La Fin

Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned over the past six weeks is, put simply, learning a language is difficult. I would venture to say that before arriving in France, my language abilities were already decent. Therefore, mastering small grammar concepts, acquiring new and more precise vocabulary, and simply speaking that language in most nearly all of my daily interactions have been the factors which most greatly accelerated my language acquisition. As I mention later in this post, the most important skill I acquired this summer was a greater confidence to speak French. This was only made possible, however, by actually speaking with native speakers, whether that be an employee of a museum of my “host-parents.” In addition to building confidence, speaking to native speakers provides further opportunity to employ techniques and vocabulary learned inside of the classroom. This opportunity complements the opportunity to make errors and be corrected, something which the French like to do but is actually helpful to those learning the language.

In reviewing and reflecting on my goals which I set for myself at the beginning of the summer, I believe that I achieved a degree of success relating to every one of them. As already mentioned, my inhibitions of speaking French to native speakers has been greatly diminished, largely through the experience of living in with a host family and having to sustain dinnertime conversation in French. The classroom lessons during my first four weeks at the institute very muted aided me in achieving my second goal which focused on grammar and verbs. Moreover, phonetics practice and simple classroom discussion advanced my pronunciation. Referring to my third goal on my blog page, while I did not study as much literature as I would have liked, I read independently and learned more than I imagined about French art. Regardless, I believe that my progress in other areas of my language capacity will aid me in my study of French literature at Notre Dame this fall. Lastly and on a more cultural note, my appreciation for the French political scene has greatly increased especially considering the unique nature of this year’s election. Seeing the shared problems between France and the United States, and those problems unique to France, deepened my political knowledge and made me thing about American problems from different perspectives.

Considering that this is my first time traveling to France, and Europe in general, my SLA Grant experience in its entirety has been more than rewarding. I now fully realize the impact of history on the differences between American and French culture. I also realize that the United States attracts a great deal of attention from other countries. While the US is obviously extremely powerful no the world stage, I believe that it is easy to forget that many people from other countries follow American news somewhat regularly. Another component of American influence is the prevalence of the ability to speak English among students from other countries. As my new friend from Taiwan, Jennifer, said, “America is the only place I know where it is so common to be monolingual.” It is true that as an American the need to speak another language is simply not that strong, but I now better comprehend the danger of this mindset. By adopting monolingualism as convenient and expecting others to speak English, one runs the risk of creating cultural disturbances and limiting his or her own potential. While I have has several opportunities in my life to change languages or stop pursuing one altogether, I now know that I will be forever thankful for my decision to continue to pursue French and the opportunity to become closer to mastering it through the SLA Grant opportunity. For those students considering applying for an SLA Grant, my first piece of advice is: Apply! As your trip approaches, you may be nervous about entering into a new culture for an extended period of time, I certainly was. Just know that as long as you make an effort to speak and learn, most native speakers will appreciate that and want to help you. After all, isn’t that what you would do too?

In the coming weeks when I travel independently around France and in the coming months and years when I continue to study French at Notre Dame and hopefully abroad, I will call upon my experience gained through the SLA Grant for guidance. I firmly believe that the most valuable thing I will take with me upon returning to Notre Dame is the confidence to speak French in a variety of situations, a skill which only the experience of being abroad can provide.  During my first semester at Notre Dame, I typically hesitated to speak up in French class and the same was definitely true when I arrived in Tours earlier this summer. Fortunately, I believe that I have made enormous strides in the sphere of my character and language capability. To speak further of the general experience of being abroad for an extended period of time I look forward to my junior year at Notre Dame, when I hopefully study abroad in France, and will therefore already know(to a certain degree) what I can reasonably expect in terms of the culture and language. In addition to the academic advancements I have made during my time in Tours, my personal mindset has developed to a great degree. Namely, I have become very aware that as a student, I must be always be conscious of cultural differences and willing to respect those. And while I am certainly more knowledgeable of French culture, the friends of various nationalities whom I met enriched my view of the United States, life in other countries, and the common bond which humans, and particularly students, are capable of sharing.

While a professional utility of my SLA Grant experience may not have manifested this summer, I believe that it will considering that I would very much like to pursue an internationally oriented career, particularly with a Francophone nation. Together, the improvements in my language skills and cultural competency will permit me to not only continue my studies of the French language but form deeper connections with the cultural and its people.

As a concluding note, I would just like to take one last opportunity to everyone who has made my time in Tours possible. To the donors to the SLA Grant, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the Center for the Study of Language and Culture, I say thank you. Also, I would like to express my gratitude to the Institute de Touraine, my host family, and all of the friends I made in Tours who truly made my summer remarkable. While I can view my time in Tours and in Europe in general as a valuable experience in and of itself (which it certainly is), I believe the true value of my trip manifests in the knowledge and experience which I will be able to use in coming years to continue to expand my relationships and knowledge in the most worldly way possible.

Attached I have included pictures of my independent travels after my program in Tours finished. The SLA Grant enabled me not only to study French and French culture but travel and see Europe in a much larger capacity than I anticipated.

St. Peter’s Square

The Colosseum

Trevi Fountain

Lake Lugano

Duomo di Milano

Luzern-chapel Bridge

Lion of Luzern


La Culture in and around Tours

As my time in Tours came closer to its end, I took greater advantage of my time this week by visiting several important cultural sites. While the beginning of last week was difficult for me because most of my friends returned to their respective homes, I have realized the gift of being able to start over and meet students from other universities and, during this session more than last, other countries including, but not limited to, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland. To begin, I visited the Musée de Compagnonnage on Wednesday. This museum showcases the work of craftsmen from disciplines ranging from carpentry to copper workers to masons. While I believe that I prefer traditional art museums to the Musée de Compagnonnage, the extremely intricate craftsmanship on display is truly incredible. For example, the wood spiral towers of which I attached pictures were truly unique in not only their detail but their scale and size.

Additionally, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which opened only a few years ago. Officially known as the “Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré,” the museum itself is relatively small but rich in its offerings. The primary exhibit is an exposition of paintings from the museum’s namesake artist Olivier Debré, a French painter who fell in love with Norway and spent extended time there painting everything from glaciers to the setting of the sun. Moreover, one of his most impressive works is a massive canvas which depicts his interpretation of the Loire River which runs right through Tours. As one of the docents explained to me, in order to understand Debré’s works, one must appreciate that Debré preferred to paint not necessarily what he saw but what he felt.

In addition to visiting the mentioned museums in Tours, I visited three separate towns around Tours which each offer unique and valuable cultural landmarks. On Wednesday I visited Saumur which is only 45 minutes away in the direction of Angers. While I did not visit what one would exactly consider works of art, I took a tour at both the Distillerie de Combier and a “cave” of the winery Louis de Grenelle. Combier was founded in 1834 as a candy manufacturer. The owner and founder only became interested in the production of liquors and syrups because they could be added to chocolates. In fact, the orange-flavored liquor triple-sec, most commonly associated with brands such as Cointreau and Grand Marnier originated at the Distillerie de Combier as additions to candy. Today, despite the fact that the business has grown expansively, all of Combier’s products are produced on site and sold locally. On the wine front, the producer Louis de Grenelle also makes a product unique to Saumur and the surrounding region. The wine which is called Saumur is a sparkling red which is really unlike any other wine produced in France. While I have frequently had opportunities to test products ranging from cheese to which which encapsulate the French way of life and more accurately the customs of a particular region, the opportunity to actually visit the production sites of such products gave me a newfound appreciate for the labor dedicated to products which often seem so commonplace in the modern world.

Château de Saumur

Distillerie de Combier

Members of Cameroon’s Military Marching Band in Saumur for an international festival of military bands

On Saturday, I used my afternoon to travel to Blois, a town which is also 45 minutes away, but in the opposite direction.  I originally intended to use Blois as a base to visit Château de Chambord (located about 25 minutes from the center of town) but discovered upon arriving that there were no buses running between the two. Nonetheless, Blois provided me with enough sites to capture my interest. For me Blois’ best offerings were it churches. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Trinity (Notre Dame de la Trinité) was especially interesting to me because, unlike most churches which one finds in France and Europe in general, the building was relatively new. And while the new style of construction did not exactly carry the same gravity as the older churches in Blois with their massive stone edifices and foundations, the carvings within the church were truly remarkable. The garden located adjacent to the Château de Blois was also incredibly beautiful. In particular one of the fountains was a small cave which was covered in gems such as amethyst which reflected the light of the sun onto the water to the small pool situated below.

Blois from across the Loire

Interior of Notre Dame de la Trinité

Steps leading to Cathedral Saint-Louis

The following Monday I visited what was probably my favorite of all of the smaller towns which I visited during my time in France, Amboise. It is hard for me to really describe which I preferred Amboise to Saumur or Blois, but I believe that the reason was simply the feel of the town and the way it was designed. Like the others, Amboise is situated on the Loire River which contributes to the beauty of the town. Unlike the others, however, the château of Amboise is located prominently next to the Loire  on top of a hill more or less directly in the center of town. The narrow streets lined with shops, local grocery stores, and restaurants lend themselves to a very lively and welcoming environment. Removed from the central business district is Clos Lucé, the home of Leonardo da Vinci. Beautifully restored and complemented by extensive gardens with life-sized and model recreations of da Vinci’s inventions, Clos Lucé provides an invaluable look into one of the greatest minds in human history. Everything from da Vinci’s bed to his workshops are meticulously restored in order to emit in visitors the feeling of being at the house during da Vinci’s own era.

da Vinci’s Workshop

da Vinci’s Bed

Jardins et la Politique

The end of week four at the institute was difficult because many of my friends from other American universities, namely the University of Alabama and Wake Forest University, finished their respective programs and returned to the United States. Fortunately, however, a new “session” of classes starts next week so I have hopes that I will be given the chance to meet more students from across the globe. This Wednesday I took advantage of Tours’ public transportation (one of Europe’s greatest assets in my opinion) to go to Villandry, the home of a château and accompanying gardens (pictures attached). While my visit was cut short by the rain, I have to say that walking around the perfectly manicured gardens was one of my favorite experiences thus far. I know understand why my host family urged me so much to go. While the château itself is pretty (I did not actually go inside), the gardens are something not-to-be missed. This week I also went to the Basilica of Saint Martin with my host family to get a detailed explanation of Saint Martin’s life and the specific components of the “Year of Saint Martin” which has been ongoing for over a year. Last week I went to the bookstore and bought a few books in French, some of them written by Albert Camus, in an attempt to pass my free time in a productive way while making use of the public parks here in Tours (another one of Europe’s greatest features). I must say that while it does not happen all of the time, it is rewarding to recognize vocabulary which I have read. Lastly on the cultural front, I attended a light show at the cathedral which actually occur every night during the summer. The illuminations tell the story of Tours in approximately 18 different “scenes” to provide, in the shows entirety, something truly spectacular even without any prior knowledge of the city’s past.

In addition to exploring châteaux and trying to catch up with some of France’s best known literature, I have worked to expand my knowledge of French culture through talking to native speakers. Considering the absolutely historic elections which have swept France over the past two months, I wanted to learn more about what citizens think of their new president, Emmanuel Macron. While a lot of French citizens have strong feelings toward Mr. Trump (while I am writing this it was announced that he will be in France to help the French celebrate Bastille Day), I have been confused by M. Macron himself and the general public attitude toward him. For a little bit of context, here is some information I gathered from the news and daily discussion in class: Macron defeated Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National but did so but a historically less significant margin than other candidates. This fact is even more interesting considering the voter turn-out was very low for both the presidential and legislative elections. Furthermore, Macron’s “party,” Le République En Marche (LREM) is more of a movement than a traditional political party and therefore is not well defined. With these facts in mind, I sought out individuals to get their specific opinions on Macron as an ordinary person and as a political.

Because I have grown closer to my host family during the past four weeks and the fact that we regularly discuss current political affairs over dinner, I decided that it would only be natural to get their opinion on the political environment which seems to transcend multiple facets of daily French life. Being supporters of the traditional right, the party known as Les Républicains, the Laumonnier’s were skeptical of Macron’s political agenda because they view him as being too liberal on the social front. Moreover, the Laumonnier’s expressed their discontent with the future prospects of French education. They fear that the more generous criteria for the BAC, the large exam which students take upon completing high school, will continue under the Macron administration. Lastly, the Laumonnier’s called attention to the relationship between Macron and his wife Brigitte who is 25 years his senior. For the Laumonnier’s the essential intrigue in Macron’s personal life, an intrigue which I believe is not uncommon, is that the relationship between the two started when Macron was a middle school student. Regardless of this fact, the essential problem which Marie-Dominique and Hervé have with Macron’s movement is that it is simply too young and not well defined. Simply, Macron was a socialist part minister under François Hollande, with whom the Laumonnier’s vehemently disagree and whom they think was overall an unsuccessful president, so they feel that Macron’s own political heritage is deeply tainted by these facts.

In addition to interviewing Marie Dominique and Hervé and seeing as I had just recently, I stayed after class one morning to get the opinion of one of my new professors on the entire LREM phenomenon and its long term impacts on the French political scene. Marie-Pierre expresses the sentiment that many people, including some who supported Macron’s presidential bid, were becoming increasingly concerned about whether or not the new president would be capable of accomplishing all that he promised. As a teacher Marie-Pierre allowed us to directly engage with the Macron political wave by having us analyze his speech in which he set the stage for his presidency. We, along with Marie-Pierre, came to the consensus that by calling upon historically significant French presidents and making extremely clear the choice which the French people made, Macron demonstrated in implicit and explicit ways the greater role which France can play in international politics. Despite all of the excitement which Macron has generated over the past few months, Marie-Pierre was quick to remind me that voter turnout in this spring’s election was markedly lower than it has been historically. Therefore, while Macron gives the appearance of being a unifying force, one must not forget that many French simply did not go to the polls to elect him.

In another interview, I discussed Macron’s impact with my other new professor, Sylvie Bertrand, who showed me the picture of Macron’s new cabinet and Macron’s presidential portrait to help explain some of the impact which Macron has had on French politics. In the photo of Macron’s cabinet, the diversity and unity which the new president preaches were noticeable. Despite the unity for which Macron strives, however, Sylvie explained her discontent for the fact that Macron changed the position in charge of women’s affairs from the level of minister to secretary, seemingly lowering the position’s importance and sending a message that the republic and administration will direct less attention to this issue despite its apparent social liberalism. The real problem in this demotion, however, lies in the fact that as a secretariat position, the “agency” will receive less funding from the national budge. Sylvie put it well by saying that while Macron can project an image of promoting women’s rights but his administration with be objectively less capable of promoting them. In terms of the portrait of Macron, every detailed seemed to be meticulously planned from the clock which sat on Macron’s desk to the very fact that the portrait depicts Macron inside and in an office rather than outside in a natural setting. Sylvie expressed her admiration for then symbolism contained within the portrait and said that it is a show of good will on behalf of Macron to work diligently to realize what he promised to voters (despite growing doubt).

In a few weeks Macron will meet with both the national assembly and the senate at the Château de Versailles in order to discuss his intentions for his term. Most nearly everyone, regardless of political affiliation, expects him to unveil sweeping changes to the traditional French political system. While it is impossible to know whether Macron’s youthful energy and ambitions will lead him to success or failure, one thing is certain; the foundations of French politics have been irreversibly altered.


Garden at Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry

Jardin d’eau at Château de Villandry

Illuminations on Cathédrale Saint-Gatien in Tours

Points de Vue (Troisième Post)

After another week in Tours, I have noticed further improvements in my vocabulary, fluidity of speech, and utilisation of more advanced concepts. At the same time, however, the difficulties of learning a language have been reinforced. For exemple, this past Wednesday, I went to the outdoor farmers’ market which is held outside of the indoor market named Les Halles which I mention in other posts, and when I went to purchase  raspberries, the man at the stall asked me English, “which one do you want?” Something similar happened to me a few days later at a café. While it is likely that he was just trying to assist someone learning the language, such events do from time to time make me second guess my confidence and ability to speak French, this experience demonstrated an occasional dilemma of learning French. Despite this , the weekend I spent in the country side, near Chinon, was incredible helpful for my acquisition of vocabulary and provided a truly immersive and demanding language experience. My host parents’ children, Antoinette and Matthieu, came to the family’s house in the country side for a weekend as well. Nonetheless, the weekend provided a chance to stop and reflect on words and phrases which I would have otherwise been forced to forego in a typical daily interaction. (I was also able to help Matthieu with his English.)

In Tours, I took time this week to explore some areas which I previously had not been to. Such adventures were rewarding because they allowed me to see the “Hôtel de Ville,” a small but not the less beautiful church, and two separate public parcs where locals go to read, chat, or simply enjoy the beautiful spaces which their city provides for them.

On another note, considering the current political climate in the United States, it was not long before my host family, professors at the institute, and my friends from other countries whom I have met asked me my opinion of the US government. Of course, these conversations were useful for me because I was able to turn the questions around in order to learn more about foreign perceptions of the United States.

Talking to my host family about politics is consistently interesting because France itself is in a unique place politically. Emmanuel Macron, the month-old president of the republic, took French politics by storm by avoiding the traditional left and right in order to find himself president. As my host family has expressed to me, however, it is difficult to truly know what Macron will do because he is part of neither the traditional left or right, a sentiment which has been echoed by them concerning President Trump. Aside from politics, a lot of conversation at dinner has concerned the differences in education and the french workplace. My host family admires the economic system in the United States because, although it is more demanding, it permits for greater mobility which does not exist in France and has been the cause of high unemployment since the financial crisis of 2008. In terms of education, the great competition the exists for entrance into the so-called “grandes-écoles” is something I never appreciated. French students sometimes undergo two years of preparation just to prepare themselves for entrance exams. Interestingly enough, my host family travelled to the United States in 2000 with their children in order to  visit relatives, one of whom was actually a French instructor at Notre Dame. On a cultural level, the Laumonnier’s very much enjoyed the natural beauty which the United States has to offer and commented on the country’s geographic immensity.

At the Institut de Touraine, one of my professors, Alain Maydat, took a strong political position concerning the United States. For example, he was very surprised to learn the fact the the refusal of service to homosexual customers in stores was such a large point of contention in the United States. Similarly, he expressed concern to me and the class over issues of women’s rights and police brutality, both of which are problems facing the United States and France alike. Professor Maydat, being consistently concerned with the social problems the United States faces, drew a parallel between education in France and the United States, particularly business school, because his own son had gone through the process of acquiring loans to be able to attend such an institution. In this instance he recognized the common problem of student debt between the two countries. Also on the theme of education, Alain affirmed his support of laïcité, or secularism, which the French Republic upholds. I gathered that while the separation of church and state exists in the United States, it is a value held far more dearly in France. To conclude, Alain once asked us the differences we had noticed during our time in Tours between our respective cultures and France’s. I took this opportunity to say that I found the French to be far more quiet and reserved than Americans, a comment with which Alain agreed.

One of my favorite parts of being at the institute has been getting to meet students from not only around the United States but around the world and communicating with them in French. I thought that my friend Jennifer, who is from Taiwan but attends Tufts University in Boston, would be a perfect candidate to gather opinions about the United States because, although she is not a native speaker of French, she went through the first year of college as I did but from a completely different perspective. To best summarize her description of American culture, she used the word “diversity.” In Taiwan and in France, the culture is fairly to very homogenous and the parts that do not conform are often confined. While this can be true in the United States, Jennifer found that Americans embrace trying different things and encountering new people. While Americans would love to meet French university students, the inverse is not necessarily true. Moreover, she commented on the pride which Americans have in being American and the individualism which accompanies that. Lastly, she stated that Americans are very friendly and willing to help. I think this is definitely true but I also would like to add that the stereotype that French people are rude is not. Sure, people in Paris can be difficult but one finds elements of that in any large city where everyone is in a rush…

Hôtel de Ville

Jardin de Prébendes d’Oé

Jardin Botanique

Deuxième Post

Generally speaking, I took time this week before leaving again for Chinon to explore more of the cultural opportunities which Tours has to offer. Namely, I visited the Musée des Beaux Arts which is located in a old house adjacent to the cathedral, pictures of which I included in my first blog post. On top of its location, the museum also boasts a beautiful garden which at the time of my visit was being planted and a giant Lebanese Cyprus tree in the center courtyard. The museum’s collection itself is impression because it covers art ranging from the ancient Greeks to present day with exhibits on realism and impressionism, just to name a few. As I mentioned in my first blog post, there is an outdoor farmers’ market located around the daily indoor market named Les Halles every Wednesday morning. Once again, I snuck away from the institute between classes to purchase raspberries and was again infinitely impressed with their quality and flavor. There is also a flower market on Wednesdays which I imagine would be beautiful to visit and photograph.

This weekend I returned to my host family’s house in the countryside (near Chinon) with hopes of completing more tasked outlined on the SLA website. Fortunately, doing so presented the perfect opportunity to investigate the cuisine of the Touraine region and the unique characteristics which make it so special. Rather than go out to dinner, I went grocery shopping with my host family’s children, Matthieu and Antoinette, who were extremely helpful in explaining the dishes we would be eating for dinner, particularly the regional specialities. The two specialities I choose to explore were “rillettes” and “chèvre.” In French, “chèvre” literally means goat but it is also the name given to the cheese made from goat’s milk. While chèvre is common all over France, Tours and the surrounding region, such as Chinon, offer some unique varieties which I had the opportunity to taste this weekend. Namely, I learned that Sainte-Maure de Touraine, a cheese with a government-controlled appellation, is unique for two reasons; the first is that the milk with which it is made is not pasteurized as it would be in the United States and the second is that in order to be officially Sainte-Maure de Touraine, there must be a piece of straw through the center of the cheese in order to secure its authenticity. Compared to cheese in the United States which is made with milk which has been pasteurized, chèvre made with “lait cru” provides a stronger flavor. Moreover, Sainte-Maure is aged differently that other goat cheeses I have had in the U.S. so the drier texture was a new experience which I truly enjoyed.

While cheese is served after the principal plate during a french meal, rillettes are commonly served as an appetizer in the Touraine region. This weekend I had the opportunity to experience two different types of rillettes. The first variety was made from geese and the second, and my preferred, was made from duck. Essentially, rillettes consist of meat and fat from the chosen animal which is then cooked with wine for a period of time which allows the meet to become extremely tender before they are served with bread or crackers. I learned this weekend that the wine used to make rillettes is often local white wine from the Loire Valley, a fact which increases the authenticity of the dish. My experience with this dish was enhanced by the fact that for dinner on Saturday night, after the appetizer of rillettes, I tried rillons which are larger pieces of pork similarly prepared but meant to serve as an actually plate. Overall, this weekend provided me with an opportunity to try two products, Saint-Maure de Touraine and rillettes, which I have frequently seen in markets across Tours but had not previously ventured to trie.

In Chinon, I visited a chapel which traces its history to the second century when the well located there was founded by the Gallo-Roman civilization. Moreover, the frescos from the 12th century, although faded, were nonetheless impressive. I was also able to visit the Fortress of Chinon which is unlike other château because its purpose was truly defensive rather than an elegant escape for a king. Finally, on the return to Tours, we stopped to see the château Villandry which is world-renowned for its gardens. With that being said, I plan on returning this Wednesday so that I can actually experience on of the Loire River Valley’s cultural icons.

Musée des Beaux Arts and surrounding garden (Tours)

View of the Vienne River from the Forteresse de Chinon

Bell Tower of the Fortresse de Chinon

First Week in Tours

Bonjour from Tours. Although the somewhat hectic journey through Charles de Gaulle airport in Pairs that left with with four minutes to spare when I arrived at the train station, my time in Tours has been very enjoyable. Tours itself is a mid-sized city located on the banks of the Loire river and is characterized by a fairly easy going pace of life. When I arrived at the train station in the center of town, I was greeted by Madame Laumonnier, my host mother, and was quickly welcomed into her and her husband Hervé’s home which is also home to a Dalmatien and a cat. Before arriving in Tours I have little idea what my experience living in a French home would be like. So far I believe that my homestay experience has been extremely positive because my host parents give me a great degree of freedom while also providing a welcoming environment for someone who is experiencing living in another country for the first time.

My host home is located about 15 minutes on foot from the l’Institut de Touraine where I am studying which makes for a very pleasant walk to class each morning under the tree lined Boulevard Béranger. In my classes, I have already studied different verb tenses and prepositions which tend to plague anyone attempt to learn a new language well. This coming week I need to prepare a presentation for class on an issue on which the class will then debate. Although intimidating I feel well prepared to present because of my french courses at Notre Dame. Although the majority of my experiences at the institute and in Tours in general have been positive so far, I recognized the difficulties of truly mastering a language. There were several instances when a native speaker simply did not understand what I said or asked and even more instances where I failed to understand what one of them said because of their speed, accent, etc. (These nearly always seemed to happen at stores, restaurants, etc.) For me, this was slightly discouraging but I realized that I cannot allow a misunderstanding that transpired on my second or third day in a country to define my mindset and my experience as a whole. Rather, I must take these chances to understand that I am simply not as good of as listener or speaker as I thought and work to ameliorate these problems in the coming weeks.

Despite my “struggles,” I have taken advantage of not having class during the afternoons to explore Tours and all that it has to offer. The Rue Nationale and Place Plumerieu are populated with shops, cafés, and restaurants. For example, today some of the other students from my class and I got gelato and sat in the old town square to enjoy the sun and the town’s beauty. Afterward, I wandered around the city some more and looked at the cathedral and basilica (pictures attached in that order), both of which are incredibly beautiful. In terms of food, the meals at home have been very good and traditional, and I look forward to exploring the cuisine more. There is an indoor market near the institute called Les Halles that sells any meat, cheese, or produce that you could possibly imagine. This weekend, I had the privilege of travelling to the Laumonnier’s house in the countryside, an experience which provided me with an introduction to the châteaux which the Loire has to offer. Small roads and paths weave through the surrounding farms and vineyards to create a magnificent chance to experience France’s natural beauty. Moreover, the wildflowers, vegetation, and grape vines themselves which cover small hillsides truly make for remarkable panoramas.

My first week in France has been busy but at the same time a great introduction to the country’s culture and language, not to mention an an eyeopening experience into the difficulties of learning a new language. With the lessons learned during my first week in Tours, I look forward to embracing new opportunities and challenges in the coming weeks as I progress through my language and cultural education.