After five years at the University of Toronto I have seen a lot of the good things the university is capable of. These good things weren’t necessarily initiatives of the university, but rather by a lot of the good people that work there.
However, as I prepare to graduate I see gross misuse of tuition and changes in the university that are making it more elitist and out-of-reach now than when I entered. And it really bothers me.
Case in point: The UofT Boundless Campaign is raising millions of dollars for the university through donations. It wants student donations, alumni donations, public donations, corporate donations, ANY donations to “explore the boundless possibilities of the university and its community.”
But UofT is not allocating any raised money to the Transitional Year Program for adult students who don’t have the formal qualifications for university admission but show great potential. I have known personally & taken courses with TYP students. They are often well-lived, have tremendous insight, and are engaged members of our UofT community. They want their education. However, they sometimes lack the academic requirements for admission and sometimes the funding to afford UofT. UofT has reduced the number TYP staff, limited its funding, and has made it increasingly stressful to operate.
BUT UofT just announced a ridiculous amount of money is available to attract “top” students to UofT. And I can almost guarantee what type of demographic those “top” students come from. It’s very sad and disturbing to see UofT clearly discriminating through its funding allocation to alter its student demographic & maintain its elite status.
As I prepared for a presentation to complete my internship in Nantes, France, I found this article online of the holiday show that I did with another intern at École Villa Maria.
Neither of us remember posing for this picture! But it’s a great memory of a fantastic evening!
[click the picture for a better quality version]
I’ve had my first full whirlwind week in France. It’s had ups. It’s had downs. And in a short time I’ve already learned a lot. Let’s Go:
My first COUCHSURFING experiences were fantastic. For my hosts in both Paris & Nantes, I was their first and they were mine. They were generous with their personal space and their time and they helped me get this French adventure off to a very good start.
But then academic life started and things went nutty for a while! I clearly should have had more than a glass of water for breakfast because everything took longer than expected & I went from 08h30 until 18h without any food or drink!
TRAM LINE #2 – MY BEST FRIEND
I went back & forth on this line about 11 times on my first day at the University of Nantes!
But no matter where I went, no matter what part of the city I was in, I could be guaranteed one thing: before long someone eating a baguette or a pastry would walk by!
So here’s a quick glimpse of Nantes….not a bad spot to call home for 4 months
EXPLORE took us students to Quebec City in the province of Quebec. One cool thing about French grammar is that if you say “à Québec” people will know you’re talking about the city of Quebec. If you say “au Québec” then you mean the province…you don’t have to always say “the city of Quebec” or “no, no: I mean Quebec the province not Quebec the city.”
….I’m slowly warming up to French grammar….now I just wish I understood it!
After spending an afternoon at the beach & preparing for a day-trip to Quebec City, I’ve been asked what exactly EXPLORE is and what us “students” do! We do get to do crazy fun stuff like beach trips, themed dance parties, and trips to Quebec and Montreal, but there’s so so so much more to it…we DO get homework & we DO write exams!
My part of the program is run by Ecole International de Francais at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres. It’s a French immersion program designed to allow us to “vivre en francais” for 5 weeks.
DAY TWO: the countdown. On the second day of the program all students take part in an oath swearing that we’ll speak only French for the remainder of the program. There’s a countdown (ten-nine-eight-seven-six-cinq-quatre-trois-deux-un) and just like that you’re French!
AN AVERAGE DAY OF EXPLORE IN Trois-Rivieres
8:30 French Academic Course (3.5 hours) – taught by seasoned professors with experience teaching French as a second language
13:30 Themed French Workshop (1.5 hours) – including Conversation, Computer Lab, Theatre, Chanson/Singing, Community Service, +++
18:30 S.O.S. (homework help and study time)
20:00 – 24:00 Theme nights, movie nights, karaoke nights, etc.
My first week of EXPLORE has come to an end. First class: my professor tells me that being immersed into a foreign language is supposedly one of the most stressful things for a person to go through….oh goodie. I think some of the new learners are feeling that right now. But I seem to be managing just fine, despite my broken French and my habit of staring blankly at store clerks when they zip off en francais at lightning speed!
Choosing Trois-Rivieres = win! It’s truly French from end to end. You can’t even find English books in the bookstores. Last night I hung out at La Grenouille (The Frog), a local French pub with live French music and a student-crowd that boisterously (there’s $2 beers, ‘nuff said) sings along to popular French songs.
I won’t even try to pretend that I’m good at speaking French! But I’m trying to change that. That’s why I figure I’d better get my butt over to France to make some drastic improvements!
I have the chance to do a teaching internship (in English) with the University of Nantes and while I’m there I’d work on my French. That’s the plan now! There’s a LOT of red tape, so I have a dedicated team of professors and administrators at the University of Toronto trying to help me make this happen! Hopefully at this time next year je serais a Nantes! Souhaitez-moi bonne chance!