Wish you could parlez-français a bit better? Travel to a francophone city in Canada to practice your français in an authentic environment and watch your language skills grow!
In summer 2014, I participated in Canada’s Explore Program in Jonquière, Saguenay, Québec. I had an absolute blast and two of my friends have since participated too. Here’s what the program is, and how you can take advantage of it too!
If you want to check out my day-by-day blog from the Explore program, check it out here.
What is the Explore Program?
From the Explore website:
“Explore is a five-week intensive French-immersion bursary program that is offered during the spring or summer for people with any skill level in French. Explore participants are awarded a $2,200 bursary (taxable income) that covers tuition fees for the course, instructional materials, meals, and accommodation. You will discover another region of Canada while learning French in classes adapted to your language level.”
How Do I Apply?
Sometime in the Fall, the application process opens for the following Spring/Summer. Visit the Explore website, choose your top three destinations, create an account, fill out an application, save, print and mail. Done. Easy, right? You’ll receive an email around April notifying you whether you have been selected or if you have been wait-listed. The selection is by a lottery, so don’t feel if you haven’t been selected that your application was missing something. You just weren’t one of the first X number to be drawn.
My Tips on Getting the Most Out of Explore:
1) Apply before March
The application process is from October- something until the end-of-March/early-April. There are usually extensions of a week or two for those last-minuters, but I wouldn’t rely on it. Get your application in before the beginning of March and you will be certain it will get in on time (even if Canada Post strikes!).
2) Be Open to All Locations
Many students get upset when they can’t go to Montréal or Québec City, but remember that big cities are more touristy and often everyone speaks English. Be open to smaller towns and other provinces. Alberta, Nova Scotia and Northern Québec have a lot to offer too! Smaller cities will have more authentic speakers who actually can’t speak English, therefore forcing you to speak French and practice more often. Immersion is the best way to learn any language!
3) Select the Other Locations Option
When you apply, there is an option that asks if you are willing to visit a location other than your top three. Select yes, as I’m sure many would rather be able to travel SOMEWHERE than not travel at all! You will be notified of the location if it is not in your top three, and you can always turn down the offer.
4) Accept Immediately
If you do win a bursary, accept the offer ASAP! You only have 10 days to do so, and it is easy to let the days slip away. If you accept immediately, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. This applies to all messages you receive, plus sign-ups for any bonus activities offered, as they fill up quickly!
5) Give the Host Families a Try
Lots of locations offer residence and host families as options. Give a host family a try. Residences are full of students who speak in English even though they are only supposed to speak in French. The temptation to speak English may be too much. Also, the residents eat in the school cafeteria which is closed on weekends, so you will be given a $40 weekend allowance to do your own groceries and cooking. Host families however will cook all of your meals for you, and it will be yummy, homemade local recipes; way better than the cafeteria food. Staying with a local family will also give you a more immersive, cultural experience. Your host family is also never permanent. If you have a problem or would like to switch, talk to the housing advisor at the school. You will fill out a form with dietary restrictions, preferences, etc. before you leave, and the coordinator will try their best to find the best family to fit you.
Have a Question?
Feel free to ask anything about my experience with the Explore Program, Jonquière, living with my wonderful host family, or anything else you can think of! Ask me in the comments section and I will try my very best to help you out. Alternatively, feel free to read what other have asked below or check out the FAQ’s.