Bishop’s is home to a growing Francophone student population. It’s fitting, as the campus sits in a corner of Sherbrooke, the only university city in Quebec listed as “too cool for school” by Air Canada’s EnRoute magazine. But even if that’s the case, some French-speaking students wonder just how they will succeed on an Anglophone campus.
Rachel Labonté is quick to quell any doubts or fears.
The 21-year-old from Drummondville, Quebec, is a student in the Teaching English as a Second Language program, minoring in Secondary Education. Bishop’s was a logical choice for Rachel, as her goal was to become an English teacher. She was also looking to stay close to home, and with Drummondville just a short drive away, she felt comfortable moving to Sherbrooke.
When Rachel first arrived on campus, her nervousness was tempered by the atmosphere on campus and the community of fellow Francophones who had made the same choice. “In the beginning, I did not know English so well,” she recalls. “It was scary, but then I met so many Francophones who were going through the same thing.”
Once classes began, Rachel found that many resources were available to her to improve her English skills. “The Writing Centre is really great,” she says. “I give them all of my work and they correct it with me, that way I can see where I need to improve.”
Rachel’s professors have also been instrumental in helping her perfect her English written and oral skills. “My teachers have been really helpful. One of my first classes was on pronunciation and that really helped me.” She also became friends with English-speaking students who helped her become bilingual.
At Bishop’s, students can turn their work in French, but Rachel decided against it, preferring to dive into her assignments in English and thus accelerate her progress.
Her advice for Francophones? “Don’t be scared,” she says. “It takes a lot of courage to learn a new language but it’s easy to improve. And there are so many ways to improve here.”