Students Gain International Experience During Spring Break

For 10 University of Mary Washington students, Spring Break felt more like winter. The group traveled to Quebec, Canada – where the average high in March is zero degrees Celsius – as part of a weeklong faculty-led study abroad trip.

Students from various levels of French embarked on their journey on Friday, March 1, and reached Canadian French culture after a two-hour plane ride.

Professor Scott Powers and a group of students explore Montreal’s biodome as part of their study abroad trip.

“It’s pretty incredible that French has been preserved in one province in Canada for hundreds of years,” said Sarah Lynch, a sophomore psychology major. Quebec, located in east-central Canada, is the only Canadian province with French as the single official language.

The trip to Quebec, led by Associate Professor of French Scott Powers, was one of five faculty-led study abroad opportunities during Spring Break, including Belize, Guatemala, Germany, Scotland and Ireland. The trips offer students experiences beyond the foreign language classroom – a complete linguistic, cultural and culinary immersion.

“Getting an opportunity to speak French in the real world let me see how much I really had learned,” said sophomore international affairs major Lauren Malecki. “If I mispronounced something many of the locals would correct me.”

Students made maple sugar candy during one of their excursions in Quebec.

Students practiced French while ordering food, interacting with locals and on tours of cultural and historic sites. They saw a theatre performance in RÉSO, one of the largest underground cities in the world, ate a four-course meal at the Parliament of Quebec, attended a class at the University of Montreal and spent an evening at winter festival.

“It’s surprising that right around the corner we can have a completely different cultural experience,” said Meredith Stone, a sophomore geography major.

The trip also allowed students to gain experiential learning credit, a graduation requirement at UMW designed to challenge students to go outside of the bounds of the typical classroom.

Powers hopes that he will be able to take another group of students to Quebec next spring.

“I think the trip made students feel more comfortable with speaking to people in French,” he said. “In a couple of days of being here your inhibitions melt away.”