A Summer of EXPLORE: French Immersion at Laval University

Recently, it was a friend’s birthday, and every time I talk to her, it brings me back to the wonderful days of how we met in the Explore Program. Also, I recently went to my old University, and was speaking about this program, and someone responded to me “Quebec City, isn’t that the party school?” and I said “Oh no, it’s not” and they responded with hesitancy. Maybe I’m out of touch, or maybe it’s cause I’m not a “party person” and I usually like differing opinions about a place (why I like it and someone else doesn’t), but with Quebec City, I get defensive. Because to me, this place is magical and the best place you should go to EXPLORE.

For anyone that’s not aware, Explore is a French Immersion Program in Canada that allows Canadian students (16+) to attend a summer learning French at 1 of 18 host universities in Canada. For more information click here.


Let’s start with addressing how biased I am since I didn’t do any other Explore Program in another city. I don’t care. I still think it’s the best, and especially  I fell in love with Quebec City. It’s the reason I moved back to Quebec for 8 months, the reason I still continue to learn French (and exam for it) to this day, and the reason I’m recommending you go there now. Right now. Applications just opened for the Summer 2017 session and are due February 15th! It’s a lottery draw so students can apply again and again!

1.The City.

I could (and will in a later post) go on about this forever, but the number one reason I think Quebec City is the best place for explore is because it’s a French-speaking city (unlike if you go to another province) and it’s small enough to get the cozy-small-town feel but big enough that you will never be bored.

Want to go for an evening stroll? Vieux Quebec will provide you with the cutest streets to get lost in. Bored? Why not go to the one of the free shows Cirque de Soleil puts on every single night.

2. The Program.

7 - QC - Sunrise.jpg
Sunset over the school.

I really appreciated how dedicated the staff were to teaching French. Instead of just a regular classes with the teacher just speaking at you, they had a very 360 method of teaching. There were 3 classes, writing, pronunciation, and comprehension. They were all very interactive and taught French from different mediums and perspectives.

3. The Finances.

My first attempt at cooking in the kitchen. I know, I know, with these cooking/art photography skills, I should be a foodie blogger.

How much does it cost?
Other than the plane ticket, it was basically free! For many Canadian students, you’re able to apply for a bursary. It’s $2220, and that fully covered my tuition, housing, books, and there was some leftover for food.

What about food?
Every University has their own meal program, some give you cards loaded with credit for their cafeteria and some give you straight up money. We got $700 cash for the 6 weeks so depending on how you budgeted, you could spend your money otherwise.

4.  The Music.

Sitting on the grass and waiting at sunset to see Stevie Wonder perform might be one of the coolest things I’ll ever do.

The Festival D’Ete De Quebec, is one of the most insane festivals I’ve ever been to. Not only do they have multiple stages with tons and tons of artists from a lot of different genres of music, but it’s a crazy steal. I paid $75  for 10 days worth of festival music with my wristband! It looks like they’ve since upped their price but now offer an early bird special if you buy before June. If this is something you definitely want to do – I highly recommend getting the wristband!

I saw Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepson, Passion Pit, Ellie Goulding, Stevie Wonder and lots more! There was also Guns and Roses, Wiz Khalifa and musical acts of every genre!

6. The never-ending social calendar.

A sample of the weekly events emails.This is only a small example of the many activities available!

And if you were done studying, concert hopping, and still had spare time, there were also numerous events happening on the weekend. Some of these events as you can see are paid so you keep that in mind when you budget your trip.

The options are endless, I did a number of things including hiking, visiting Montmorency Falls, whale watching, taste testing local products, to a good old fashion barn party where ate, danced, and learned how maple syrup was extracted (how Canadian), and we even did one of the most random/hipster things to date. We went to a forest in the middle of a night, followed a paper bag lantern trail to a lake, then we proceeded to sit on logs next to the lake as musicians came  in on canoes and began playing music in response to the sounds of nature that evening. Am I cool yet?

7. The Rules

As annoying as it was to always have this on, the hoarder in me in me just couldn’t let it go.

And maybe this is the overachiever in me but Laval enforced strict rules about speaking French. After we got tested, we all got coloured wristbands that corresponded with our level of French.

Blue = Beginner
Yellow = Fluent.

We had to wear them at all times and speak French (even when just around campus) according to our level. Obviously, no one expects beginners to be able to speak every conversation in French. If you got caught speaking lower than your level (for words/convo you should know), you were given a red ticket. If you got 3 you got kicked out of the program. You could also be given red slips for not wearing your wristband to signify your level. Sometimes the coordinators would come around class to do random checks. I’m not kidding. But there were also green slips for when a coordinator hears you were trying (even if it’s bad French). And at the end there were prizes with the most green slips. While this seems kind of harsh for a fun summer program, it did help people like me break out of my comfort zone. I could speak bad French but as long as I was trying, no one was laughing at me for it because we were all in the same boat. So rules yes, but for good reason.

8. The People

It’s hard to move away from your friends and family I know. This was not my first time away so it was less scary but the insecurities were still there. What if no one likes me?

Like any program it’s cliché to say, the friends you will make but this is very true. And it’s easy to doubt yourself, that you will make friends, and more important, the everlasting friendships. But if you put yourself out there, even if you’re insecure, you meet some really cool people. While I met lots of people in Explore, the best to date is still P (who’s birthday it was yesterday).

And you can meet people in the most unexpected ways. It doesn’t always have to being out if that’s not your thing. For example, how did we become friends?

By being the worse students in the class. I’m not kidding. We were both placed in the  intermediate French course but it was obvious we were only there because our written and comprehension levels were high, but speaking and listening? Na-da. So when everyone had to pair up for presentations and activities, we paired up with each other because at least if we were going to fail miserably, it wouldn’t be alone and we could laugh about it. Even though she lives in Alaska and I’m from Vancouver, we’ve been friends ever since – mostly cause we both like to eat. We just met up in London !


Final Tips & Things I wish I Knew

  • Bring some kind of fanning device. I stayed in a building with no AC and it was HOT.
  • While you’re at it, also an umbrella and raincoat. The city is popular for freak rain storms.
  • Also, because at Laval you get money, cooking is so much cheaper than eating out and they have a kitchen downstairs. If you can, bring a kitchenware and utensils.
    • If you forget or don’t have room in your suitcase, there are a ton of cheap options at Dollarama
  • Speaking of, Dollarama will be your bestfriend. Didn’t bring enough school supplies? Need something for a project? Prop for a presentation? $3 pot to cook in? Dollarama.
  • Another convenient thing about Laval is it’s near a mall where you can buy things, take out money, etc. Place Sainte Foy is about a 15 to 20 minute walk from the school (depending on your Residence Building) and also has a Metro Plus for you to buy groceries!
  • Bring flip flops. I have been in many hostels before so I’d like to think I’m not a complete princess. But sometimes the bathrooms were quite gross because some people (who will remained unnamed mostly cause I don’t know who they are) thought it was appropriate to leave sanitary products out in the open. Used, sanitary products. Enough said, don’t touch anything unless you need to.
  • Limited showers – time yourself accordingly when getting ready in the morning.

And that’s about it!

Have fun wherever you end up EXPLORing!