EXPLORE: Learn French, and have fun!

Andrew Stevenson

Not knowing what I was going to do for the summer, I decided to apply for the government funded, French-language program EXPLORE (J’EXPLORE).  It was an on a whim thing.   My friend and I applied on the very last day of registration. A few months went by, and in June I got an acceptance letter by email.  I wasn’t even really planning on going, but I talked to my parents and decided it would be fun, and accepted it.  It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.

To give a bit of background information, EXPLORE is a government funded program (non-Canadian students can go but have to pay).  Once accepted, you go to a French speaking area or University in Canada for five weeks to improve, and learn new French skills.  You get to list your top three choices of locations, and are usually sent to one of those three.  There are locations in every province, but most of the locations are in Québec (and personally I think the best places to explore). You can live in a University residence or live with a host-family, depending on the location you choose/have been accepted to.  It’s a great résumé builder and a lot of fun.

My top choice, and where I was accepted to explore was in Trois-Rivières, Québec.  A cute town of around 130 000 between Montréal and Québec City.  The predominantly French-speaking town was a great place to improve my French skills.  I stayed on the campus of UQTR (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) with other EXPLORE students, and attended daily classes at 8:30am.  At UQTR and some other EXPLORE locations you can actually obtain university credits that you can then transfer to your home University.  I went to every class while partying pretty much most of the week, and still managed to get good grades!

The no-English speaking rule was a little bit scary at first. In fact, they threatened to send you home if you were caught speaking English more than three times.  In the end this rule was not strictly enforced, and no one was sent home, but it was enough to at least encourage us to speak French when we were in the cafeteria and around school.  It was kind of fun to communicate with everyone of different levels in broken French and helped to improve my French speaking confidence.  The number of times I asked “D’où viens-tu?” and “ca va bien?” was a little bit crazy, but these small phrases eventually turned into bigger conversations as my skills improved.

If I had any advice, it would be to try to not cheat too much. Speak as much French as possible with your friends in order to improve as much as you can.  Also, if it is offered, take advantage of the extra three weeks at the end called “langues et travail” where you get paid to work around the city or on campus (in French) while staying on residence.  I didn’t take advantage of this, but a few of my Trois-Rivières friends did, and loved it.  In retrospect, I wish I had also since it would have looked great on my resumé, and improved my French speaking abilities even further.

Overall it was a great experience that I would recommend.  I made lots of new friends, partied a lot, improved my French language skills, and it is a great résumé builder.

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