Cinq semaines; five weeks. Five weeks is all it took to learn invaluable life lessons and create unforgettable bonds with complete strangers. Explore is a bursary program open to all post-secondary students across Canada to learn French and immerse yourself into an entirely new culture to increase your ability to speak, comprehend, and write the language (I recommend you apply).
Going into the program, I had never been on a solo trip, nor have I ever been away from my friends and family for such an extended period of time. Naturally, I was incredibly excited but also nervous. How would I survive in an environment where I knew absolutely nobody? Uncertainty will get at even the best of us, and I tend to overthink things; but once I arrived it all became such an organic process.
Immediately the boys on my floor and I all bonded, deeming ourselves “The Six on Six” (six of us on the sixth floor). We were incredibly fortunate to have met each other and ended up rooming right next to one another. That was just the beginning.
Sunday night before the program began most of the 192 students were introduced to one another at a soirée. To my surprise, every single person I met that night seemed incredibly genuine and kind. It dawned on me; we were all in the same situation: we knew no one here. This was a liberating feeling, and I began inquiring about people’s origins and getting to know who they are. In this program a medley of Canadians ranging from the Atlantic to the Pacific gathered to embrace and discover the culture and language of Quebec.
And then the program began. Classes lasted four hours a day, five days a week. Other than that we had freedom (minus homework and the odd study session) to explore Quebec City.
A couple days into the program one of my new friends Ammar pulls me aside and says something to the tune of, “Yo, in these five weeks we are family.” Originally I took this with a grain of salt, but the saying stayed present in my mind, eventually becoming increasingly resonating.
He was right; we were family. We explored, studied, ate, and drank together. These individuals were omnipresent; we were together for the majority of these five weeks. I expected to make friends, but what I didn’t expect was to develop such a powerful, profound bond with so many students from across Canada.
As the program proceeded each day presented a new opportunity to get to know each other and the city more in depth. I’ll never forget the routine we had; it was paradise. As previously stated we had class until noon, and afterwards freedom. For a few of us, the afternoon meant heading straight to the PEPS Athletic Centre at Laval for a pickup game of basketball and then a good workout at the world-class facility. On the odd day we would hop on the Metro and head to Old Quebec, which is like walking into a different moment in history.
For those who haven’t been, Old Quebec represents the earliest Canadian settlements dating back to the 17th century. Narrow cobblestone roads connect the city blocks and are filled with a plethora of history, culture, and artists. From an elegant harp playing on the corner to the incredibly talented painters, there is no shortage of art and culture inside the walls that surround Old Quebec. This makes it incredibly easy to sit back and enjoy the finer things in life. There is nothing overtly tangible about the aura bestowed upon you as you explore this region, however, it’s a feeling that can’t be mimicked or replaced.
Having this incredible environment at my disposal was serene. Add in the fact that this trip sprouted several great relationships; Quebec and the Explore program has forever changed my life for the better.
Life is filled with unexpected twists and turns.