I Moved to Quebec: Selina C. Wood

I Moved to Quebec: Selina C. Wood

This article, written by Selina C. Wood, first appeared in the November 2012 issue of Life in Quebec Magazine

I Moved to Quebec – Selina C. Wood

What do you do with a B.A in the Social Sciences?

I wish I could remember the moment that I decided to move to Quebec. The whole process started with a very nice ‘thanks but no thanks’ rejection letter from the University of Toronto. I had spent nearly eight years preparing for a life as a forensic anthropologist and about six months on this particular graduate school application, all for my dreams to be thwarted by a two paragraph letter that wasn’t even folded correctly, just jammed in to an envelope. To compound my ever growing problem of ‘what to do now that I was graduating with a bachelor’s degree and had no job or graduate school offer’ my mother converted my childhood home in to a boarding house. My room included. So I had no plan and no place to live come graduation day.

Selina_C._WoodI knew I wanted to stay in academia in some shape or form but had no clue how to do that without jumping back in to a community college. I am originally from Ontario but for the bulk of my growing up years, resided in California. In my early years I had an au pair from Quebec City who I still kept in pretty close contact with and for years she has been offering to help me enroll in a language program in QC. After all technically I taught her English, it only seemed right that she teach me French. So I contacted her and asked her for help researching a French language program.

Again, I wish I knew why I wanted to learn French. Why not Spanish? After all I had taken maybe ten introductions to Spanish classes, and I spent some time living on the Mexican border. Why not Chinese? I lived in China for three years; I could have picked that up just as quickly. I have a wide variety of reasons I have given my parents, friends and professors to justify my choice but what I really wanted was an adventure! Being the chicken that I am, I didn’t want to run off to some completely foreign country and Quebec was the only city that fit the bill; it’s new (to me), it’s different, and but also wasn’t too far from what I knew to be ‘normal’ (we still have Walmart and Dorito Chips here). Most importantly I didn’t need a visa because I am already a citizen and I have at least one friend here already.

I suppose the people at Laval University believe that part of the immersion program is already knowing French because all of my paperwork came in French, and needless to say I didn’t speak one lick of French. Google translate was getting extremely tedious and time consuming so I decided to get creative. Earlier in the year my university had a talent show for one of our acapella groups and one of the performers happened to be my co-worker, Rachel. About halfway through the performance Rachel emerged in a stereotypical French costume and sung a French rap. Rachel moved smoothly between both of Canada’s official languages, and watching her work is what convinced me to come. I want to be as fluid as she is with the French language, and that is why I decided to move to Quebec.

Getting to Canada, wait where are we?

In the weeks leading up to my move to Quebec I had been telling anybody who would listen that I was making this drive by myself. Truthfully I had no intention of driving by myself, I only said that in the hope that one of my friends would jump on board, too. As luck would have it, my mom had a 20 year old border in the house from Paraguay named Talia. Although Talia was technically enrolled in school she made it abundantly clear she didn’t mind missing a week or two for a road trip and immediately claimed her spot in the passenger seat.

Talia had the worst luck, almost every time she got behind the wheel we encountered a policeman and although we were never stopped I was always telling her to watch her speed. We drove through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. We only stopped to buy food once at a grocery store and that was to replace the bread we had finished eating. I honestly don’t remember eating an actual meal on the whole trip, we lived on the occasional sandwich and a bag of apples and clementines that we’d bought in California. That and the free breakfasts some hotels would provide. Talia was also always chewing on a cup of ice, I don’t know if this was to combat hunger or the bladder disorder she had failed to disclose to me before the trip. Either way we would need to stop about every two hours.

We also stayed at the cheapest hotels we could find, that some days were not too cheap and other days that were downright terrifying. Once we found a Motel 6 for $40 a night in Ohio, it was in a bad neighborhood, smelled of smoke and the first room key we were given was to a room that was already occupied.

We were unable to secure the proper Visa for my foreign friend Talia to cross the border so before I entered Canada I dropped her off at an airport in Buffalo. One of my best friends, Melissa, flew in and finished the trip. We decided to cross the border at Niagara Falls, I started to shake and freak out before we even reached the border, not having my passport had me frazzled. The border agent asked if we had over $7,000 to declare (I know almost all these questions by heart I travel so often) “No, I wish!” I make this joke every time I talk to a border agent to relieve the tension but this one didn’t even crack a smile. After Melissa declared she had pepper spray (yes, pepper spray), they pulled us aside for secondary questioning. The border agent didn’t care about my missing passport, but needed Melissa’s offensive weapon, so they left us in our car and went to find the necessary paper work. Melissa was immediately enamored with the border agent “Oh officer!” she jokingly whispered in my ear when they left us alone “You need to confiscate me when you finish work!”. I was less then amused.

Other than a few wrong turns followed by getting back on track, in mid-August, 2012, we finally made it to Quebec City.

To be continued…
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About the author:

Selina_Wood_HeadshotSelina C. Wood originally hails from Toronto and grew up in San Diego California. The daughter of an ex-flight attendant and entrepreneurial engineer she spent the bulk of her life travelling. Selina decided to move to Quebec after graduating with a B.A in biological anthropology from University of California San Diego. She is currently studying French language at Laval University. Selina is very excited to learn the French language and learn more about Quebec’s community.

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