transportation home. This may sound harsh, but it is the reason why their success rate in learning French is so high.

Each day during the week, we attended classes in the mornings. My program used a communicative approach, so we learned mainly through oral communication. In the afternoons, we had workshops such as Magic, Health, Creative Writing, etc. and free time that we could use to explore the town, participate in sports, or go to a classroom termed the CAFÉ where people could receive help with their French.

On the weekends there were optional excursions, such as a weekend trip to Quebec City or a trip to a Maritime Museum that we paid for either before the program or on the first day.

I had an amazing time on this trip. I did not come home fluent in French as I was only there one month.

However, my speaking and listening skills definitely skyrocketed.

For the first week of my return I found myself speaking Franglais, a mixture of French and English, and now I try to take every opportunity that I can to practise my French.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this program to any student who loves to travel and meet new people, and who has a desire to speak French!