It was the summer of 2012, and here’s where I was at this point in my life: I was 23 and fresh out of U of T with a Specialist degree in French, I had just got out of a “serious” relationship (at least it felt so at the time), I was working at an unfulfilling, dead-end job, and overall, I felt like I had maxed out on my current situation.

Earlier in the year, I had made the decision to apply for The Odyssey Program, which is essentially paid work experience in a school setting. The job consists of being a language assistant in a francophone environment, but here’s the catch: when you apply, you won’t know where you’ll be placed until you actually got accepted for the position. Stressful, right?

  At this point, though, I was ready for a change, so I was happy with wherever they decided to place me! Plus, I wanted an experience where I could actually put my degree to good use. Months passed by without a word, so I decided to follow up with one of the facilitators, Geneviève. Turns out, I was on a waitlist. WHAT A BUMMER!

École Ste-Lucie, aka the school where I did my stint

Literally a day later, I get a phone call from Geneviève, who told me that a spot opened up and I got accepted for a position in Val-d’Or, QC. “I’ll take it!” I screamed, but she told me to sleep on it, since it was quite a ways from home, and to be frank, it was a desolate area to live in. I took her advice and waited a day to confirm my acceptance, although deep down inside, I knew taking it was the only option I gave myself.

Going through old documents is so nostalgic, but also so, so embarrassing hahaaha... like, I can’t believe I asked my future supervisor if there were any nail salons nearby! *facepalm* ...but also, #priorities, amirite?

POPULATION: 31,000+ (compared to Toronto's population of over 2,730,000)
DISTANCE BY CAR FROM TORONTO: over 730km away = approx 8hrs without stopping (which I only did once a trip to get gas and to use the washroom)
CLAIM TO FAME: gold mining industry
SPORT: hockey (DUH!)
BIGGEST ATTRACTIONS: Walmart, La Cage, the mining museum, the one mall, the rotary tower, one club, a few bars (all with electronic slot machines in them), a few strip clubs...

The infamous rotary tower

Before I made my way to VD (which is ironically short form for something else pretty gross lol), I headed to Québec City for a weekend full of training. It was my first time there, too, so hearing “québécois” French was a surprise, considering all the French I had learned throughout my education was from France.

If you’ve ever been to Québec City and have been confused with their dialect... boy, you’re in for a surprise if you ever touch down in VD. Their slang is like.......... slang’s distant cousin, twice removed. I felt pretty useless with my educational background, that’s for sure!


I still remember my first few days there and exactly how I felt. To put it in perspective, I was one of maybe five total Asians in the whole town – some of which were young children who were adopted into the families there – so needless to say, everywhere I went, people would just stare. It was intimidating at first, but I eventually got used to it.

1. The lifers: the people who are born and raised here, don’t own a passport, and don’t have any plans to leave the town... or the province, at least.
2. The miners – most of which were from out of town, working there on a few weeks’ rotation to save up (they get paid A LOT).
3. The minors, aka the guys on the junior hockey team lol. Too young to be out at the bars, but too wild to care about the rules. Also – complete assholes, for the most part.
4. The macho man. If he wasn’t a firefighter, he was a gym rat. If he wasn’t a gym rat, he was a cop. If not a cop, he worked in construction. If not construction, well – you get the idea.
5. The visitors, aka me: there for an experience and to make the most of it while it lasts, but 99.99% will never return again.

mi cuarto es su cuarto lulz

It was a small town: the type of town where everyone knows everyone and their business – whether you liked it or not. Locals could literally point everyone out by name, so the other language monitor and I were pretty much fresh meat. Everyone had dated one another already, so the gossip on one another was heavy. Oh, and if you couldn’t tell by the list above, the population was like 70% male. No one ever gets married there, but shacks up instead. And if you ever discussed a future together, he didn’t want you to work, but stay at home and take care of the kids while he made all the money. Ideal right? Nope – not for me!

So as I mentioned, I came here with pretty much nothing but an open mind, so everything was foreign to me. Winters were long and snowfall started in the beginning of October. Winter tires were mandatory, and people often had plugs hanging out of their grills so they could plug their cars overnight to make sure they would start the next morning. I remember a good two weeks where the average lowest temperature was -40 degrees... Celsius! Sometimes the kids got a snow day simply because it was way too cold out. Those days, I envied them, because I still had to make it in for class.

it me

Although I moved there alone, I wasn’t actually going to be living alone... in fact, I was moving in with my supervisor, which definitely had its pros and cons. Let’s just say that I found myself trying to find excuses to get out of the house, which actually forced me to explore VD in depth and create new friends along the way.

Abitibi Gurlzzz in tha cut

♥ Catch a movie at Capitol Val d’Or aka the only movie theatre in town
♥ Have dinner at St. Hubert, La Cage, Fleur de Lotus, or if you’re feelin’ fancy, L’Entracte
♥ Hit up the bars and "clubs" (ie. Shooters, Red Light, La Broue, Le Chateau – not the clothing store lol)
♥ Be artsy fartsy at the art museum (which also happens to be inside a library)
♥ Watch a concert (also at the library)
♥ Watch an LHJMQ hockey game (this is HUGE here)
♥ Go skidooing, skiing, tobogganing and all of the winter stuff... might as well embrace it!
♥ Grab breakfast after a night of partying (Benedictine seems to be the spot)
♥ Go to one of two strip clubs in the town
♥ Date!!! How else are you going to learn the language? Lol

Me, skiing on a first date lmao who did I think I was?!

Let me just say that the nightlife in Val-d’Or is the polar opposite of what it is in Toronto. Girls are always free, and can drink an unlimited amount til 1AM. There’s one actual club in the whole town, which no one goes to because it’s too bougie. There are more strip clubs than there are churches, and the talent is... interesting to say the least. Speaking of churches, no one under the age of 55 practices the religion.

All in all, my experience here was nothing short of amazing! Who would’ve thunk I’d have fun in a place like this? What made it extra tolerable was the fact that I had made such amazing friends along the way. I’d say half of my friends were also language monitors, coming from all corners of the country, and the other half were townies that I was fortunate enough to connect with! And also fortunate enough to speak English, too lol. Although Val-d’Or was hundreds of km away, I still made it a point to come back home every month, so as not to lose my sanity. In between all that, FaceTime sessions saved my life.

Frequent FaceTime sessions w fwendz

The little quirks of this town are what make it, and although some days I thought I would either die of boredom or from frostbite, I still wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I have to admit that picking up my stuff and moving far, far away was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. It challenged me in the best way possible to be more independent, more spontaneous and more self-sufficient and this unique experience helped shape me into the person I am today, without a doubt.

To Val-d’Or, with love.