It’s been a whirlwind of a journey so far! When I signed up to participate in L’École d’été de français, a five week intensive French immersion program at the University of Sherbrooke, my greatest ambition was to improve my French language skills, but I quickly realized that this was only one part of a greater experience. From nightly activities to weekend getaways, there is never a dull moment here.
The program’s most important rule is to communicate in French at all times or risk being expelled. Undoubtedly challenging, but surprisingly fun, this requirement immediately creates common ground between me and my fellow students. Our competencies range from beginner to advanced, and many of us struggle to communicate with each other, often resorting to miming or adding a French accent to an English word. We witness each other persevere and improve everyday – there’s truly nothing quite like it.
My French class recently visited downtown Sherbrooke. The city has an eclectic vibe, with large murals and street-lined cafés. During our afternoon there, we indulged in cappuccino-flavoured ice cream by Lac des Nations and sipped white wine at Siboire, a microbrewery located in the town’s old train station. We also visited Uplands Cultural and Heritage Centre, located in the borough of Lennoxville. Housed in a Georgian-style heritage home that was built in 1862, the centre exhibits a mixture of historic and contemporary artworks and offers tea time in the picturesque garden. Although I spoke French during my visit, the experience felt very English, and the house’s history is a testament to the mixture of French and English heritage present in the area.
I also had the chance to take a day trip to Montreal, which is undoubtedly more cosmopolitan than Sherbrooke. Upon arrival, my first mission was to find poutine because that’s just what you do when you’re a tourist in Montreal. I went on to spend the afternoon ambling about Old Montreal, where I watched animated street performers, admired the Parisian-esque architecture and climbed up the Montreal clock tower located at the Old Port of Montreal, which boasts tremendous views if you can stomach ascending a narrow spiral staircase to the summit. In the evening, I attended Les FrancoFolies de Montreal, an annual program that offers free concerts performed by French-Canadian musicians. Listening to the calming folk-jazz tunes under a starlit night was the perfect way to end my day in Montreal.