Bonjour! Je m’appelle Justine. J’ai fini mon première semaine à l’Institut de Touraine!
Immediately after finishing finals and arriving home, I packed a fresh suitcase and found myself on the way to France for a six-week language program at the Institut de Touraine.
The Institut is located in Tours, France, which is a city slightly larger and denser than South Bend. After an exhausting day of travel, I finally arrived at the Gare de St. Pierre des Corps from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport by TGV, which is a fast train ride of about one hour and 40 minutes. My host, a wonderful retired woman, was already there to meet me. Unfortunately, I soon realized that I could barely keep up with her rapid tongue. (Since, that has changed! Seeing the slightest improvement is very exciting.) There are a total of three students living with her: me, a young Japanese woman, and another American about my age.
As soon as classes began, however, my fears of being in a very unfamiliar setting were assuaged. Interacting with other students, I was reassured that I would catch on quickly. Some students who had already been in Tours for the past few weeks took me in, showed me where some good local lunch spots were, and helped me acclimate to the school’s environment. By the third day, classes started going more smoothly, as I had more practice speaking, writing, and reading French.
Still, while I have been practicing French in the classroom, some of my best learning experiences so far have come from verbal interactions with shopowners, my homestay host, and other students during our down time. Since I am already aware that I need to improve my speaking skills, any opportunity I have to speak the language is very valuable. Even at the dinner table, we try our best to speak French, even though us three students can speak English. Sometimes, it would make things much simpler if we could resort to our native tongues, but we all enjoy the challenge of trying to explain our thoughts in French.
At the Institut, I will be in the Intensive Course for 3 weeks (22.5h/week), and then I will switch to the Regular Course (15h/week). The difference between the two are the addition of culture-related lectures in the Intensive Course. The two that we were exposed to this week were French genres of music and the French schooling system. I found all of these very interesting, but what was just as intriguing was hearing about all the other student’s cultures in their home countries. Within my class of eight, there are two students from Japan, one from Thailand, one from Switzerland, two from Saudi Arabia, and one from Taiwan. We often discuss how one aspect of French culture compares to its counterpart in our home countries. It is really quite fascinating all of the things I have learned about these other places, as a result of having to unite our different worlds through something we have in common.
My French courses at Notre Dame have prepared me very well in terms of understanding grammatical concepts, so I am trying to bridge the thought translation process between the concepts that are repetitively memorized and the utilization of them in daily conversation.
À la prochaine!