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.