Quebec City: An Introduction to French Culture

CUNY’s latest International Education Report showed participation in study abroad programs during the 2010-11 academic year averaged 1.5% of fall 2010 Baccalaureate enrollment. Hunter College (2.9%), Baruch College (1.6%), and Brooklyn College (1.5%) led the way. At Lehman College, student participation in study abroad programs amounted to 0.4% of Baccalaureate enrollment.

Study abroad and foreign travel provide students with strong learning opportunities. In a contemporary world in which technology and transportation have brought the world’s countries, cultures, and peoples into increasingly close contact and made diversity an increasingly important attribute of higher education, study abroad and foreign travel are especially important. Study abroad and foreign travel expose students to different cultures, peoples, and cuisines. Those activities allow students to broaden their perspective, deepen their insights, and leverage their creativity, all of which are important in life far beyond one’s academic studies.

The importance of such activities is not likely to diminish anytime soon. Arguably, it will likely increase over the longer-term. Although the modern world has experienced alternating periods of divergence and convergence among nations and peoples, the overall trend has been one of convergence.

For students not able to study abroad—and the number of opportunities for such study is extremely limited—foreign travel during the winter and/or summer break affords alternative opportunities. One such place not too far from the Bronx is Canada’s Quebec City.

Just over 500 miles from the Bronx, along a very simple drive—I-87 North to 15 Nord (once across the Canadian border) to 20 Est and then up Route 175 Nord—lies a city filled with old world charm and a vibrant French culture. Only an American Passport is needed.

Once there, one can walk the vast Plains of Abraham that overlooks the St. Lawrence River. It is in that area that a force led by British General James Wolfe prevailed in a short but intense battle against French forces led by Louis-Joseph de Montcalm in 1759. That battle proved a turning point in securing British control over a vast part of North America.

One can walk up the picturesque Grand Allée, past the Quebec Parliament Building on the left and Citadel on the right, through the St. Louis Gate into old Quebec City. The Old City is North America’s only city surrounded by walls. After that, one finds oneself on Rue St. Louis amidst 17th, 18th, and 19th century architecture. One of the homes that stands out on the left is the Maisson Jacquet, which was built in 1677. Today, that home serves as the Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant where one can find “Neptune’s Shell: Giant Shrimp and Scallops in White Wine Sauce,” a “Quebec Tasting Platter for Two,” and more. Toward the end of Rue St. Louis is the Château Frontenac, the Old City’s architectural jewel. The city is also marked by a number of old Churches, some of which were first established during the 17th and 18th centuries.

One can also travel outside the Quebec City to the Montmorency Falls, Orleans Island, Beaupré, and Charlevoix Region to visit additional landmarks, historical sites, towering peaks, rolling geography, and the ever-present St. Lawrence River.

All said, even if one does not have the opportunity to study abroad, an opportunity to immerse oneself into French culture with only a drive and Passport is well within reach.

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