This is the second part of a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.
If you choose to do the summer session, there’s a huge annual 13-day music festival called Festivale d’été de Québec that you can have access to for only $70! Everyone goes to the shows during the first week and it’s a ton of fun. When I was there, I saw The Killers, Said the Whale, A$AP Rocky, Snoop Dogg (or Lion, is it?) and deadmau5. I sadly missed Lady Gaga, who opened the festival, by one day and also didn’t get the chance to see Bryan Adams or Serena Ryder. But the line-up was great anyway! Don’t worry about purchasing festival passes months in advance: there are kiosks where you can purchase them in purchase and they do not sell out, as far as I know!
Tip #3: Take the ferry across the St. Lawrence river and visit Lévis. It’s truly beautiful to see Québec from the other side, and also to explore the city that you see from the Québec side. The ferry is part of the public transit system so costs the same as a bus ride, which is great. Take advantage!
Tip #4: Go white water rafting!!! It’s an AMAZING experience – truly thrilling. Make sure you go to the washroom beforehand, or discretely relieve yourself when you’re in the water after the cliff jump. I was a prude and didn’t feel comfortable peeing in my wetsuit while in the water and, instead, was subjected to extremely, extremely uncomfortably trying to hold it in for the last 30 minute trek back to land. Horrible. Now that being said, please do go! The event is an optional one organized by the animateurs, but 110% worth it.
Québec has a great nightlife. There are tons of clubs, pubs and restaurants on la Grande Allée as well as other places in Vieux Québec. Wednesday is salsa night at a nearby pub (unfortunately I don’t remember the name, but I’m sure you can ask around to locals!) that’s crazy fun. Every Thursday there are pub nights at the Pub Universitaire, where all the young people in Québec (including both Ulaval & Explore students as well as non-students) come to socialize, drink and dance.
Tip #5: Hike the Mont du Lac des Cynes. This is another must-do event offered through the program! It’s optional, but it’s also free! Don’t be put-off by the 4-hour description. We went up in three separate groups (fast, medium and slow) – I chose to go with the fast group.. we made it up in 45 mins and were down in 30 mins. The hike is not very difficult and the view that makes it worth the long drive. You can walk around the entire “mountain” area and look as far as the eye can see, in each direction. There are no large trees obstructing view in any direction; you can count the 9+ lakes scattering the surrounding area, trace the winding roads taken to get there, see every farm plot, hill and valley perfectly. You can even see the St. Lawrence River off in the distance. It’s truly magnificent.
Explore caters to French learners of every skill level – from beginners who have never spoken a word, to experts that simply want to polish up. The structure of programs vary by university; at ULaval, there are seven levels. Beginner (1-3), Intermediate (4-5), Avancé and Supérieur. I was placed in Avancé and surprisingly found myself among people who had taken French immersion or had been enrolled in francophone schools for their entire lives. The courses were reasonable and manageable. They had a strong focus on spoken French, which I appreciated. Having passed all my courses, I received 6 transfer credits towards my Commerce degree at UBC!
Tip #6: Book a flight with an open return date. You’ll make so many friends at Explore that you’ll have the opportunity to travel to other places in Québec after the program officially ends. I wish I had left myself the option, because I would have loved to go down to Montréal or even to Toronto or New York for another week. I was scared of that uncertainty, but in hindsight I wish I took the chance.
Québec City is the perfect place to do Explore. There are enough people that do not speak English that you will able to practice speaking French. The university is in a central location that makes it easy to go to restaurants, go shopping, do tourist-y things in Vieux-Québec and enjoy the city’s busy nightlife. I highly recommend anyone to do this program, especially for Canadian citizens that can get the bursary. Through Explore, I met so many people from across Canada and the world, making lifelong friends (who have promised me usage of their couches during my future travels!). My French enormously improved and I am now confident having a conversation with francophiles. I highly recommend this program to anyone interested!
Feel free to comment below and ask any questions that you may have about the program or my experience! I would be happy to answer. 🙂