Quebec Trip Shows Francophone Culture

Caitlin Holbrook

On Friday, April 11, 24 Colgate University students, three Colgate professors and one French Language Intern boarded a bus headed to Bromont, Quebec. Funded by a Beyond Colgate Grant, the Humanities Department, the Romance Language Department, the French Club and Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures John Gallucci, the weekend trip to the tiny and authentic French-speaking town of Bromont afforded students an opportunity to enjoy a cross-cultural experience after only a five-and-a-half hour bus ride.

Organizer of the trip and Lecturer in French Mahadevi Ramakrishnan explained the goal of the trip was to expose and immerse students in a different culture in a region that was not too far from Colgate.

“Since any form of perceived cultural difference can be the basis for exclusion and discrimination and can sometimes lead to hatred and violence, I feel a sense of responsibility as an educator to narrow cultural divide,” Ramakrishnan said. “I was able to organize a ‘language and immersion’ weekend in the small, quaint and authentic Quebecois town of Bromont.”

The trip was offered to any students currently enrolled in a French course, as Ramakrishnan felt the opportunity to visit an authentic French town was a great chance for French students to appreciate the Francophone world they read about in their textbooks.

“Since studying the Francophone world and its cultures is an integral part of most, if not every Beginner and Intermediate French text, I felt that this trip was quite valuable,”

Ramakrishnan said.

The weekend included a trip to the Domaine les Brome vineyards in Bromont, where students partook in a mini wine-making and wine-tasting course given in French by the owners, as well as a formal meeting and question-and-answer session with Bromont’s Mayor Pauline Quinlan.

After the warm welcome from the Mayor, the group also took a walk through the town to Bromont’s historic chocolate factory for an authentic Quebecois lunch, followed by a guided tour of the factory explaining the history of chocolate making in Quebec. Students were then given the opportunity to attend a Quebecois church service, as well as the chance to dine at a local restaurant in town.

Ramakrishnan described the value the trip held for students.

“It was a great learning experience, a great cross-cultural experience for students,” Ramakrishnan said. “People don’t realize the close proximity of the French-speaking region. There’s a rich French heritage right across the border from us. We’re so close and yet the cultural divide is so big.”

Ramakrishnan reflected that the students didn’t fully appreciate the cultural divide until they arrived in Bromont and were surrounded by the unique Francophone culture.

“It was only when students got there that they realized it [the cultural divide], as they ordered lunch …and did things they normally did,” Ramakrishnan said, “But the more exposed they get to the cultural divide the more equipped they are to handle cultural gaps.”

Students who participated in the trip were also enthusiastic about their experience.

“It was really fun,” first-year Kathryne Kirk said. “I hope we get to do it again next year.”

Ramakrishnan and all others who went on the trip are indeed hoping to do it again soon.

“I think it was a terrific first experience, a maiden voyage, for all of us,” Ramakrishnan said. “I would love to make it an annual event.”