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Meet Yasmine Michel  

On the walkway between the CEGEP and the University, there is a small dance studio where the sun shines through the windows. This is where we meet up with Yasmine, choreographer of the CEGEP dance company this year.

“I started dancing when I was three. I’ve been dancing for a while now. I have done a lot of jazz and gwo-ka, a traditional dance from Guadeloupe, my home country. I also did belly dancing and dancehall. Upon my arrival, I joined the CEGEP dance company to pursue my passion for dancing. I have been part of the group for three years. This year, I was asked to be the choreographer. I agreed because it’s my true passion.”  

And she cannot hide it. Yasmine has a natural elegance that contrasts with her slightly rebellious nature.

“In Guadeloupe, almost all the students go to France to complete their studies. But I didn’t want to be like everybody. I wanted to go somewhere different. I was informed of the partnership between CEGEPs and Guadeloupe and I thought to myself: ‘Yes, Canada sounds interesting.’ If I have a scholarship for my studies, why not go there? Plus, people speak French there. Why did I come to the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region? That’s a funny story. When students fill out their application, they can choose between three groups of CEGEPs: Montréal, Trois-Rivières and Rimouski. What they don’t know is that the three sites are in fact different platforms for a group of CEGEPs that may be far away from the city mentioned in the name of the group. So, I clicked on the Montréal site and the first CEGEP I saw was Abitibi-Témiscamingue. I thought I was going to be close to Montréal. Once I was done with all the paperwork, I thought: ‘Maybe I should look on Google Maps.’ That is when I realized that the CEGEP was more than 600 km away from Montréal. But that didn’t discourage me. I started talking with the people who were in charge of the admissions and they were very nice, they answered all my questions and they were there for me. That’s how I ended up in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region!”  

Yasmine arrived in Rouyn-Noranda in January almost four years ago.

“I had never seen snow before. Before coming here, I prepared myself for the winter to be horrible. So when I got there, I was like ‘Ah, that’s not so bad, it isn’t that cold’. However, I would recommend that newcomers get the right gear. Get a warm winter coat and boots and everything else you need. Then, you’ll be able to enjoy many activities. I had never skied before. So I tried it. I’m still not very good, but I’m doing okay. I would say that tubing is my favourite. What I enjoy the most about this region are all the outdoor activities. I love visiting the Refuge Pageau, skiing at Mount Kanasuta, hiking on the Kékéko Hills, etc.” 

In the end, Yasmine has absolutely no regret to have ended up in Rouyn-Noranda by mistake.   

“We got a really warm welcome. If we pass by someone walking down the street, they will say hello, so we greet them back. We are not afraid to ask people on the street if we can’t find our way or want to know something. It’s a very nice place to come and study. The structure of the CEGEP offers many benefits. Plus we don’t feel that we are a number among many others. When I arrived, people knew who I was and I received excellent support services. It really made my establishment easier. It’s easy to speak with teachers or other people who work in the college. I think it is a peaceful and pleasant place to live. People from Guadeloupe are used to being surrounded by trees and quiet places. We also find that here. You can sit in a small park and revise for an exam. Those places are easily accessible. I like it here because it seems that all the conditions for a successful year are in place.”  

She has now completed her studies and is working as a youth worker at the youth centre. Although she sometimes misses Guadeloupe, she has decided to settle down here.  

“When I came here, I knew I wasn’t going back to Guadeloupe. And, the longer I stayed, the more it confirmed my decision. I wouldn’t say that I don’t want to go back home, but the opportunities and the life I built here, now with my boyfriend, make me want to stay. He is from the island of La Réunion. And he is going to stay as well. The many work opportunities are a reason we want to stay.”

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