Corner Brook teen gets a lesson in French

Diane Crocker
Published on August 14, 2014
Corner Brook Regional High student Claire Andrews got a firsthand lesson in French this summer when she went to Boucherville, Que. as part of the YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange.
Geraldine Brophy

Some students may say no to doing anything educational over the summer, but not Claire Andrews.

The Corner Brook teen is just back from Quebec, where she took part in the YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange. The exchange is a national program that brings together youth from various communities across the country to improve their second language skills and gain employment experience.

Andrews, 17, learned about the program when local co-ordinator Jennifer Chubb visited her core French class at Corner Brook Regional High.

She’s attended summer French camps since Grade 9, but thought this one would be different. Participants are housed with a host family as opposed to on a university campus with 400 other kids, many of whom Andrews said don’t really want to learn French.

So with living with a French family and working in a French environment she figured she’d learn a lot. Add to that the opportunity to go somewhere different where there was a job waiting for you, and Andrews could see no downside.

“And you get paid. That was a big part, I’m not going to lie,” she said with a little laugh. “So I was in.”

Andrews is one of four teens from this area to participate in the program, which took them to Boucherville, a city about 30 minutes outside of Montreal.

The others — Adam Griffin and Brooke Otto of Corner Brook and Brittany Lawlor of Stephenville — arrived in Quebec on June 29.

While they were in Boucherville, four teens from there came to this area to live with their families and work in the community.

“The first day was ‘oh my God. What French? I don’t know this language,’” said Andrews of what was a bit of an overwhelming start.

She kept trying to think back to French class, but found the French she’d learned in class was nothing like the French she needed to communicate.

There were quite a few blank stares, some “je ne te comprends pas” and even some charades to figure it all out.

By the first weekend she could generally communicate what she was thinking and by the time she returned home on Aug. 9 saw a big improvement in her French.

The experience also taught her how to cope with new situations, like living with a different family, overcoming some shyness and being homesick.

While there Andrews was placed at Animaction, a day camp for children ages five to 12. She worked with the seven- and eight-year-olds and nine to 12 year olds on an alternating basis.

She also got pretty close with the other participants in the program and said leaving was hard.

“I think I cried more leaving work than I did leaving the airport,” she said. “Oh my gosh it was sad.”

Andrews will enter Level 3 in September and plans to keep on improving her French skills.