Testimonials – Official Languages Programs


    • All
    • Destination Clic
    • Explore
    • Odyssey

    I had the time of my life at the Explore program! Five weeks of eating, learning, and even dreaming in French, all the while forming life-long friendships! My french is much better, and I’ve learned more about Quebec culture in these five weeks than I ever thought possible. I would highly recommend this to everyone, regardless their level of French!

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    Adam Schermbrucker
    Alberta to Quebec

    This July I was able to take part in the Explore program in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I never really intended to go to Winnipeg (it being my last and unintentional choice) but I had a really wonderful experience there! I was able to improve my French A LOT and gain a lot more confidence in my speaking abilities. The people I met here, the teachers, and monitors were all exceptional. I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn French/improve their French, as well as those who want to meet new people and take part in a great learning experience. J’adore Explore!

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    Aliya Hamid
    British Columbia to Manitoba

    Hello, present and future language assistants!

    Wow — I just came across this site while I was thinking about the good old days when I was an English language assistant at l’École secondaire Barthélemy-Joliette in Joliette, Quebec, back in 2003–04. I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years — wow! I hope today’s language assistants are enjoying the experience to the fullest. My best friend and I were both English language assistants in that same year, and we were so inspired to go into teaching that — well, I’m in my seventh year of teaching French as a second language in Ottawa, and I love it!

    Time really flies, though. I hold many dear memories of some really great times. In fact, I still keep in touch with some of the teachers I worked with nearly 10 years ago — only this time I’m a teacher too!

    In my second or third year here in Ottawa, I hosted a French language assistant as well, wanting to give back to a program I really believe in. So keep up the great work! And for folks who are wondering whether to take the leap? Yes! GO for it! Some of my best memories are from that year — the people I met, the places I visited, the many laughs and jokes, even some of the tough times! Merci! Thanks so much, CMEC, for this program!

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    Ontario to Quebec

    I studied at University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières for 5 weeks during the spring of 2016. It was really the best experience in my life. Thanks to the Explore program, I met many amazing people from all regions of Canada. In addition, I improved my French and better understood Quebec culture. It was an unforgettable experience and I would like to return to Quebec in the future. A big thank you to the teachers and the animators at EIF for this amazing experience!

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    Amy Peng
    Alberta to Quebec

    Having not taken any French courses in high school, I was skeptical of the value of learning a second language. However, after attending the program and spending a month learning and living in French, my entire outlook changed…

    It’s not just a language, but a culture and way of living. Learning French in the heart of rural Quebec gave me an understanding that had eluded me before. Explore is a great program and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

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    Andreas Zailo
    British Columbia to Quebec

    My five weeks in beautiful Trois-Pistoles was an incredible and unforgettable experience that I will cherish. The welcoming ambiance and unique spirit of the town’s residents, combined with the natural beauty of the region, made it the perfect setting to learn and discover. Having the opportunity to be immersed completely “en français” was the absoloute best way to learn. If you do the program and choose to use French as your only language for the entire session, I guarantee you will come home amazed at how well you can speak French! Bonne chance et bon courage!

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    Anna Haylow, École de Langue Française de Trois-Pistoles
    Ontario to Quebec

    Attending the Explore program was one of the best/greatest experience in my life. I learned French “the language of love” in five weeks, I didn’t know it was possible at the beginning when professors literally told the crew that we’ll be speaking French by the end of the program; in fact, it came out to be true and realistic! I had lots of fun with my professors and classmates with whom I am still in touch. The Forks is an amazing place to hang out, eat and enjoy salsa dancing in the park on Sunday evenings. Last, but not least, the program is great for the fact that students get to visit different government buildings, institutions and native people’s reserves. Many thanks to the Canada government and everyone who puts their effort into the program. It’s worth signing up! Cheers!

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    Antonio Ildo
    Ontario to Manitoba

    Would you rather spend a summer parked on your couch sweating away, or make friends and memories that last a lifetime while travelling around the country on a budget that’s almost entirely paid for? Participate in Explore

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    Ontario to Quebec

    After being encouraged by my high school French teacher to take part in the Explore program, I decided to make use of this opportunity and go to Moncton, New Brunswick, for the month of July. Those five weeks ended up being some of the most memorable weeks of my life! Going into it I was nervous because I did not know anybody and only had a few French classes under my belt. After the first week I had made friends who came from across Canada and started getting used to being immersed in the beautiful French language. My teacher made everything fun and I looked forward to going to class each day. By the end of the first few weeks, I found my ability to understand French had improved noticeably because everything I was hearing, doing, or speaking was in French. The activities that were planned allowed me to explore a province I had never visited and experience the Acadian culture first-hand. Each weekend entailed concerts in downtown Moncton, festivals, beach days, or just enjoying the scenery of New Brunswick, and I loved it all! My appreciation for French grew immensely and I honestly will never forget my experience with Explore. It allowed me to branch out of my comfort zone, grow in my ability to understand and speak French, and make the greatest friends that I will have forever. I would encourage any of you who are thinking about going to just GO. You definitely will not regret it. Like me, it will probably become one of the best experiences of your life. So, thank you Explore for giving me this

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    Brooklyn Sylvester
    Alberta to New Brunswick

    I most enjoyed the experience of meeting new people of all French capabilities and seeing how much each person improved over the course of the 3 weeks. I also loved how amazing the city and all the activities that we could do all in French. The teachers were all amazing and the whole experience was one that I will remember forever. Even though I thought that the classes would be hard, they were challenging but I enjoyed every moment of that challenge.

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    British Colombia to Quebec

    As I boarded the plane, I remember feeling scared of the unknown that awaited me; three weeks away from my friends, my home, and my family seemed like forever. I had all these doubts: what if I don’t make any friends? What if the classes are too hard? What if the food is bad? Despite all of those fears, I still got on that plane. And, looking back, that was probably one of the best decisions I had ever made.

    After a long day of travel, I got to my room…and I started to cry. I don’t know why, but I did — maybe because I was exhausted, or I missed my family, or maybe because it was so painfully hot (bring a fan!). Needless to say, I was pretty nervous and didn’t get very much sleep the first night.

    It took me until the first day at orientation to realize something: everyone is in exactly the same situation as you are. Nobody knows anyone going in, aside from maybe one friend. Everyone is sitting alone, trying to meet people. My group at l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières was a pretty big one, around 76 people in all, so we broke up into about three groups. But it wasn’t a “these are the cool kids, and these are the losers”-type thing. For example, I was in a room with three other girls, none of whom were in my “group,” but we still got along great, and we would blast Justin Bieber and all talk together at night.

    I met some of my best friends at Destination Clic, and I made some of my greatest memories there, too. It’s been exactly a year since my first tearful night at Destination Clic, but now, as I write this a year later, I am sitting in my own room crying over how much I miss it. People who had been to Destination Clic before me would always tell me “it’s amazing, you have to go!” and I never understood why they made such a fuss about it. But now I do. Honestly, you may be deathly afraid to get on that plane and say goodbye to home for three weeks, but really, once it’s over, you’ll wish you’d had more time. The memories I made in Quebec will stay with me for a lifetime, and so will the friendships

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    Chloe Smith
    Manitoba to Quebec

    Dear CMEC,

    My name is Derek Cassidy. I am a monitor at École St-Noël in Thetford Mines. I know it’s obvious what the impact of Odyssey is on schools and communities, but I would like to share with you my Odyssey experience and recognize the impact of the program on me personally.

    Being in the Odyssey program has introduced me to so many awesome people, and I have had the chance to get to know many of them very well. But aside from making new friends, I have also been introduced to the culture of Quebec; new friends have ultimately led to many road trips to different parts of the province of Quebec for festivals, concerts, and various types of gatherings.

    To give you an idea of some of the adventures we have been on, the first month in Quebec, the crew from Thetford Mines went to the Poutine Festival in Drummondville, the Western Fest in St-Tite, and visited Tadoussac for a weekend. And many other trips and hangouts followed.

    One of the biggest reasons I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in Odyssey is the improvement of my French skills. Before May 2009, I spoke little to no French. After taking a five-week course at Laval (similar to Explore) and spending my summer in Mont Tremblant, I had basic knowledge of the language but I was still around a lot of anglophones. Being in a smaller community with very little English has forced me to be more active in speaking and hearing French on a regular basis. I am definitely not fluent, but my comprehension of French has improved so much. I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves ten times, or just nod and say “oui” when I don’t understand something.

    As a Canadian, I believe it is important to have at least some knowledge of both official languages; but obviously, the more the better. It opens so many doors culturally, socially, and to many other areas of people’s lives, personally. When I was younger, I thought I would never speak another language, and I didn’t see the importance of knowing French. My last grade in French class was a 56%, which makes me laugh now. But if it weren’t for the Explore and Odyssey programs, I feel I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now, or have had the same type of immersion into the language. Even for people who aren’t overly serious about learning the language, they have still been given the opportunity, through these programs, to be exposed to French in Canada and to the culture that has formed from that.

    I would recommend Odyssey to anyone who would like to improve their French skills, share their knowledge of English, experience Quebec and its culture, and meet a lot of really great people while doing it.


    Derek Cassidy

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    Derek Cassidy
    monitor at École St-Noël in Thetford Mines

    My name is Emir Topalovic and I am the language monitor in Donnacona. It is a smaller town of about 6,000 people with a lot of beautiful scenery and wonderful people. The secondary school is really the highlight and pride of this small community as it welcomes students from the surrounding regions and offers sporting activites and festivals throughout the year. Working in this school has been a wonderful experience as the teachers are very hospitable and ready to help in anyway possible while the students are very accepting and eager to learn and speak English.

    My contact was in large part responsible for this great experience. She helped me adjust to the school and the community and she even let me stay in her apartment until I found a place to live. On the subject of accommodations, there are rooms and apartments available in the town, but the choice is limited so it is a good idea to search in advance. Overall, my experience here was great and I would recommend to anybody planning to do this program in Donnacona to brush up a little bit on their French before arriving here, as it will be of enormous help in terms of connecting with the students and the community.

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    Emir Topalovic
    Donnacona, Quebec

    It’s really rewarding seeing all these young people who want to spend time with you, who speak French to you, and who admire you!

    When I arrived in Golden, in British Columbia, it took me at least a week before I looked down at the ground to watch where I was going, because my eyes were always turned up towards the mountains! I wasn’t the only one fascinated by them, because soon after the first major snowfalls, the isolated little town of Golden saw its population triple. Hordes of young snowboarders and skiers descended on the town, looking for the most beautiful slopes and waist-deep powder!

    It’s sure that, in a town with 4,000 in habitants, life is very different than what I was used to in Quebec City. No record launches, art exhibition openings, festivals, films, or poetry evenings! And the local resident artist is the town’s newspaper photographer!

    But, if I’m here, if I signed up for Odyssey, it’s because I wanted to try something new. When I left school, I was a freelancer, working in illustration, graphic design, animation, and video games. But I got disillusioned. I understood that the glamour of working for yourself wasn’t all it was cracked up to be: in a nutshell, it meant working crazy hours in isolation, with a great deal of stress and some very tight deadlines.

    Odyssey wasn’t my first experience in working with young people. I had accompanied groups in Denmark, the Philippines, New York, and Saskatoon. Switching between English and French isn’t a problem. And leading groups is in my blood; I’ve always loved to it.

    I came here to put a few things to the test. Before returning to my studies, I wanted some concrete experience in the field of education. And the exercise was conclusive! I’m going to combine my passion for art with my passion for being with young people. Can you guess how? Yes, when I return, I’ll be studying art education. And until then, I’ve got a bit of time for myself. I just got back from Vancouver. I bought some paints, canvases, and paintbrushes. I’m mounting a new exhibition; I’m going to plunge back into creating my own art.

    That’s been my odyssey.

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    Frédéric Desaulniers
    Québec City, Québec, to Golden, British Columbia

    Thank you for taking good care of Martha and making her stay enjoyable. Now she wants to move to Quebec!

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    Istiphanus, Martha’s Mother
    Manitoba to Quebec

    My life really took off because of the language-assistant program! After completing my bachelor’s degree in psychology at l‘Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, I wanted to take a break from my studies to learn English. That’s when I signed up for the Odyssey program. In August 1986, at the wheel of my Renault 5 loaded with my few possessions, I hit the 401 heading for Mississauga, where I had rented a room. I had been assigned to the Dufferin-Peel School Board to work at two schools in Mississauga and one in Bolton, in Grades 5 and 6 immersion classes. At the Bolton school, I worked on a play with the students. Not only did they have to learn their lines, they had to make the sets and costumes as well. We even made a video recording of the performance. My salary as a language assistant for the 1986–87 session was $8,000. I also did some babysitting after school. For me, it was manna from heaven!
    I was lucky to have a brother living nearby in downtown Toronto, and I visited him regularly, taking advantage of these visits to discover the big city. As a native of Saint-Basile-de-Portneuf, a small village in western Quebec, Toronto was a huge city with endless possibilities. In addition to falling in love with Toronto, I met the man who would become my husband and the father of my two sons. I would never have guessed at the time that we would still be together after 25 years.
    I got my first job because I was bilingual. Throughout my career in the Ontario Public Service, I was always working to promote francophone interests, and I’m proud of it. Paradoxically, learning English helped me discover and love my mother tongue and my culture even more. Both of my sons live in both languages, but they have always attended a French-language school.
    This, in just a few lines, is a recap of a long career that began with the language-assistant program. Good luck!

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    Jacinthe Leclerc

    I have been working as the Executive Director of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of the Ontario Government since January 2016.
    Previously, I worked at the Ontario Trillium Foundation as the Vice-President, Community Investments, since April 1, 2014. The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is a governmental organization and Canada’s leading granting foundation.

    At the OTF, my annual portfolio was approximately $80 million, invested in arts and culture, sports and recreation, social services, and environmental initiatives.
    I also worked for the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), from May 2008 to March 2014 as Director of Administration and Official Languages. I was thrilled to accept the job because CMEC’s official-languages programs had played such an important role in my life.
    In 1988, I moved to Toronto to improve my English and join my spouse at the time, a native of Toronto. We had met in Quebec City, and I soon learned that her knowledge of French was largely due to her participation (twice) in the Explore program — in 1982 in Quebec City, and in 1986 in Trois-Rivières. She enjoyed her experience so much that she became a teacher and has been teaching intensive Grade 8 French in Toronto since 1982. My children were born here and have grown up in French.
    As for me, I had the opportunity to take part in the Accent program — the part-time language-assistant program — on two occasions, in 1984–85 in Burnaby, British Columbia, and in 1988–89 in Scarborough, a neighbourhood of Toronto. I learned a great deal about Canada and about myself during these two formative years. In fact, my future career combined my love of French and my proficiency in both official languages.
    I was able to pursue my education in sociology and political science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, at Laval University in Quebec City, and at the University of Toronto.
    I worked for the Ontario government for 10 years at the Office of Francophone Affairs and at the Ministry of Finance. I left the public service in 1997 to become Director General of the Centre francophone de Toronto, a multiservice francophone centre in Toronto, and spent 10 years there, during which I was able to bring about a merger with the Centre médico-social communautaire and thereby broaden the range of French services available in Toronto.
    At CMEC, I never ceased to be amazed by the success stories of those who entered the Explore and Odyssey programs, which enable thousands of Canadians every year to improve their skills in their second official language. At a recent training session for some 100 language assistants, I was astonished by the energy and contagious enthusiasm they had for sharing their culture and promoting their language. Your presence is highly valued by the school boards you work for and the youth you work with. I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of the wonderful and ever-evolving Odyssey experience.

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    Jean-Gilles Pelletier

    I had so much fun learning and exploring a new city that I decided to move to Ottawa the following year! I ended up living there for seven years and loved every minute of it! It was a life-changing experience for me. I am still very good friends with people I met there. I would recommend this program to everyone

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    New Brunswick to Ontario

    I left the town of Sarnia, with its 80,000 inhabitants, for Halifax, a city four times as big, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. I never expected that people here would be so friendly; they all seem to know one another. What struck me was how polite they all everybody was here. You just have to step off the sidewalk, and drivers stop their cars to let you cross the road safely. It took me no time at all to feel right at home here, the only difference being that, here, all the restaurants serve seafood, and everyone is a sailing enthusiast!

    I live with my boyfriend, who’s studying law at university. I’ve made new friends. You’re constantly surrounded by beautiful people here. No matter where you go, there are always opportunities to develop solid and meaningful relationships.

    After completing my degree in international development, I wanted to earn some money before embarking on my master’s. I’m currently working at Shannon Park Elementary School, in Dartmouth. I have 3 classes every day, for a total of 15 classes a week. I play with the kids; we read; and we have activities involving vocabulary, computer, and phonetics.

    I really like to work with children, especially if they have difficulties I can help them with. I was surprised at what I learned from being with them. I discovered that communication isn’t only about words. You can express so much through a gesture, your body language, or a look. And I discovered that I was able to speak in public!

    But, what I mostly understood is that I’m able to do so many things, if I put in the effort! My bilingualism, experience, and the skills I acquired will open a host of doors for me professionally. That’s the story of my odyssey.

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    Kathleen Lynch
    Ontario to Nova Scotia

    I had so much fun, learned so much, and made so many friends at Destination Clic! They looked after us so well, and we had such great teachers. Destination Clic was the most amazing experience of my life!

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    British Columbia to Quebec