The Last Post 1

I figured I would write this one in English since I’ve just crossed the border into Ontario. Why am I in Ontario you may ask? Unfortunately my summer in Quebec is over and I’m headed back home for a couple of weeks before school starts up again! The last two weeks has been crazy because I have been trying to finish my report, finally finishing it yesterday at 3pm with a total of 188 pages. Now it’s up to the government to decide whether they want to follow my recommendations…which could take a while haha.

Since this is my last post for the summer, I think it would be appropriate to go over everything I learned and experienced this summer for the first time, or to mention stuff that just really stood out. Perhaps I should give a warning though that this might be a long list, because this summer was quite amazing!! Here goes:

1)      First time that I had ever lived in a francophone city in my life. Picked up a lot more French because I had too. The years of French vocab sheets helped tremendously, and I actually managed to survive. In the last few weeks I have even started being able to speak with random people on the bus in French and I managed to find quite a few Quebecois friends who were patient enough to help me improve my French. It was great to be forced to speak French and be completely submerged in it – definitely the best way to learn a language. The city of Quebec itself was beautiful, and I explored everything it had to offer – from Ile D’Orleans to the Old Quebec.

2)      Persistence and goals can get you anywhere. This was a regular theme throughout my summer, ever since starting to look for a summer job in October and then ending up at DRDC-Valcartier finally in April. After speaking with 72 different people all around the globe I finally found the amazing experience which was my job this summer.

3)      Learned that many people would love to pass on their knowledge to someone who is willing to listen.  I learned a tremendous amount this summer by not saying anything at all and just listening to the more knowledgeable people around me. It is all about asking the right questions and directing the conversation to where you want it to go.

4)      First time I went on a business trip. In fact I went to Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo for business trips to interview representatives from various companies for my project. It turns out that going on business trips can actually be quite lonesome – even though you get to travel and see tons of stuff you need someone to share that with to actually appreciate it and have the most fun. There is quite a difference between sharing pictures & telling someone about a trip and actually having that other person there with you to share the experience when living the moment. Luckily I met up with people on my journeys, and in the cities I visited I had friends which I called up and had dinner with. And of course I met random people on my travels, making it quite exciting, but there was definitely nights alone in hotel rooms. The business trips I had this summer were extremely fun, but I can’t see myself doing it for a job the rest of my life.

5)      Discovered Quebec is more social than Canada. With its cooperatives for this and that and higher taxes, it was clear that Quebec is quite a bit more left-wing than the rest of Canada. There were even some signs which I saw around the city announcing big government programs (eg. Construction, community centres, etc) and how many people they would employ. I definitely used it quite a bit, borrowed free bikes, used a great transportation system, and so I have no real complaints about this fact.

6)      Found out that quite a few people who smoke in Quebec. Compared to the rest of Canada there are a lot more smokers in Quebec – perhaps something to do with the previous point? Haha just kidding.

7)      Employers like cheap coop students. Especially if they are completing a project which they have been wanting to complete but haven’t had the budget for.

8)      First time I met up with someone who I met online. In the first week I was trying to find more people to speak with in Quebec and therefore went to the University of Laval Engineers Without Borders (ISF en français) chapter. I ended up meeting up with a girl from the Facebook group, and only when I was telling the story to a friend I realized that I had “met her online” haha.

9)      Learned quite a bit about Chile and Mexico, while trying to pick up some Spanish and even a bit of Salsa dancing. Spanish is Quebec? Strange, that’s what I thought too. But I hung out lots with two big groups, one Mexican and one Chilean, who were in Quebec to learn more French like me! Surprisingly I was able to understand them better with their Mexican accents than most normal Quebecois, probably because they spoke a bit slower and made similar mistakes. And before I show anyone my salsa abilities, I’m going to practice a bit more…

10)   First time I’ve ever yelled “Vive la Quebec!” and waved around a Quebecois flag. Not that I’m a separatist, but I got a little caught up in the moment on St. Jean-Baptiste Day (the Quebec National holiday) and figured it was something I had to do to fit in.

11)   It is easy to connect with very important people if you have an important sounding project. Just emailing or calling a company vice president is made so much easier when you have a project which sounds like it could be very confidential and important. The best part of this is that they only discover that you are a university student when you walk into the interview, after the PowerPoint presentation is made and best boardroom is already booked.

12)   Found out government is horribly inefficient.  With more and more administration work being done there is a decreasing amount of actual work being conducted in government agencies. This is something that has plagued many large aerospace projects like that of the Space Shuttle in the United States, and will ultimately cause the cancellation of similar future programs which could do tremendous good for the world. After working inside a government agency and speaking with other employees there it is fairly clear that there needs to be a little less paper-shuffling going on if the government is to be more efficient and use its money more wisely.

13)   You don’t need to know magic to be a “magician”. I watched a few “magicians” and street performers do absolutely nothing spectacular in their shows, yet manage to receive many donations. They lit torches, brought out props and interacted with the audience, but it was all just a build-up to nothing (they didn’t use the props and just extinguished the torches). I was actually quite impressed, since maybe this was just the biggest illusion of them all.

14)   Figured out what the government wants to see in a report. Or hopefully I’ve figured it out – or else my report will have been for nought. It’s all about relating their areas of focus to the objectives of your project. If you can achieve “win-win” rather than any sort of compromise, than you have a much better chance of success.

15)   Second time ever having a 7 hour conversation with a complete stranger. On the train between Montreal and Toronto. You never know what you will learn when you sit down next to a good-looking girl on the Via Rail. So much for that sleep I was going to catch up on. The first time was actually a 9 hour conversation with my neighbour on the flight from Japan to Vancouver last year.

16)   Space industry in Canada is quite small. And throughout the project I have probably talked with people in about 80%+ of the companies and organizations in the industry. It is crazy to be able to see so much of an industry in an entire country, I think only a few people get that chance.

17)   It seems like everyone knows the best way to go about completing a project. This makes it quite hard to summarize all their opinions into one coherent report, and it was very interesting to learn how to do that successfully. I feel like no person would actually completely agree with the report however, since it does not represent anyone’s point of view exactly, well, except for mine…

18)   My first report that’s ever gotten published. I can now add a section to my resume with the headline “Publications” after all the work that I put into writing this 188 page report. I do not know if anyone will actually read it, haha, but that’s beyond my control.

I’m sure that there is a whole bunch more things that I experienced and learned, but this is all that’s going into the blog. To my loyal readers who have come back every week to read my blog (thanks mom), I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about my summer, as it has been an amazing one that I will never forget!!

Au revoir Québec! Je me souviens!

– Alex

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