Araseli Zarate

“En français, s’il vous plaît!” Yes, that is what I heard for six whole weeks. It means, “In French please!” Now I know what it means, but before my six weeks in Quebec, Canada, I would have had no idea. During the summer I went on my first out of country travel. I was both nervous and non-expectant about a country such as Canada, because I imagined in would be the same as the U.S. I landed in Montreal and everything seemed as if I was still in the U.S, until I heard the “Quebecois” speaking French all around me. I remember asking myself, “Oh gosh, what are you doing here?” I felt like I was really not there and would be back home any second. Now time to tell about my awesome experience at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR).

I went to the city of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers in French) for a French immersion program in which everything, and I do mean everything, you hear around you is in French. This means that you need to speak French to the people around you because then how will you get around? And this is when you are probably wondering, “What if I can't speak French?” Let me answer that question, “Then you will not survive, it is either sink or swim.” Because of this, I dreaded my first two weeks at UQTR.

On the second day of the first week, there was a countdown in which it was solemnly promised to not speak anything but French during all the time attending the program. After the count down, not even students spoke English to me! The reason I disliked my first two weeks in UQTR was because I felt anxious constantly at the thought of being caught by the counselors and getting a red card. The famous red card system is a procedure in which if someone is caught speaking any language other than French a red card is received which penalizes a person's required points to stay in the program. There are five points granted at the beginning of the program, every time a red card is received two points get taken away, however there is a chance for redemption of one point. To redeem one point you have to memorize and recite a French poem at the main office (this is actually quite dreaded). I did receive a red card during my stay for “speaking English”.

At the beginning of the program, everyone takes a placement test that indicates what class level one is to be part of (classes went in alphabetical order to the easiest to most difficult). I was placed in level L (intermediate). Level L was challenging for me because it felt like all my other classmates knew more French than I did. The chance to change levels was given, but I decided stay in my assigned class and push myself, this is also the reason I disliked the program at first. However, because I stayed in the class that challenged me, I learned a lot of French. Throughout my stay in Quebec I had many experiences that caused anxiety.

Ordering food was the most anxiety provoking experience I had. Every time I would have to order food even my stomach felt butterflies. Paying at the cash register was also very anxiety provoking because I didn't know my numbers in French very well. I would always pay with a big bill because, “No way would what I ordered surpass such amount!” Doing this led me to having too much change money. As I said already, I hated my first two weeks at UQTR, but I loved my next four weeks.

During the program, we were taken to the grand cities of Quebec City and Montreal. Visiting these cities was great, because I got to see the beauty of their downtown. The program also held “Soirees”, or parties, for us that were quite fun. Overtime, communicating with French speakers became less difficult, and before I knew it I was ordering food with ease and paying in exact amounts. Suddenly the six weeks of the program ended. At the program I made many amazing friends that I miss dearly and we still keep in contact. Ironically I also miss hearing and speaking French constantly. Attending the French program at Trois-Rivières is the best experience I have had and I recommend it to everyone. I promise if you choose to attend the program you will fall in love with the French language, and Canada, just as I did.