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.

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.

Another Day

As Mondays usually go, I woke up without a desire to get back into the daily routine of classes and homework. However, I decided to leave the house with a forced positive attitude. I knew that if I didn’t start the day off right, I would have a rough day- if last week was any indication. So, I left for my classes with an optimistic outlook for the day.

One reason I was not looking forward to classes today was that I knew I had to present again with my group. Our assignment from last week was to find a native French speaker and interview them concerning their families, careers, and dreams. My group chose to interview my host mom last Saturday. It turned out to be a fun evening as we ate dinner and talked. Then, we gave our presentation today where we summarized the questions asked and showed a video clip of the interview. Unfortunately, the computer wouldn’t work properly. So, we didn’t have a power point for the presentation, but we were still able to show the video. I think the presentation went well under the circumstances.

After classes, I went to my program director’s office to turn in my assignments as well as receive my lunch money for the week. Then, I had less than thirty minutes to get ready for my “atelier” at 12h30. Fortunately, I had already hastily eaten my lunch earlier during my break between classes.

My atelier for today was Jeux de Société (board games). Fortunately, I managed to maintain my positive attitude up until this point. So, I was able to converse and participate well during the workshop. Also, it turned out that we played one of my favorite games, Taboo. However, it was much more difficult in French. I feel like I got a lot out of the activity, though.

After the workshop, I realized that I didn’t have any real plans for the day. So, I decided to give myself another taste of home and eat at my favorite fast food place again, McDonald’s. Our bus passes by McDonald’s on the way home. So, my roommate and I decided to take the detour. Once we got there, it was my challenge to see if I could order completely in French this time. I asked for a McDouble, a small fry, and a small strawberry smoothie. And, I was able to order in French with no problem. That turned out to be one of the best smoothies I had ever tasted!

Spending Time with Friends

Today turned out to be a good day for hanging out with different people. I had the opportunity to get to know my classmates as well as my roommate a little better. However, I first had to finish my projects at school.

My classes turned out to be somewhat draining today because I had to do a group presentation and read aloud in front of the class. This is always difficult for me because I’m uncomfortable talking in front of people. We did our group presentation on adjectives. I felt that if I relaxed, I would do fine. I think it turned out ok.

After that class, I had to read aloud for my Phonetics course. We have been working on rhythm and how to make “music” with the French language. I didn’t know this before, but every language has a rhythm that is like music. The French language flows in a different way than English does. It has been very interesting to listen to everyone try to learn the proper way to speak and read aloud in French. The intonation is very important. After much practice last night, my professor told me that I did well with my reading today.

After the stress of being “on the spot” in my classes, I went to my conversation “atelier” (workshop) after a hasty lunch. The theme was “les goûts” (tastes). We discussed our likes and preferences and did exercises related to the theme. The workshop started with a “brise-glace” (ice breaker game) similar to Pictionary. Then, we did another activity where we had to find people in the room with the same interests. The workshop lasted an hour and fifteen minutes.

Once we finished our workshop, we met briefly for another group project. Then, we decided to spend some time sight-seeing in Old Quebec. We went to a museum that used to be a prison. It is a library today. One thing I noticed is that all of the older buildings have smaller doorways and hallways. It seems as if people were significantly shorter during that time.

For supper, we went to a popular restaurant for young people in the area. It is known for poutine, which is a popular québécois dish with fries, cheese, and a special sauce. The food turned out to be very good and we enjoyed ourselves until we were ready to go home.

First Week of Classes

I have just finished the first week of my classes and am beginning the second week at the Laval University. So far, I am enjoying it. Our first day was orientation.

Of course, when we entered the University, instructions were given to us in French. So, my roommate and I went to the area to get our schedules. However, after standing in line for a while, some of the others in our group from Georgia told us that we were on the wrong floor. We were in line with the Canadians! So, we went up to the next floor and got the correct paperwork and our schedule for the day.

Classes started right away. As soon as we received our schedule, we were told that class would be starting in the next few minutes at 8h30am (8:30am)- however, it actually turned out to be 9h30am. So, I had the opportunity to make some friends.

Although I am not in class with anyone in my group from Georgia, I haven’t had difficulty in finding friends. I am in class with the same people all day and for one of my workshops. The people are very nice and friendly. Three young ladies in particular sit by me and I have been able to talk to them. Two of them are Canadians and the other is from the Dominican Republic. One of the Canadians is Asian and the other is Honduran. We have been speaking a combination of French, English, and Spanish.

After lunch, I went to the computer lab with my friends to create my NIP (PIN) for the computers and wifi on campus. However, I had great difficulty in using the computers in the lab. The keyboard was in French! There were additional keys and some had three symbols on them instead of only two. When typing my email address, I could not figure out how to type the “@” sign. I also could not find the apostrophe for an email I was trying to send. I still have not figured out how to use the French keyboard completely.

After creating my NIP, I had to go to the auditorium for an assembly. There, they explained the rules for the French as a foreign language program. They explained the requirement for us to wear color-coded wristbands to indicate our level of French. That way, when we go to the cafeteria or other places around campus, people will know how to address us in French. Also, we receive discounts at certain stores and restaurants if we wear the bands. We received bands based on our placement test scores. The blue band indicates a beginner level; the red band, an intermediate level; and the yellow denotes superior. I wear the red band.

Also, in the assembly, they introduced the “animateurs,” a group of young people on campus who are there to support us as we learn to speak French. They are our “cheerleaders” and keep us posted on campus activities. They also host our workshops where we practice conversation. On the main floor, they have an office where we can go to ask for help or simply speak to them. They go with us on all excursions.

At the end of the day, I went to take the picture for my id. I wasn’t exactly sure if I was to smile or not, as I am unfamiliar with their customs for taking pictures. However, of course, I was displeased with my picture along with most of my friends. In my opinion, I look lost in a new country.