Derek Cassidy - monitor at École St-Noël in Thetford Mines
My name is Derek Cassidy. I am a monitor at École St-Noël in Thetford Mines. I know it’s obvious what the impact of Odyssey is on schools and communities, but I would like to share with you my Odyssey experience and recognize the impact of the program on me personally.
Being in the Odyssey program has introduced me to so many awesome people, and I have had the chance to get to know many of them very well. But aside from making new friends, I have also been introduced to the culture of Quebec; new friends have ultimately led to many road trips to different parts of the province of Quebec for festivals, concerts, and various types of gatherings.
To give you an idea of some of the adventures we have been on, the first month in Quebec, the crew from Thetford Mines went to the Poutine Festival in Drummondville, the Western Fest in St-Tite, and visited Tadoussac for a weekend. And many other trips and hangouts followed.
One of the biggest reasons I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in Odyssey is the improvement of my French skills. Before May 2009, I spoke little to no French. After taking a five-week course at Laval (similar to Explore) and spending my summer in Mont Tremblant, I had basic knowledge of the language but I was still around a lot of anglophones. Being in a smaller community with very little English has forced me to be more active in speaking and hearing French on a regular basis. I am definitely not fluent, but my comprehension of French has improved so much. I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves ten times, or just nod and say “oui” when I don’t understand something.
As a Canadian, I believe it is important to have at least some knowledge of both official languages; but obviously, the more the better. It opens so many doors culturally, socially, and to many other areas of people’s lives, personally. When I was younger, I thought I would never speak another language, and I didn’t see the importance of knowing French. My last grade in French class was a 56%, which makes me laugh now. But if it weren’t for the Explore and Odyssey programs, I feel I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now, or have had the same type of immersion into the language. Even for people who aren’t overly serious about learning the language, they have still been given the opportunity, through these programs, to be exposed to French in Canada and to the culture that has formed from that.
I would recommend Odyssey to anyone who would like to improve their French skills, share their knowledge of English, experience Quebec and its culture, and meet a lot of really great people while doing it.