A review: The Explore Program in Chicoutimi

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A few of you have been asking about the Explore Program (a five-week language-immersion program).

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I did the Explore Program in Spring 2012 in Chicoutimi. Never heard of it? Chicoutimi is an awesome, very-francophone city (60,000 people, 98% francophone) located by the Saguenay and Chicoutimi rivers, just about a 3 hour drive north-east of Québec City.

With that said, onto your questions!

Should I do Explore? At what level of French?

Yes! Do Explore. But…

To get the most out of the program, I think having the basics down is important (although not necessary). Brush up on basics (ex. conjugation rules) so that you can move beyond them during the program. (This is my opinion though, you can do the program at any level of language proficiency.)

Some more advice: Really commit to speaking French during the program. You sign a contract to speak French 100% of the time and if you cheat, you’ll probably end up regretting missing out on progressing in your language learning.

I’m convinced about going to Explore, but should I go to Chicoutimi?

Chicoutimi. I mean, how do you even say that?!

My answer: It depends.

Chicoutimi is A-W-E-S-O-M-E. But there are some things to consider:

Do you love doing awesome things? Example: meeting francophones, playing sports, meeting people from all over Canada, volunteering at a farm, learning lots of French, swimming by mini-waterfalls, experiencing Quebecois culture, talent shows, improv, meeting Glendonites (I ended up in the same apartment as Sarah Campeau!), carnivals, and whale-watching?

Then yes, go.

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I personally loved Chicoutimi and I was so glad I went there. There are a few things to consider in deciding if Chicoutimi is right for you:

Do you want university credits and/or to stay with a host family?

Chicoutimi offers both. The advantage of getting uni credits is that you can save time and money on doing those courses during the academic year. A host family is helpful because conversing francophones is the. best. way. to learn French.

Do you want a vibrant city with an awesome night-life or a more laid-back town?

Chicoutimi has a few bars and karaoke places, but compared to a place like Toronto, it is pretty small. Its downtown core is essentially one street.

That being said, I really enjoyed its laid-back restaurants, Kambio Café (a fair-trade type place with a weekly coffee house show), and the river that I could walk to from my residence.

How far are you willing to travel? 

Chicoutimi is far (from Toronto). Driving with no breaks or stops is 10 hours. So be ready to pay for a plane ticket or make the trip by bus for… a while.

chicoutimi map

Do you enjoy the Québecois accent?

I adore it. Not all people do. (Keep in mind French is spoken with different kinds of accents, just like English!)

My teacher is the grinning one in the black dress. She was PHENOMENAL and totally Quebecois.

My teacher is the grinning one in the black dress. She was PHENOMENAL and totally Quebecois.

Well I can only say so much. This video basically sums everything up and lets you see what everything looked like. If you have other questions, leave them in the comments or on Formspring!

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Things to do on campus and in Toronto

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I have a feeling I’m kind of abnormal. I go to university, which according to pop culture, means I should be in a sorority, streaking across the quad, or competing in an a capella competition. I have yet to do any of the above, but I still feel like my life is an adventure.

For the past few weeks, my life has been a dumping ground for all kinds of awesome. I saw Argo, trekked through a hail-storm, went on a forest walk, had a banana pancake party at 2 am, and watched a lot of goat videos (let’s not talk about that). In other words, my life is pretty great.

I have no explanation.

I have no explanation.

I was thinking about it, and I realized that you (future students) might not really know much about what there is to do in Toronto. Here are some of the adventury-type things I like to do to get you inspired.

See the city lights. 

If you have a friend with a car, drive down to the Sound Academy to see the skyline lit up at night. This is the perfect night expedition.

The Bayview tunnel in front of Glendon... where many adventures begin!

The Bayview tunnel in front of Glendon… where many adventures begin!

Go for a walk in the Sunnybrook Forest.

This place is perfect for aimless contemplation, bird-watching, and creeping other peoples’ dogs (there’s a dog park 20 minutes down the trail).

The Sunnybrook Forest on a melty-warm winter day. Perfectly serene for a solitary moment.

The Sunnybrook Forest on a melty-warm winter day. Perfectly serene for a solitary moment.

birds birds birds

birds birds birds

dogs dogs dogs

dogs dogs dogs

Go to Keele on the shuttle bus for a meal. 

The food at Keele is pretty legit (i.e. Hero Burger, Mac sushi, the Underground Restaurant, Yogen Fruz, Booster Juice). You can pay for all of the above with your meal plan dollars.

A breakfast of coffee, fruit, and a chocolate chip cream cheese bagel at Keele Campus.

A breakfast of coffee, fruit, and a chocolate chip cream cheese bagel at Keele Campus.

Check out a creative event on campus.

Two weeks ago, my friends Max and Brynn, Four Minutes Til Midnight, and Trouble and Daughter played a concert at the Lunik Coop. Glendon Théatre also puts on amazing drama productions like the Fridge Festival (which I’ll be performing in; you’re welcome to come see!).

Four Minutes Til Midnight performing on the Lunik Café stage.

Four Minutes Til Midnight performing on the Lunik Café stage.

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Go adventuring downtown. 

Dundas Square, adorable cafés, and the Eaton Centre. With a $10 TTC Day Pass, there are heaps of things to do and see in a day off.

Tea with my friend Andy at David's Tea, located at Yonge and Eglinton. This place has lots of shops and little stores. The stretch just south of Bayview and Eglinton is also fulllllll of little shops.

A cuppa with my friend Andy at David’s Tea, located at Yonge and Eglinton. If you’re looking for more cute shops, check out the stretch on Bayview south of Eglinton.

Adventuring is a daily pursuit. Fellow Glendonites, what fun things do you do in your spare time?