Potomac French Students Immerse Themselves in all things Quebec

Arielle Kouyoumdjian, Managing Editor

From being locked in an historical solitary confinement cell, to trailing a ghost around historic Montreal at night, scarfing down cheese curds doused in gravy with fries (called a poutine), and teetering across bridges suspended many feet in the air, Potomac French language students certainly had un voyage très amusant during a tour to Quebec City and Montreal, Friday, June 16 – Wednesday, June 21, 2023

French teacher Mme. Brigitte Searchinger organized the trip for 19 Potomac students enrolled in French classes. She was supported by French-speaking chaperones Mme. Isabelle Drake and Dr. Jeremy Metz. This spring marked the first foreign language trips since the pre-Covid year 2018.

Though the students were admittedly cynical (we’re teenagers on a summer learning experience, after all), Jumpstreet Educational Tours crafted an itinerary that exceeded the group’s expectations. Our guide, Andrew, was an easy-going 26 year-old who charmed us with his penchant for guitar singalongs (including a rousing rendition of noted Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s anthem, Hallelujah,. We’ll also remember him for his stash of maple-sugar cookies, and his quirky Quebecois slang.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the trip was the unexpected friendships that students formed.

Below I’ve highlighted some of my favorite memories from the trip!

Day one: A little wind and rain didn’t stop us from enjoying a guided walking tour of historic Quebec . Thankfully, (most) students remembered to bring un impermeable.

Credit: Arielle Kouyoumdjian

The class ate their fill of French-Canadian patisserie–for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One student half-joked, “I think if I have to eat one more croissant, I might throw up.”

Credit: Arielle Kouyoumdjian

On our second day, the whole group packed into a huge paddleboat for a scenic cruise through Jacques Cartier National Park, 31 miles north of Quebec City. We were encouraged to chant and fortunately did not sink.

After canoeing, the group headed into the forest for a hike that involved squeezing through narrow rock channels.

Day 3: Students navigated the slippery suspended bridges at the Côte-de-Beaupré park’s Canyon Sainte-Anne.

Credit: Dr. Metz

Day 4: After a tour of a Wendat First Nation historic village, the group headed to an acting workshop. We performed a historical skit entirely in French.

Credit: Mme. Searchinger

Finally, we arrived at a sugar shack (sucrerie) to learn about the maple-syrup making process. Students enjoyed an elaborate Canadian feast (every last morsel of food doused in locally-tapped maple syrup—from pea soup to pot pie). We played instruments on stage and danced to live music.

Credit: Arielle Kouyoumdgian

Day 5:
Mont Royal, Montreal.

Credit: Mme. Searchinger

A bike tour along the Lachine Canal.

Goofing off in Montreal.

Credit: Andrew, our Gude

(Yes, this is still Day 5!) Finally, the students headed to a ghost tour of old Montreal, where they learned about the city’s creepy history–cholera outbreaks, opioid addictions, public hangings, and ax murders galore. All tours were conducted in French for a true immersion experience.

Credit: Sydney Rushing

Day 6: In the morning, the group toured the home of the Montreal Canadians hockey team. At the airport, the group bade a bittersweet farewell to Andrew, our fun-loving guide.