J’Explore @ Glendon: 5 Things I Loved About My Summer Job

It’s hard to find a Glendonite who doesn’t have an Explore story. When prompted, most of my fellow students will start gushing immediately about their time in Chicoutimi or Trois-Rivieres or Ottawa or some other location for the government-funded language-immersion summer program. In my opinion, it’s a shame that more students outside of Glendon don’t know about Explore, given it’s a) a chance to practice your second language (English or French) with native speakers, b) a possible credit for your high school diploma/university degree, and c) a mostly-free trip to a part of Canada that you’ve never visited.

My Explore story’s a little funny, because while I’ve been involved in the program for two years now, I’ve never actually done Explore in the way most students do. I’ve never signed up to participate as a student; instead, I’ve spent two summers in a row working as a language monitor for Glendon’s Explore program, and I have to say it’s been one of the most richly rewarding experiences of my life. For all those who’ve done an Explore program, I highly recommend applying to work for Explore if you have a location near you. As far as summer jobs go, it’s one of the coolest I’ve found. Here’s why:

1. Real-Life French Experience

You know the whole “use it or lose it” principle? The idea that if you don’t exercise a skill, that skill will atrophy and eventually even disappear? The same thing applies to languages. As somebody who considers herself bilingual, it was a real treat (and sometimes a challenge!) to work in my second language.

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Basically all of these people are francophone. It’s not exactly slim pickings.

Last year I was teaching mostly in English with the occasional stop-in to chat with the FSL students, but this year I was one of the three monitors teaching FSL workshops–meaning I had, at the least, 2 hours of speaking French 3 times a week for 5 weeks. Factor in all the outings and activities (where I’d be speaking in French to all of my FSL students), and there was a hefty amount of French-language interaction happening that–and here’s the cool part–never felt awkward or inorganic. One of the most common complaints of any graduate from any language program is that the language they learned in class is just that: classroom language. Technically sound, but barely helpful in a real-life conversation with real-life speakers. My experience working with Explore gave me ample time to exercise my French in actual, natural situations, and as such I’ve improved massively on my vocabulary, my grasp of the grammar, and most importantly, my confidence in speaking.

Also for two weeks we host a group of JAPANESE STUDENTS in addition to our ESL and FSL students, so I even got to practice my Japanese!

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Above: SUGOI.

2. Teaching What I Love

Speaking of teaching, here’s a fun fact: despite Explore being primarily a language-learning program, I wasn’t actually hired to teach language. I was hired to teach something else while using a target language, in order to provide some of that much-needed, much-loved real-world experience I talked about in #1. So what did I teach?

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Take a guess.

In case no one’s read about their Illustrious Author, I’m a certified yoga instructor, and there’s nothing I can think of that makes me happier than spending a summer teaching people yoga. It’s about more than being able to touch your toes or put your foot behind your head–I split my lessons into one half theoretical and one half practical. The practical side had us out in the sun working our asanas off, yes, but the theoretical side gave me space to discuss yogic philosophy, breathing techniques, chakras, meditation, and a slew of other related topics including mental and emotional wellbeing, healthy relationships and intimacy, minimalism, and so on. At the end of the session I assigned the students a 1-2 page personal reflection detailing the way their perspective of themselves and their bodies had changed since the beginning of Explore, and some of the responses I got back literally made me tear up. If you can measure job satisfaction in anything, you can absolutely measure it in papers bearing the words “thank you for changing my life”.

Where else is the government going to pay you to do that?

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3. Laying Free, Fun-Filled Siege to Toronto

You know what else the government pays you to do when you work with Explore? It pays you to chaperone the off-campus excursions. Where does Glendon’s Explore program take its students? Everywhere from canoe trips around Toronto Island to Blue Jays games to the Royal Ontario Museum (and we all know how much I love the museum) to the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium to WONDERLAND.

That’s right, friends. As of this moment in my life, I have been paid to go to Wonderland. Three times.

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The teal ride behind me is the Leviathan, otherwise known as Heaven on Earth for Adrenaline Junkies.

Even if you live in the city like I do, there’s a bunch of touristy things that you might never have gotten around to because either a) they’re too touristy or b) you’re too broke. Working with Explore gives you a chance to experience all the hullabaloo and not break the bank in the process!

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Me, about to touch the elusive albino cownose ray at Ripley’s Aquarium. THEY’RE SO CUTE.

4. Connecting With Interesting Folks

No doubt about it, Explore will introduce you to all manner of people. I’ve met people from basically every quarter of Quebec, but also people from Nova Scotia, P.E.I., the YUKON. I’ve met at least three other people who are writing books, a fluent Egyptian Arabic speaker (which is one of the languages on my to-learn list), another circus artist, a classical pianist going to U of T for his PHD IN MUSIC, and not one but TWO people who practice poi.

Which is this.

Besides their talents and skills though, they’re also just good, fun, kind-hearted people. One of the most exciting parts of the program is the opportunity to trade stories with folks from all walks of life; one of the most exciting parts of teaching with the program is knowing I’ve made a genuine impact on those stories, those lives. I’ve introduced people to all sorts of ideas that they never might have been exposed to without me, from new favourite books and bands to philosophies on mortality (because I have a tendency to start breakfast conversations with such small talk as “what do you think is gonna happen when you die?”) And the students have exposed me to my own new ideas and experiences, from the introductory lesson in poi (thankfully NOT on fire) that I got the night of final banquet to the time last year that I got to see Louis-Jean Cormier live in Dundas Square during Franco-Fête. In short, I’ve made a ton of friends working Explore–which usually means a ton of potential couches to crash on next time I’m visiting Montreal!

5. Lifelong Teammates and Friends

Speaking of friends, I can’t end this post without mentioning my fellow monitors and the whole Extended Learning crew who make Explore at Glendon possible.

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Seriously, I can’t. Look at those mafia faces. Do you know what they’d do to me?

Count yourself lucky if you ever have a boss with HALF the patience and understanding and good humour of Kathleen Miller. Count yourself lucky if you ever have an office team half as diligent and punctual and calm in a crisis as Sophie and Patria. Count yourself lucky if you get half the horrible dad jokes you get from Sam and Eric.

These people are total weirdos.

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Total.

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Weirdos.

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And I love ’em to little lynch-mobbed bits and pieces. (Which would be funnier, and make more sense, if you’d been at the training for the job. We have jokes that are not of the ‘dad’ variety. They stayed in the break room. Mostly.)

So here’s to reliable, trustworthy, empathetic co-workers and friends, and here’s to Explore in general! If you have any questions about working at Explore, or the process of applying, drop a line and we’ll chat!

With love and summer memories,

~Sisi

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