Quebec, Quebec: The City so Nice they Named it Twice

Alright, so I know the title of this blog is “Champlain Montreal Abroad Experience Fall 2011″ but this post is not actually about Montreal.

“But if not Montreal, then what  could you possibly be writing about, Roy? Canada as a whole? The French language? Kittens?” you may be wondering. Well, I’m going to be telling you about Quebec!

“But isn’t Quebec a province of Canada? Also, I’m not entirely sure what a province is” you may also be wondering. Well, here’s the deal. Canada is broken up into ten provinces and three territories. You’ve definitely heard of some of the provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and of course, Quebec!

Quebec is unique in that it is the only province with French as its official language. In fact, Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world! So that means that Montreal is the heart and soul of the province of Quebec, right?

Not exactly. Enter Quebec City: a breathtakingly beautiful port city a couple hours north of Montreal that emanates history through every cobblestone in its streets.

Think of it like this: just as Albany is the capital of New York, yet smaller and less city-like than New York City, Quebec City is the capital of Quebec, despite Montreal’s prominence. I don’t know if that explanation helped or confused things more.

Anyways, I can’t say enough about this city, but I guess I’ll try. About twenty of us left bright and early Friday morning to begin our long and sleepy voyage to this strange and wonderful place.

Upon arrival, the first thing we did was check into the hostel, a homey and happy facility that provides shelter for a largely international array of individuals, mostly students. Personally, I met a couple of guys from Belgium, a guy from Germany, an Australian girl, and Canadians from all over.

Grant met a bear.

If you’re planning on any international travel, this chain of hostels is definitely worth a gander: http://www.hihostels.ca/quebec/en/index.aspx?sortcode=2.7

After poking our heads out from our hostel haven we ventured out into the great unknown of Quebec City (although some of us were already quite nestled in)

Did you know Quebec city is haunted? Well, I didn’t. But after our official nighttime Ghost Tour of Quebec, I was pretty convinced. Our guide told us tales of an executioner forced to behead his own wife and a cursed ship captain’s disaster at sea. In fact, he himself might not have been of this world…

Despite having the poutine scared out of us, we continued onward in our explorations.

Among other fantastic sites, we saw the Image Mill, the largest projection screen in the world. Alas, they wouldn’t let me hook my Xbox up to it.

We had another, less ghostly, tour from a friend of the history professor here on the Champlain Montreal campus. This man was a walking encyclopedia of all things relating to Canadian history.

Trying to break the stereotype of culturally ignorant Americans, we all tried our best to fit in with the locals:

  

  

That’s far from all we did in the wondrous Quebec City, but words can’t do justice to it all. Needless to say, if you find yourself in Quebec (province) it is an absolute necessity to go to Quebec (city)!

Having a Ball in Montreal

I hope you are all doing well! I definitely am! Since I last wrote, I have been getting to know more of the city, the language, and the culture.
I have been out and about attended as much as humanly possible!
I have never really been one for electronica music, but I think I may be changing my tune(mind the bad pun :) Recently, I went to Picnik Electronik, which is an outdoor picnic at Calder Jean-Drapeau Park. Picnik Electronik is a large outdoor gathering where guest DJs perform out in the sun in the backdrop of beautiful scenery and events for the whole family! All in all, a wonderful time!


Before I came to Montreal, I had no idea that this place was video-game heaven! So far I have met toured a little studio…you may or may nor have heard of it…EIDOS!! They have made such classics as the “Hitman” series, the “Tomb Raider” series, and most recently Deus Ex 3.


I also attended the Duke Nukem IGDA event where I met CEO of Gearbox Randy Pitchford among other awesome members of the video game industry. For a class project, I was even afforded the opportunity to have lunch with Vander Caballero(the Design Director of Army of 2)!
Similarly epic trips are planned for the near future!
Classes continue to go very well! The great thing about the Montreal classes is that they are very applicable to every day life. Whatever the class, the professors here do a fantastic job of applying the course material to the real world! Whether its learning how to order a sandwich, knowing the history of a section of the city, or learning valuable business etiquette, the Montreal academic program definitely gives you the tools and the opportunity to test them.
I have just been informed that a special tour of Cirque du Soleil is being offered to us tomorrow! If you haven’t heard of Cirque du Soleil, check it out!!
Thats all for now, loyal readers. Until next time :)

Apples and Ubisoft

A trip to Ubisoft Montreal, apple picking, and goat feeding—one great way to spend a weekend. But for Montreal, simply par for the course.

Let me start with the trip to Ubisoft. For those who don’t know, Ubisoft is an accomplished game publisher and developer responsible for such well known titles as Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. Ubisoft Montreal is the company’s largest development studio, boasting upwards of two thousand employees. Needless to say, getting the opportunity to visit such a prestigious studio was a privilege that no game-related major passed up on.

Lucie Lalancette, our tour guide, showed us around the building, highlighting areas of interest like the built in gym, doctor’s office, and even a little school for the employees to pick up new skills. Because many of the teams were working on unannounced projects, our group didn’t really get to see too much of the development process, but getting to see a triple A studio at work was still a really great experience! At the end of the tour, Lucie handed out information regarding play testing for Ubisoft and even her business card for possible internship opportunities.

Taking in all that Ubisoft had to offer left me with a mighty hunger. What better way to satisfy that hunger than with freshly picked apples? I couldn’t have asked for better weather: sunny, cool, and not a cloud in the sky, perfect apple picking weather.

After arriving to the farm, the orchard was just a pleasantly rustic ride away in the back of a truck along a dirt road. Spanning for acres, there were apple trees as far as the eye could see. With a dozen different kinds of apples to choose from and an empty bag full of opportunity, the day was well spent. Oh, and the apples were good too!

Last but not least, with the fruits of our labors (ha ha) strewn across our backs, we noticed some hungry looking goats behind a fence. Needless to say, we obliged their needs:

 

Roy Baron – First Impressions

 

When I told my friends from back home that I’d be spending a semester abroad in Montreal, they were skeptical. “Montreal? Isn’t that like two hours away from Vermont? That’s not studying abroad; that’s studying next door!” Things like that. I guess I can understand where they’re coming from, but then again, the ones who say that have never been here before.

While Montreal may not be impressively far away when measured by miles (or kilometers!), it is truly a completely different world, offering endless new experiences. Why, as I sit in this café downtown, sipping on my moka glace (iced mocha) and write this blog post, a small contingency of birds are hanging out with me, like it’s no big deal. Alarmed, I look around at others to share my amazement at these unusual customers. Nobody else seems to care. Apparently, sharing the newspaper and coffee with feathered friends is just part of daily life here.

Judging Montreal’s vibrant and active culture based on its proximity to the U.S. is a huge and, unfortunately, common mistake. While certain American influences are definitely apparent (I’m looking at you, Boston Pizza. And since when is Boston known for its pizza? Oh well.) Montreal maintains its own unique and unmistakably “Quebecois” feel.

Before anything else, just looking at the architecture lets you know you’re somewhere special. The buildings are a seemingly impossible blend of extremely modern high rises and beautiful European ivy-covered terraces. Why, just across the street from our glass eight-storied residence hall is a charming array of structures that look like they were plucked directly from Paris itself.

As for the Quebecois people themselves, you couldn’t ask for nicer neighbors. A metropolitan crossroads for countless cultures, representatives can be found from almost any walk of life here. It’s no wonder that “Montreal was named North America’s number one host city for international association events”.

A distinctly European feel is apparent in the population as you walk down the bustling streets of Montreal. The standard for dress is much higher here, creating an atmosphere of pleasant formality not usually found in the United States. With manners to match their attire, people are incredibly polite here. Plenty of “pardons” and “excusez mois” are to be found on a daily basis. I can’t think of a better example of Canadian civility than the fact that people here actually line up at the bus stop! I just can’t see that happening in Boston.

Well that’s it for first impressions for now, but that’s far from all. I have a feeling that this city has many more surprises in store for me and the rest of the Champlain students lucky enough to be here.

Nathaniel Colleran – First Impressions

     My name is Nathaniel Colleran. I was born and raised in a little town north of Boston in Massachusetts and am a Senior at Norwich University in the Corps of Cadets. I was afforded this far out opportunity to study in Montreal for the fall semester and write about it in a blog! If there is one thing my friends will all tell you about me, it’s that I love to hear the sound of my own voice. So blogging is the next best thing, right? My plan is to provide my loyal readers with my experiences not only in the academic sense, but also of the cultural sense. I’m kind of a wild and crazy guy, so you shouldn’t be too bored.
                As a Residence Assistant for Montreal’s housing facility, I attended preliminary RA Training at Champlain College in Burlington, VT. Previously I had been a First Sergeant  in the Corps of Cadets at Norwich(which is like an RA for military students). The job of a Residence Assistant is to be a student link to the administration and sub-manager of the residence hall while maintaining a safe environment for students.
                You’d think that after spending the majority of the last 3 years of my life in Vermont, I would have made a trip to Montreal at least once…but I never did. In one sense, I’m glad because it gives me absolutely no idea what to expect! I’ve read the travel books and visited Canada’s website, but I know enough not to speculate about anything. Psyched/excited would be a gross understatement as to how I feel about studying in Canada.
                Ok…I’m in Canada! Its EPIC! Things are so different here. For the mere 2 hour bus ride it took to get from VT to Montreal, you’d think that you were traveling across time and space! As soon as you step off the bus at the Montreal station, you know that something is different. The city has a whole different feel to it. Well…that and most everyone is speaking French. haha.
                As soon as the bus arrived, Champlain’s local Activities and Residence Coordinator was there to meet me and show me around. After settling in(and trying to memorize some handy French phrases), my fellow RA and I were introduced to the Montreal Staff. They were just as eager to meet us as we were to meet them. The next day, the rest of our fellow students would arrive.
                Orientation begins! Everyone was a bit nervous coming to a new place and moving into a building with primarily French speakers. The nervousness quickly evaporated as the amazing staff helped us ease into our new atmosphere with great, down to earth activities that helped us acclimate to our new surroundings all the faster. Scavenger hunts through the metro(subway), comedy clubs, hikes, and food were only a few of the great welcoming activities to help us get to know one another that much better.
                Academics!! I just finished my first week of classes(its Wednesday by the way :) They have all been excellent! One class that I was worried about in particular was French. There is no english spoken in the class. I maybe…on a good day…remember how to say “bonjour”. So as you can imagine, I was a bit worried. But…just like everything else around here, everyone is extremely friendly and wants to help you to do well.
                While I have only been in country for a few days, I am extremely excited and glad to be here! More to follow! Au Revoir! B)