The Beginning of Another (Back Home)

Yesterday was my first day back in the United States after the completion of my study abroad program. We arrived at my house at 2:30am Sunday morning. I am still working to adjust back to my every day schedule.

Sunday was a fairly normal day. Everyone was excited to see me and I was able to share some of the stories from the time that I spent abroad. However, it does seem overwhelming to try to explain everything to people who haven’t read the blog. So much has happened in 6 weeks! So, I just share things as they come to my mind throughout the day.

As far as French goes, I expected to have more difficulty adjusting to English. When I came to the US for my cousin’s wedding I did accidentally speak in French a time or two, but I haven’t had that problem yet since I’ve been back. However, it does seem weird for all of the signs to be in English. Also, when I went out for ice cream with my friends yesterday, it felt strange not to have to decipher the menu and decide what I wanted to order. I had gotten used to a more complicated process for ordering at a restaurant.

One thing that has surprised me though is that I am now more nervous to speak in French. I felt confident before I left, but now I’m not so sure. I know one woman who speaks French at my church, but I’m not comfortable with starting a conversation with her in French. By the end of this week, I hope to finally make that step so that I can still practice here in the US.

Also, I really felt the difference being back at home today because it is the beginning of another week. I feel that I should have more to do. Classes don’t start again until next week. It feels strange not to have an agenda or something to explore. However, I guess that is part of the adventure that I am supposed to start now that I am back home. I had my share in Quebec and now I have to move on. I’m sure that there will be many exciting things to come in the days and months ahead and I hope to apply all that I have learned abroad as I go along.

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The End of One Adventure

Overall, I am pleased with the results of this trip. I came with the goal of becoming more proficient in the French language. I feel that I have accomplished this goal. At this point, I am confident enough to claim fluency in both French and English. I have seen from this trip that I am able to effectively use the language to communicate. This was actually more than I expected at the outset. To me, one sign of my proficiency is how I am now able to converse with native French speakers. I was unable to do this before I came to Quebec. Also, I was able to translate the words to a song cd that I gave to my host mom as a gift. Surprisingly, there were few errors! This was encouraging to me because I aspire to be a translator and I plan to become certified soon. I can clearly see the improvement in my language skills and I know that with more practice, I will only improve them.

Today is the last day that I will be in Quebec. However, somehow it is not as sad as one would expect. As I mentioned yesterday, I realize that it is very unlikely that I will see these people again. However, something that was mentioned in our foreign language program on Thursday night stuck out to me. It was later confirmed by my host mom when we had supper together yesterday. We have agreed that this is not the end of all adventures. For many of us, this may only be the beginning. It’s best just to take each challenge as it comes until something new comes along. I made many new friends and I hope to keep up with them as best as I can. My time here in Quebec has ended and I look forward to see what lies ahead.

Wrapping Things Up

Since this is my last week, I have made a special effort to be as involved as I can on campus before I leave. Last night, we had a program for everyone in the foreign language school. It was an opportunity for people to showcase their talents as well as for the administrators to make final announcements and give prizes. Many songs were sung along with skits and videos. Also, prizes were given for the top classes and individuals with the most green cards. The show lasted from 19h00 to 22h00. It went on for a while, but it didn’t seem as long with such a variety within the program.

After the show, I waited at the main bus stop to take my bus home. I had roughly 15 minutes to wait. So, I decided to sit on the bench beside one young woman that I had never seen before. After a while, she started a conversation with me in French. However, after I asked her to repeat herself a few times, she asked if I spoke English. I told her I did, but that I wanted to practice my French. I asked if she could speak a little slower. She was very kind and after our rough beginning, we were able to have a more fluid conversation. When she left for her bus, I felt very accomplished.

This morning, I took my last final for my classes. I realized that not only was this the end of my summer semester, but it was also the end of my French classes. These are the final courses in French that I need to complete my degree. The test went well and we ended class early. Everyone gathered in the hallway to say their goodbyes. It was difficult to leave knowing that these were people that I will likely never see again. Fortunately, through technology, we should be able to keep up with each other somehow.

A little later, I went to a final meeting for my Quebec culture class with my group from Georgia. We took time to informally present our research papers that we did on a topic of our choice. My project was on the French accent in Quebec and the differences between the French here and in France. Once class ended, I headed home to pack and have a final supper with my host mom.

La fête de la Nouvelle-France

Yesterday was a holiday for la Nouvelle-France to celebrate the foundation of Quebec. I started off by going to class as usual. Fortunately, I only had one exam.

My group met early to practice for our exam at 9h40. It was an oral exam that we would take as a group. Each group member had to speak for at least two minutes given a scenario related to education and the workplace. We practiced speaking together in French as a group for a while before taking the test. For me, the exam turned out to be much easier than I expected and I feel that I did well.

Later, I met my roommate at 14h00 at the bus stop to finish our souvenir shopping downtown and join in the festivities for the holidays. Fortunately, we found good deals on T-shirts and other items. By the time we finished shopping, both of our bags were over packed with souvenirs.

We met the other members of our group from Georgia at 18h00 at McDonald’s- to eat there one last time. Then, we found a good spot on top of a bridge to watch the parade. Various sections of the parade represented different parts of the history of Quebec. It started with the First Nations (indigenous people) who were in Canada before the French came. Each part of the parade also had massive statues. Other parts had music also.

After the parade, I decided to stay for the fireworks. It is my understanding that they have the best firework show in Quebec. Music played along with the show. It was difficult to see because of the location of the fireworks, but overall, they were very good.

Busy Day

Monday turned out to be a very busy day for me. I had my first exam for the week for my oral comprehension class. For the exam, we had to listen to a radio emission and answer questions based on what we heard. Originally, there was a second part with questions on a video from the University website, but we skipped that part because the link wouldn’t work. The test was taken in the computer lab. I don’t usually do as well as I like to on the listening comprehension exercises, but I feel that I did ok.

After classes, I went again to see my program director, as I usually do on Mondays, for this week’s lunch money and to turn in final assignments for my Quebec History course. It felt good to finally finish my work for her class. Over the weekend, I had to write two papers: one three pages and the other 1500 words.

Then, I went to the Residence building to find my lost driver’s license. It wasn’t until last weekend that I realized I hadn’t had it for almost a week. I remembered that the last place where I left it was in Residence when they asked for my id at the front desk. I never got it back! So, feeling confident about my French, I decided to ask for it in French. I explained the situation, told them what kind of id it was, and completed the whole transaction all in French! Fortunately, my license was still there. I felt very successful.

At 12h30, I arrived for my last “atelier” for board games. Our game for the day was family feud. The “animateurs” were dressed up as if we were really doing it professionally. The game was fun even though my team lost both rounds.

After the “atelier,” I rushed home to change clothes for a formal dinner at the Café du Monde with my class and our professor. We were somewhat late because we had a hard time finding the place, but we still had enough time to eat and talk. We were encouraged to speak only in French to make the most of our last week here. I ordered a croque-baguette which was a sandwich with ham, cheese, fries and a salad. The food was somewhat expensive, but it was very good. Everyone enjoyed themselves. When I finally made it back home, I was exhausted.

Cirque du Soleil

I was happy to be able to go to the Cirque du Soleil (Sun Circus) this past Friday. Even though it was very expensive, I thought that it would be a good way to experience Canadian culture. This was the second time that I have ever attended a circus. My previous experience was at the Black Circus in Detroit, Michigan. However, the circus here was different, of course. There were only acrobats and no animals- I was glad because having the animals onstage makes me nervous. Originally, I hadn’t planned to go to the event because it was so expensive. However, I changed my mind at the last minute thinking that it would be a good and fun opportunity. My friend and I bought tickets for the 16h00 show.

When we arrived at the tent, I was surprised at how small it was. Normally, events like that are crowded and it’s easy to get lost. However, there was a smaller tent with fewer people for this event. I’m assuming that this is because they normally do more shows with smaller crowds. Also, maybe the evening shows are larger. There was another one at 19h30. It turned out to be a good thing, though, because everyone was able to see at all angles in the tent and it was harder to get lost. I like the smaller crowds better.

The show turned out to be really good! It lasted for two hours with a 15 minute intermission. Everything was very well done. There were many different stunts as well as a clown act throughout. Also, the live band was excellent! I enjoyed the music along with the performance. At the end, my friends asked me which act was my favorite. I couldn’t choose one! I really enjoyed the Cirque du Soleil.

After the show, my friends and I looked for a nearby restaurant to have dinner downtown. We stopped by small shops along the way. Finally, we found a small restaurant that served pasta and pizza. All of us ordered pasta. We also decided to take advantage of our last weekend to speak in French. So, we spoke in French during the dinner- most of the time, at least. Overall, we had a good time laughing and talking and enjoyed our evening downtown.

Back in Quebec

I was fortunate to be able to return to the United States for one day for my cousin’s wedding. This gave me a chance to see family and friends that I have not seen in weeks. Originally, I was hesitant to go because I knew it would be difficult to return back to Quebec after seeing everyone. However, I am glad now that I made the trip. It gave me a break without completely taking my concentration away from my studies. It was long enough for me to see my friends and family, but not long enough for me to get too comfortable back at home.

When I arrived in the US, I had to get used to everyone speaking in English again. I had gotten used to my first reaction being in French if I accidentally bumped into someone or needed to say “excuse me.” It took a minute for my mind to shift back to English. However, the transition was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I expected to have more instances where I accidentally spoke in French rather than English. However, for the most part, I didn’t have that problem. There was only one time where I spoke to someone in French without realizing it. My aunt woke me up during the night and I said, “J’ai oublié de check-in”- which turned out to be a mixture of both languages. She asked me to repeat myself twice before I realized what I was doing. What I really wanted to say was that “I forgot to check-in” (to the airport). I feel that that was a good sign that French is coming automatically to me now.

After I returned from the wedding, my parents and my aunt came to visit me in Quebec. They wanted to see some of the places that I have talked about and experience a day in my life. I had to act as an interpreter for them while they were here, which turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I had to constantly shift between both languages and be able to listen carefully. I can see now why I prefer written translations over oral interpretations. For me, reading and writing are easier in French than listening and speaking. However, I enjoyed being their tour guide. I took them around the University and let them see our classrooms and the tunnels from building to building. We also took the bus to Old Quebec and spent hours walking around the shops. We were also able to see three different street shows with back flips, juggling, hoops, and fire. In addition, we went inside the Chateau Frontenac. Before we returned to the rooms, we ate at a popular restaurant for young people, Paillard. Fortunately, it turned out to be a beautiful day, even though rain was forecasted, and everyone was able to enjoy themselves.