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Culture Exchange Students Visit Sugar Shack

In January 2024, Cestar Collège, Campus LaSalle, welcomed a group of 30 students from Panama, as part of a linguistic and cultural exchange program.  

These students, mostly aged 19 or 20, come from all over Panama and belong to a variety of backgrounds.  As a part of the exchange program, these students will learn both English and French during their period of stay in Montreal. In addition to this, the students will also get to experience life in the beautiful city of Montreal, while learning about the rich culture and heritage of Quebec. This experience, gained in class at Cestar Collège, Campus LaSalle, and through field trips and events, will provide the students with a great understanding of not just the language but also the way of life in Quebec and open many doors for their careers in the future. The group also contains a few older students looking to improve their language skills to boost their employability and expand their businesses back home in Panama.

During their immersive language learning experience, the students take English classes on 4 days of the week, from Monday to Thursday, with Fridays reserved exclusively for learning French.  The classes are conducted in beautiful classrooms with interactive boards and state-of-the-art settings. The curriculum is based on a thematic approach that will help the students learn the language quickly and communicate with confidence and ease in real life situations!  Upon arrival, the students spoke little to no English and absolutely no French, but thanks to their classes, they are making rapid strides and improving their vocabulary and speaking skills very quickly!  When speaking with the students, you’d be surprised at how well they speak English. Moreso, they are having a great time learning French as well!  

An important aspect of this learning experience is the fact that the learning extends beyond the four walls of the classroom. Students accompany their teachers and attend a variety of events in vibrant and multicultural Montreal to gain a first hand experience of the Quebecois life and culture. Of course, the students have been eager to explore the city on their own time as well.  Luckily for them, we’ve had a mild winter!  

There is no better way to start the Quebecois experience than visiting a Cabanes à sucre or A Sugar Shack!  On March 12th, the students visited Erablière Charbonneau, located in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec. Maple trees are abundant in the province of Quebec and every year, during early spring time, the sap from the trees is harvested to make maple syrup. This maple syrup is collected and eaten along with many complementary dishes (doused would be the right word!) as a traditional feast. Largely, the tradition has evolved to now be a good hearty brunch but make no mistake, it’s still a feast!  

The feast usually comprises common breakfast items such as eggs, bacon, sausages, and at the sugar shack at Erablière Charbonneau, our students got to try some classic Quebecois dishes.  Some got to try pickled beets for the first time and certainly no one had eaten tourtière before!  We thought we’d surprise them with oreille de crisse but in latin america, chicharrones are a common form of pork rinds.  It was still a fun variation on something that they were familiar with.  A good laugh was had by all when the students were presented with pets de soeurs (Nun farts) but there was a bit of hesitation about eating them!  Of course, everything was drenched in maple syrup!  After their robust meal, everyone was eager for a cup of coffee before they slipped into a food coma.  Needless to say, the students enjoyed their meal!

After the feast, students got to witness the maple syrup creation process and enjoyed a wagon trip through Erablière Charbonneau’s apple orchard, during which the students showed off their musical skills by singing Alouette!  A trip to a sugar shack is incomplete without tasting the sweet tire sur la neige (maple taffy on snow) and the students got to try this beloved treat as well! The students enjoyed their first sugar shack experience and between the heavy meal and the fresh air, most slept quietly on the bus ride back to Montreal!  

Sadly, this blog article can’t convey the enthusiasm of the students or the passion and dedication of the teachers.  The teachers were excited to share new vocabulary words in both languages and the students were very curious and eager to learn.  

These students will be here for another few months and we have a few other excursions planned.  We will update you with those events when they happen.  Cestar Collège, Campus LaSalle will be hosting a second group of students from Panama later this year.  We hope this blog article has illustrated how language education at Cestar Collège, Campus LaSalle is truly immersive and interactive, and is not restricted to just the classroom.  When you study with us, you get more than just an education, you get an experience that will broaden your horizons!

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