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French Club Members Discover, Celebrate Canada
french club group
The French Club huddles for a group picture on their recent trip to Canada. Shown, from left: Steve Rein, Jessica Rein, Anne Homer, Annalise VanderVeen and Sophie Jones on the Terrasse Dufferin in front of the Chateau Frontenac on the Saint Lawrence River. Photo Contributed

Oakdale High School’s French Club has been fundraising to go on a trip for the past few years. That trip became a reality earlier this summer.

French teacher Jessica Rein and her husband, Steve, chaperoned the eight-day trip to Canada with three members of the French Club: Anne Homer, Sophie Jones, and Annalise VanderVeen.

“We have to travel if we want to do anything that’s French,” Rein explained.

After taking a poll, students decided that Canada was the most cost-effective option.

In order to fundraise for the trip, members of the club painted faces at football games, sold See’s candy, Tupperware, and candles, and organized a group garage sale.

“We thank the community for supporting us,” Rein commented.

When they arrived in Canada, they visited a range of cities including Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Montreal, club member Anne Homer noted, “was a mixture of a young, active environment but there were also a bunch of cobblestone streets and was very European.”

Not only did the young environment mix in with the old, but the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum provided a direct opportunity for the French Club to walk among the ruins of old buildings – essentially, it’s a museum inside of a dig site.

It seems a lot of Canada is built around the balance of modern-day architecture and its original construction. Old Quebec, a favorite site of French Club members, is a neighborhood of Quebec City and is comprised of Upper and Lower Town.

“In Lower Town there’s no cars,” VanderVeen said, “it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

“French culture and the language is very important to Quebec’s history,” Jones added.

Canada is dedicated to preserving its origins. Not only are cities fined if they don’t put French first on signs before translating to English, but the Quebec motto is on all license plates: “Je me souviens,” which translates to “I remember” – a tribute to the traditions and memories of the past.

One cultural shock that the French Club tourists received just moments after stepping off of their plane was just how often French came first in Canada.

“The first thing you hear is people speaking French to each other,” Jones relayed.

Rein added that they were all surprised to hear local kids speaking in a mixture of French and English to one another.

“They’re speaking in French and every other word is in English,” Rein said.

Luckily, Homer, VanderVeen, and Jones had all taken Rein’s class, so they were able to translate the French easier than they had thought. Rein revealed her favorite part of the trip was “hearing the girls use the language” even knowing that “they were so scared at first.”

She said that speaking colloquial Quebec-French there (as opposed to the traditional France-French they were taught) is like “when the water is cold in the swimming pool and you just have to jump in ... and what’s the point of learning a foreign language if you don’t at least try to use it within its natural environment?”

“I think I learned a lot more French than I have in a very long time, just being completely immersed,” Homer agreed.

The girls not only brushed up on their language expertise, but were able to delve further into Canadian and French history by visiting a plethora of museums, historical sites, and even re-enacting the history between Canadians and the French in Quebec City.

“It was really cool to learn all this stuff about Canadian history that I didn’t even know even though I’m Canadian and was born there,” VanderVeen confessed.

“This felt more like a family than a group,” Rein expressed, “we’re all very close to one another and it was nice to see the girls out of school.”

The girls, all 2017 Oakdale High School graduates, shared similar viewpoints and said that it was a fantastic way to end their high school experience.

“It’s a great way to see what’s out there,” VanderVeen noted.

“It wasn’t a school trip,” Homer acknowledged. “It was more just an entrance into our future.”

As for their futures, the girls will all be leaving Oakdale, come August and September. Homer is heading to UC Davis, Jones to University of Washington, and VanderVeen to participate in the City Impact program in San Francisco.