A Review of the J’Explore program site Rivière-du-Loup

 


 

The Town

Rivière-du-Loup is a small town of ~19,000 people on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river. Although not terribly large, it offers several Roman Catholic churches, a movie theatre, a dance hall, and plenty of bars and food establishments to hang out with friends at. Other attractions are the “Parc des Chutes”, a large waterfall close to mainstreet, and “La Pointe”, which is a bit of a hike from town but offers a fantastic view of the St. Lawrence (perfect for watching sunsets). riviere du loup 1

Rivière-du-Loup is a small town of ~19,000 people on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river. Although not terribly large, it offers several Roman Catholic churches, a movie theatre, a dance hall, and plenty of bars and food establishments to hang out with friends at. Other attractions are the “Parc des Chutes”, a large waterfall close to mainstreet, and “La Pointe”, which is a bit of a hike from town but offers a fantastic view of the St. Lawrence (perfect for watching sunsets).

Because of the town’s size, most locations of interest are within walking distance and many students live close to the school. However, students living far from the school have the option of taking a school bus at various times coinciding with class and activities. 
The French program in Rivière-du-Loup is hosted by a CÉGEP, which is similar to a community college. This means that most classes and activities take place in one of two buildings. Such proximity to other students, and the fact that the program tends to be smaller, allows for many opportunities to meet people. The facilities themselves were quite good. Besides classrooms, the school has a library, several computer labs, a pool, a large gym, a weight room, and two cafaterias.

 

 

The Program

The program at Rivière-du-Loup involved three types of class- cours/course, atelier journal/newspaper workshop, and atelier communication/communication workshop – which students attended either in the morning or the afternoon according to a schedule.

rivier du loup 2

Cours was similar to a traditional classroom which involved grammar and vocabulary lessons taught by a teacher. Atelier journal involved the application of learned French by allowing students the opportunity to write a newspaper article with the guidance of an animatrice/organizer. Atelier communication exposed students to French culture and allowed for creative expression as students worked with the help of an animatrice to design skits, dances and other acts for a variety show, which was held towards the end of the program.

While students were strongly encouraged to speak French at all times and were admonished for not doing so, the penalty for being caught was usually a warning, light in comparison to the strict penalties of other Explore locations.
This fostered a more relaxed environment that resulted in quite a bit of spoken English when teachers were not around. While this may be a comfort or near necessity for students in the lower levels, higher levels and anybody serious about the immersion experience may find this frustrating.

Personal Experience
I was a beginner student and I found the experience to be very enjoyable, if not a bit too comfortable. Our group overcame the taboo of speaking English early on, which resulted in regular use of English. This did make the experience less painful and allowed for a more social atmosphere, especially for lower levels such as myself, but also cheapened the immersion experience and made things more convenient, which by the nature of the program they shouldn’t be. It also made thinking in French more difficult as the option for English was more readily available.

It is very difficult, especially when your knowledge of French is so limited, to avoid speaking English. It is exhausting thinking in French all of the time and you will find yourself gravitating towards English, even subconsciously. I was definitely guilty of this. One must be constantly aware of this and fight the temptation to give in.

Things to expect:
– Expect to be tired. Always. All the time. Toujours.
– Expect to work hard. Without a solid grammar base (ie. high school French), a lot of French feels like memorization.
– Expect to feel a bit foolish at times. Sometimes I would plan a cool phrase to say, and was met with confusion.
– Expect to ask a lot of questions. More advanced students especially make convenient teachers for quick concepts.
– Expect to be open to new experiences.

Things to bring:
1) 501 French Verbs – A necessity, simply put. You need one of these.
2) A solid French/English dictionary – Again, this is a necessity.
3) Notebook – I carried a small, pocket-sized notebook around with me to jot notes in (useful or commonly used phrases, commonly used verbs, words for things, etc.). This was very useful for reference and helped me learn things a lot quicker.