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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14 thoughts on “A review: The Explore Program in Chicoutimi

  1. Kat

    Great video to have on your page! I have just been accepted onto EXPLORE and trying to find as much info as I can and that video I havn’t seen yet! Anything else you can say about the program? Advice? Experiences?

    Thanks!

  2. Esen

    heyy so good to find someone who participated in this, so I also applied for the same program (for this spring) and same school (but i have to stay with host family, not sure how that will go…) anyways my question is that I’m not canadian citizen but I have permanent residence and in the email and registration form they ask for canadian citizenship proof. i already registered but I’m not sure if they will kick me out because of that? do you know? I mean I thought it was open to everyone and i did indicate my residence status before applying. also if they do kick me out, do i get the money back ($200) before classes start since i (if i wont get accepted) wont be eligible? Thanks (it would be better if you replied via my email because i got other questions!) 🙂

  3. What bus service is offered to Chicoutimi? Do you know the name of the bus company there? I am trying to find a way to bus there, but I can’t seem to find directions.

  4. Katherine

    HEY LADY! THIS IS AMAZING 😀 I didn’t know you did the Explore program. I just applied for in back in January and I am waiting to hear back from them either sometime this week or next. *fingers crossed* This looks like a superb experience! We need to talk more about this soontimes.

    Love you lady

  5. Blake Frigault

    Hi there! I’ve stumbled across yours and Sarah Yu’s ambassador work for Glendon! I must say, you are an EXCELLENT reference! Although i go to Brock, i also found a link to your experience at Explore! During the registration process i had no idea where i wanted to apply for University credits so i looked online and read your blog!!! I love your work Esther! I just got accepted to the program at UQTR in Chicoutimi!! Is there any advice or tips that you couldn’t have lived without during your experience?

    Thanks!

    • Thanks so much, Blake! And congrats on getting accepted :). Well it’s funny you should ask cause just the other day I was wondering how much better my French would be if I had spoken French 100% of the time (I was pretty disciplined, but I got lazier as time went on)… so if you’re serious about learning, your individual commitment level to the program is beneficial to consider prior to going. Warning: If your French is like mine (not completely fluent), speaking French all the time will be challenging and even emotionally draining, especially at the beginning. Persist through that! It’s totally worth it for what you’ll learn and how much more confident you’ll feel in your language skills by the end of the program!

      Other things that come to mind…
      – I would not encourage doing a bus trip all in one go… it almost killed me.
      – If funds are low you can try carpooling back with a service like AlloStop (there’s an office at the organic store close to the campus). That’s what I did on my way back, but with people I already knew so that I’d be safe if the person turned out to be a shady character.
      – I know I already said this in my post, but if you can, live with a host family. It’s a bit of a gamble regarding what kind of family you’ll get, but everyone I know who did this learned more French. Also, if you’re a vegetarian or love your veggies, just be prepared for a lot of meat. My friends staying with host families kept telling me how heavy the meals were.
      – Other than that… PLEASE go see a sunrise on the river. The sunrise I saw on my last morning in Chicoutimi was the prettiest sunrise I have everrrrr seen.
      – Café Kambio has cheap live music shows: go see one; I never did!
      – If you get placed in a higher level of French than you think you’re ready for, don’t be scared. That’s what I did and even though it was challenging (and a bit humiliating) at first, I learned more that way.

      Be prepared to feel uncomfortable at times, challenged at others, and to develop some really great friendships and experiences! You should have a great journey!

  6. Aidan

    Hi,
    I am doing the explore program soon. I was wondering how strict they are in terms of keeping track of you. For example if I were to leave campus for the weekend (instead of participating in their provided events, would they notice?)

    • Hey Aidan,

      If I remember correctly weekends are off. They provide 3 optional trips within the 5-week period to events like fjord hiking, the zoo, and other places I can’t remember anymore, but you need to opt-in to those programs. So in other words I think a weekend trip is totally do-able (I did a day trip myself to Québec City), but I can’t say for sure.

      Hope this helps!

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