French Camp I: Université Sainte-Anne

Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 2:41 pm
William Barnes

I just returned home from the bizarre world that is French camp (technically the immersion program at Université Sainte-Anne). It was absolutely fantastic. I started writing this as a single post, but it started getting really long so I’ve split it up into a couple of shorter posts that I’ll put up over the next few days. In the first post, I’ll just talk about the campus and the environment at Université Sainte-Anne.

The University

Sainte-Anne is located in a majority francophone area on Baie Sainte Marie in Nova Scotia. It’s very small (only about 300 students) and teaches exclusively in French. The area is amazingly pretty. It faces west across the bay, so every night you get a beautiful sunset. It’s bordered by woods (le P’tit Bois) on two sides and a rocky beach on the west. It’s fairly secluded so there’s no noise or light pollution (meaning you can see the stars).

Baie Sainte Marie in Daytime Sunset over Baie Sainte Marie House Over a Cavern Pointe des Roches Beach Gazebo L'Anse-des-Belliveau Sunset Behind Me

The immersion program is very strict: you cannot speak English; if you are caught doing so you get a warning; three warnings and you’re kicked out. This is a good thing for immersion (forcing you to actually speak) but it’s a little tough on your sanity. It’s frustrating to go from arguing constantly in law school to being limited to a first grade level of communication. I like to think that I have great thoughts in my head, but I just could not say any of them. That said, it’s only for five weeks and my spoken French is a lot better. Small price to pay.

It is (as I said earlier) a bit like a bizarre alternate universe. The area is very sparsely populated. It’s a half-hour trip to go to the convenience store so you spend most of the time on campus. And on campus everybody is suddenly talking French (and mostly struggling to talk French). It’s hard to explain. I look back on it now like it was some crazy dream.

The next post will be about activities on campus.