This is a guest post by Wendy Bround, my mom! She grew up in Odessa, Texas and lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami before settling down in Madison, Wisconsin. Now retired, she is traveling and pursuing her love of the French language.
Last June my friend and I visited Quebec City for a two-week French Language immersion course at Merici College. I had taken four semesters of French in high school and two semesters in college. After our family trip to Brittany and Paris in 2007, I was inspired to revisit the French language. Two weeks after retiring in 2011, I started taking continuing ed classes at the University of Wisconsin and audited a first and second year French at a local liberal arts college. I also traveled to the Turtle Lake area in Minnesota to attend a one week French immersion course with Concordia University adult language camps. Eventually, I met a group who wanted to meet weekly with a tutor, which we’ve done for two years now. Going to this course in Quebec sounded like a great next step! After the course our husbands met us and we explored the city together.
We drove a full two days from Madison, WI to Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. We used a combination of GPS, AAA triptik (free if you are a member of AAA, AAA.com) and a map. With stops for gas, bathroom, and food, we drove the first day from approximately 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM. We entered Canada from Michigan at Port Huron and stayed overnight in Kitchener. The second day, we started about the same time and ended up in Quebec City around 5:00PM. We found Ontario had nice, clean rest stops for the public. You can get gas, food, and a restroom in one stop. You may have issues with a U.S. credit card at the pump but can go inside and use your CC with no problem. Traveler services on the road were terrific. We stopped to use the restroom and ask a question. The agent helped us make a hotel reservation in Quebec City for our first night there. She even let us practice our French with her.
About Quebec City
Quebec City (Ville de Québec) is a charming old, European-style city (and a World Heritage Site) within a larger, modern city. It is located on the St Lawrence River. If your goal is to learn French, this is a great place to learn about the language and culture. There are art museums, historical sites, and many hotels and restaurants. The Quebecois are friendly and welcoming.
What to see
Montmorency Falls is a gorgeous waterfall, 30 m higher than Niagara Falls!
The Musee National des Beaux-Arts and the Musee de Civilisation are both excellent museums featuring native and primarily modern art.
Where to stay
When we weren’t staying in our program’s lodging, we stayed at Hotel Le Priori, which is nicely located in lower town. It is surrounded by galleries and restaurants, and is within walking distance of most points of interest in Quebec City. It is very close to the Museum of Civilization. The exterior is old world charm, and the interior is clean and modern. The staff is excellent. The rooms are cramped and with modernization the floor plans not well designed, but we enjoyed our stay!
Where to Eat
Of the many restaurants we visited, I would highly recommend Le Lapin Saute in the Old City for less expensive local fare. They specialize in locally bred rabbit.
For an elegant evening on the expensive side (but well worth every penny), go to Le Saint-Amour. You will need a reservation and should ask for the garden room. Both restaurants specialize in organic locally grown and processed food.
I had heard Canadian French much maligned before taking this course and visiting Quebec. There are some 37 French dialects in Europe alone and many more in Asia, Africa, New Caledonia, etc. Quebec has two French dialects. The course was taught in universal or standard French. The teachers were from France, Quebec, Belgium, Switzerland etc. and they did each have a different dialect.
The Edu/Inter adult programs are available all year round. The duration of the programs varies from 1 to 52 weeks and students can start on any Monday of the year. All the French courses consist of 7-levels, based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. For placement, you take a preliminary test which is sent to you once you enroll. You also have a short interview with one of the teachers when you get there to assess your skills and level. Students develop all four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, in addition to attention to the study of grammar and phonetics. There is an average of 7 to 9 students per class so the teacher can give special attention to each student. The teachers speak a minimum of three languages. There are extra activities and excursions available. You are often encouraged to interact with the public during class projects.
Students are there for enrichment, business, and teaching certification. I have three friends that have also taken this course. I got to know my fellow students at Edu/Inter as well, who came from all over the globe. We all were impressed with this course.
We took the Edu/Inter Program which is housed in Merici College. Merici College is a private, college-level institution which offers a variety of pre-university and professional programs. Merici is adjacent to the Plains of Abraham and overlooks the St. Lawrence River. It is a short walk from the sites and attractions of Old Québec. The College is also next to the beautiful wooded parkland of the Battlefields National Park. There is a grocery store and a pharmacy (with post office) within walking distance of the school.
Cost varies depending on whether you want both grammar and conversation, and how many sessions you want to have each day. There is additional tutoring also. We took grammar in the morning and conversation in the afternoon. For me, the two academic weeks, taking two sessions each day Monday-Friday, was $1,350 Canadian dollars. You can get a quote on the website. Residence, books and food are not included in the tuition.
There is a residence hall behind the school, or you can stay with a family. We opted for the residence hall behind Merici. It is a quad: 4 nice size bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area, common room, and bathroom. The bathroom has one toilet, one sink and one shower (one person at a time). This is doable with cooperative roommates. Each week your roommate situation may change. You may also have a roommate of the opposite sex.
We do know of students who have rented apartments close to campus. Staying with a family is a less expensive option too. The experiences I heard about from students who stayed with families varied dramatically, depending on the family. Luckily, you can change if you are not happy.
There is bus service that will drop you off and pick you up in front of the school. I have heard if you are flying in that taxi or Uber service is less expensive than the shuttle offered by the program.
We thought the cafeteria food was pretty bad! We brought our lunches or went back to our residence for lunch. There are many restaurants in the area and Old City for dinner.
Quebec City is an amazing environment in which to learn French, or just to vacation. We are already planning to go back next fall!
Written by Wendy Bround.
Photos by Wendy and Tom Bround