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!

Extraodinaires: students who work part-time

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Until I was in university, I never had a job during the school year. Last year I got hired at my first part-time job (this one!) and I’ve realized how working during school is an awesome advantage.

Working and studying at the same time…

1. prepares you for the workplace

2. pays you for (hopefully) doing something you enjoy

3. gives you perspective on what you’re learning in class

Many of my friends have a part-time jobs and like me, a lot of them work right on campus.

Some of my friends who work on campus

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of my friends and their part-time jobs. Full disclosure: I’ve only asked people who like their jobs!

Michelle helpdesk

Michelle, Helpdesk Technician

“I help students with their Passport York accounts, email addresses, and Moodle, first and foremost. I also sometimes install computers for staff and faculty, troubleshoot weird technical things and feel like a superhero if/when I fix them, and set up the A/V for campus events. The people who work here are awesome and I’ve made some great friends. I’ve also gotten to learn a ton about super practical computer things and I’ve gotten to know a lot of faculty and staff through my job.

Having a job during school pulls in some extra cash that students so desperately need, as well as helping you practice time management and all that fun stuff. Working on campus is a great experience, especially if you’re a new student, since you get to meet so many people.”

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Sienna, Student Researcher

“I research human-bonobo communication by analyzing and transcribing audio and video files from the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS).

The things I’ve learned from my research have really humbled me as a human being. The similarities between humans and animals like bonobo apes just remind me how connected we are to the rest of the world – and it’s also really amazing to see a bonobo playing Pac Man with more success than I ever could!”

Juan Garrido

Juan, Office Ambassador and eAmbassador

“I work as an office ambassador with Student Recruitment. This means that in addition to being an eAmbassador I sit at the front desk of the Welcome Centre, answer emails and phone calls and help the Liaison staff with their projects. It’s awesome because I get to work with some amazing people and I get the chance to really help future students ease the bridge to university!”

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Ana, Receptionist at the Glendon Athletic Centre

“I’m a receptionist at the Glendon Athletic Club. I’m responsible for greeting members, handing them their towels, washing and folding towels, answering phone calls, renting/selling gym equipment, and signing in instructors and personal trainers. My job is awesome because I get to interact just enough with students from Glendon and people from the community, but not to the point of getting people-fatigued. Working at a gym also keeps you motivated and eager to get/keep in shape! Plus, I can now fold in my sleep!”

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Sarah, Academic Services help desk

I work at the front desk of Academic Services. I greet students as they approach the counter, and try to answer any questions they may have about academics (classes, credits, graduation, degree requirements, the Explore program, the pass/fail option and petitions).

My job is awesome for a couple reasons:

  • My colleagues are AMAZING! I am so fortunate to work with a fun group of people who are knowledgeable and caring.
  • I get to use both English and French. I love that my job challenges me in this way and allows be to practically apply my language skills.
  • The job has lovely hours, the office is open between 9-4, but closes for an hour between 12:30 and 1:30pm, so I never work past 4pm. Plus our office is closed during the weekend.

More questions?

If you have more questions about any of these jobs, leave a comment and I will pass it on to the right person. Glendon Tip: once you get to campus, don’t forget to check out Counselling and Disability Services for career counselling and more.

And a big thank you to all of my friends who told us about their jobs! Y’all are the best!

the "Love List"

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I finished my exams on Monday! It’s a bizarre feeling to be left without a schedule, with hours available for pursuing the things I’ve been leaving on the back-burner for a while.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use my time. I was inspired by an article about this thing called the “love list.” The idea is to write down the things that you love doing – that bring you joy and satisfaction. Then, you make another list of things that you actually spend your time doing. After that, you evaluate how you’re spending your time.
Just a few things off the top of my head:
I need more: face-to-face, I need less: email/text | more: outside, less: inside | more: playing music, less: YouTube | more: real-book reading, less: article-surfing
I guess there will always be things that we have to do, so the challenge is cutting out the unnecessary time-sucking soul-draining things, and transplanting better things into their places. It’s kind of like surgery, but without the blood.
Thinking about your time and the way you spend it can be a good way to prepare for university. There will be a lot of opportunities, so make sure to choose the ones that will feed your soul!
Play sports? Join a team or house league.
Love singing? Make sure you head out to open-mic nights at Lunik and think about starting your own radio show.
Need to write? Write for ProTem or take an English course if you’re not an English major.
One last caveat: You won’t be able to do everything, so aim to do a few things well.
P.S. Spring is coming into full bloom at Glendon! Just a few shots I’ve taken on campus:
Intense cherry blossoms next to York Hall. Gorgeous.
My favourite tree at Glendon.
To me, it looks like something out of a Group of Seven Painting.
I’m a morning person.
I love walking to the quad early in the day as the sun is shining through the branches and mist.
P.P.S. I was sort of hoping you wouldn’t scroll all the way down here, but now that you have… sorry. For my absence. (My head is hanging in shame.) I kind of went into exams/studying/surviving mode for a while. I promise to be posting more regularly. Ciao!

5 major pitfalls to avoid during your first year of university

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Freshman year is a lot to handle. If you were my little sister or brother and just entering university, here are the things that I’d warn you about. 

1. Junk food

The university offers a lot of meal options… the hard part is choosing the healthier ones. Make sure to have a balanced diet (man cannot live on meal replacements, cereal, and bacon alone…). You need to eat vegetables. Real ones.

2. Depression
Many people face this in their freshman year. Sometimes depression is triggered by the drastic life changes, sometimes it’s the stress of being in a new environment. You may find that your support network – parents, friends, boy/girlfriend – is distant or difficult to access.
Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with people whom you trust. And be open and honest.If people don’t know you’re struggling, they can’t help you. Keep in mind that Glendon has counselling services in the manor that you can come to anytime. If you feel embarrassed about looking for counselling, don’t be. We all face hard times.

3. Lack of extra-curricular involvement
Many students miss out on getting involved in clubs and activities during the first few months of school. Then they mistakenly think that they’ve missed their chance entirely! It’s never too late to join clubs. Getting social isn’t just fun, it’s foundational for the rest of your university experience. The connections you make with friends, teachers, and staff can carry you through hard times, and even lesser struggles (e.g. looking for a place to crash overnight, getting a job reference, asking for lecture notes you missed).

4. Feeling trapped in a major
You always have a choice. Remember that. Many, many people change their major during their first, second, or even third year. Remain flexible with your program, plan ahead, and don’t feel pressured to stick with a degree that you’ve realized isn’t for you (I’m saying this from experience).

5. Being ignorant of campus services
York University has a ridiculous amount of programs, staff, and amenities that can help you in almost every aspect of your life. Don’t miss out because you don’t know. 


A final note: Don’t look at the potholes.

Although it’s good to know about these pitfalls, I think it’s better to focus on the positive in the long run. My driving instructor once told me “don’t look at the potholes… you’ll drive towards what you’re focusing on.” His point: focus your energies on where you want to be, rather than where you don’t want to be. That’s sound advice.
Ask yourself: What person do you want to become at the end of your degree? What career or lifestyle are you aiming for? What things do you value? 
The earlier you start thinking about the end, the more prepared you’ll be when it comes. 

Vision is a powerful thing.
Good luck!