From 1965 to 2013: A Return to Lac du Bois | Concordia Language Villages

From 1965 to 2013:
A Return to Lac du Bois

Once a villager at Lac du Bois in 1965, Jill Mattson chose to return to Concordia Language Villages in September 2013 to brush up on her French.

Besides majoring in the language in college, Jill spoke French sparingly after her first trip to Lac du Bois as a teenager. So, when she planned a trip to France with her cousin for late spring 2014, Jill decided it would be a good idea to return to the camp of her youth. She was not sure she would remember any of the grammar or sentence structure she had first learned as a child, but when she returned to Lac du Bois, her memory flooded her.

“It was all still in our brains,” she says.

Jill Mattson

Jill did not know any French when she arrived at Lac du Bois in 1965 and was nervous she would not be able to communicate with her counselors or peers. By the end of the week, she was shocked at how much of the language she could understand and speak.

When Jill returned last September, she was initially faced with the same anxiety she had felt almost 50 years earlier. When she and her cousin arrived during dinner on their first evening, they learned they had to list several items in a category before they could be served their meal.

“Oh boy, I’m going to be losing weight this week,” Jill had thought.

She was convinced she was in over her head, but the language began to come back to her within only 20 minutes of her arrival.

During both her experiences as a youth and adult villager, Jill ended her one-week programs feeling immensely more versed in French language and culture than she expected – and she attributes this growth to the total immersion experience the Villages offer.

In September, Jill elected to speak solely French during four days of her seven-day stay at Lac du Bois, and each night she discussed the day with her cousin in French. These personal choices furthered Jill’s immersion at Lac du Bois and provided her with confidence to visit France as more than a tourist.

Not only did Jill leave Lac du Bois as a youth with French language skills and cultural awareness, she says her experience opened a “curiosity door” to diverse lifestyles and reduced the anxiety she may have otherwise felt towards individuals whose lifestyles differed from her own.

"I think it contributed to me. . . trying to understand people for who they are instead of judging someone by my own – whatever I was thinking – as a kid."

Jill remembers the 1965 motto at the Villages as: “Come as Many, Leave as One.” While she didn’t hear this phrase in September, Jill believes the idea still rings true today.

Almost 50 years later, a unified culture resonates.