Post-Program Reflections

Since I began the study of the French language at Notre Dame, I never actually enjoyed the idea of learning in a classroom setting. For me, I was never that enthused, and I was actually quite timid about speaking in class. Alongside my other American counterparts, it was quite evident that we had mastery over the written portion of the French language—or at least with regards to the things we had already learned. But it was easy to evade the oratory requirement, and I think our dissatisfaction with it became clear whenever prompted to speak and all we could really do was exchange looks with one another. However, going to France changed that for me—as times of desperation often forced me to use the French I knew. Some days, sitting in class, moving slowly through the textbook was a dreaded experience—one that typically left me longing to leave class so that I could at roam the city and test my skills in French that way. Nonetheless, over the course of 7 weeks, I learned that the language acquisition process is a slow one accompanied by days of success and days of defeat.

I had come up with 5 goals for myself—all having to do with improving my oratory skills. I wanted to be able to navigate my way through a French town without having to rely upon a GPS. I wanted to be able to ask questions, if necessary; I wanted to be able to read all kinds of texts in French—newspapers, magazines, novels, etc. I hoped to even learn a little French slang, but during my time in France, I was not fortunate enough to accomplish all of the goals I had established for myself. I became comfortable with speaking the language, but I was not able to increase my linguistic abilities within a 2 month time span that would allow for comprehension of all French texts at full proficiency. I am confident, however, that with continued practice, I will be able to do so.

After such an experience, I would definitely say that I am more “open-minded” to trying new things and interacting with new people. During the first weeks of my time in Tours, I found it a little difficult to grow accustomed to the unfamiliarity around me. Many of the American students whom I had met were with their own universities, and while being alone was something I had to confront, I realized that I could use it to my benefit. Ridding myself of the comfort of having English speaking friends, I forced myself to befriend students from different countries—which really afforded me the opportunity to truly improve my French. Aside from my academic experiences, I was always pleasantly surprised with what my host family had to offer. I often recall one interaction with them at dinner where I said, “Every evening is a culture shock”. My host mom-laughed, replying that it didn’t matter as long as it was a good culture shock—which it had been. Prior to my time in France, I was never as open to the idea of trying new foods, but I was always so surprised to see and taste the renditions of other cultural dishes made by my host father. Discussions at dinner were always versatile—ranging from more contentious topics like politics and religion to things like soccer, but nonetheless, my host family was always respective of the views held by their residents, and conversations such as these became an eye-opener to what life was like in places like Taiwan, France, and the United Kingdom. With that being said, I have definitely taken a new approach to the things we consider “culturally normative”, and I have developed a desire to learn about parts of the world that are often ignored in the discourse of the “liberal world order”.

For anyone considering applying for an SLA grant or partaking in their own summer language study, I would say do it. I think that when given the opportunity to travel abroad, often people devise this plan to see as many countries as possible within a given time span. While this remains a possibility, I didn’t partake in any trips outside of France, but I had the pleasure of learning so much about other European countries from the French perspective. This trip has afforded me so many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. With the SLA grant, I was granted the opportunity to travel alone for the first time outside of the United States, and while I was met with some moments of discomfort, it was truly an empowering experience.

Since then, I have taken an interest in learning other languages. Without the presence of an instructor, I have been able to utilize the resources given to me during my time in Tours, and I have grown mindful of the processes taken to learn a language. After experiencing this and reaching a level of limited proficiency, I am eager to practice with those around me. Although unaware of what I may do post-graduation, I have intentions of visiting other Francophone countries and one day merging my interest of Public Health and Public Policy with language acquisition and language learning.

La Finale

This seems like a fitting title, considering France will be playing in the final against Croatia this Sunday for the first time since 1998. But also in what feels like a bittersweet moment, this week marked the end of my time in Tours and in France. Although I feel as though I have been living in France for about 3 months, this week has quickly passed. Tuesday was quite exciting, as my host family and I decided to eat dinner an hour earlier just so we would be afforded the opportunity to fully invest ourselves into what was actually quite a boring match. Although a slightly undewhelming game, my host father’s commentary throughout the spectacle made up for my unsatisfied angst. After the match, however, the celebrations began. My house was situated just on Rue Nationale, providing me with a great view of the sunset each night, the ferris wheel, the tram, and the many passerbys who roam the streets throughout the day. Just outside the window, I heard people chanting “Umtiti”, the defender who scored the goal for France. Others chanted “Allez, allez, allez finale” as drivers honked their horns and pedestrians draped the flag upon their shoulders. I decided I would go to the guinguette, and even as I walked towards the river, it proved difficult to cross the street as traffic ensued and people filled the streets.

Wednesday, I visited Amboise, just about 30 minutes away from Tours. It was the first castle I had taken the time to visit, after receiving many recommendations. It was interesting to see something such as that–that was a combination of both Gothic and Renaissance architecture. But what surprised me most, after visiting Amboise and then Clos Luce (where Leonardo da Vinci stayed whilst in France), was that I was able to understand a significant portion of what was being said by our tour guide and the teacher who accompanied us. Being forced to speak the language for 5 hours straight while also having to interpret and translate everything from French to English can be a tiring feat, but as I have made minor improvements, I recognize that translating is now becoming a passive process.

Yet, I still have many days where I am able to speak French well and many others where my French seems just as bad as when I first arrived. I have become cognizant of when my French seems to suffer the most and when it seems to thrive. Typically when I find myself in difficult situations, French isn’t as difficult because I see it as a necessity. Yet, when I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, amongst a new group of people in a new setting, I seem to stumble upon my words, unable to put together a sentence with a subject, verb, and object. Wednesday’s class seemed to be a good example of that. While I do not typically have trouble speaking or interpreting, we were required to take an oral exam. I felt slightly unprepared, considering I did not know what to expect, but I assumed it would be fairly easy for me to listen to some audio recording and identify the main idea. Yet, as my teacher continued to replay excerpts and exercises for us to listen to, I failed to comprehend every single one. Instead, I was only successful with a particular portion of the exam. It is in moments like these that I become a little insecure about how much I truly understand French. With my host family and those living with me, I have explained to them that I am not entirely sure if I actually know French or I am just capable of understanding particular words and piecing together a conversation because I am able to utilize context clues. I assume that this is what we do in English when first acquiring the language, but I can truthfully say that during the past year or so that I have taken French, this is the first time I have become attentive to how it is that I am learning. It’s a very intuitive and personal experience–to take note of how one has learned and continues to learn when mastering another language. On occasion, I have moments where I am presented with new words, and typically just before I am getting ready to look them up, I quickly realize I am able to understand its meaning without the use of a dictionary.

Today was my last day in Tours. Before leaving, I had an exam that covered two particular areas, “comprehension ecrite“, and “production ecrite“. I found the exam to be quite easy, and after receiving my marks, I was pleased to see that I had improved in the areas of written comprehension and production, as well as French and oral production. While parting ways with my professor, she mentioned that I should continue to study French, making note of the fact that I had developed quite a vast vocabulary and developed better speaking skills.

I don’t find goodbyes difficult, but they are always a bit awkward. I had spent the past 7 weeks saying goodbye to all the people I had come to know, but today, it was my turn. As I hugged the people I met throughout my time in various courses, one girl said to me, “you always meet twice in life”. I now know that it is German saying, but I find truth in that, regardless. I have met many people from other states who I have run into at airports, so I am hopeful that we may all meet again.

I am now writing this from Paris, with the intentions of returning back to the United States tomorrow. I am more than thankful for my time here in France. I would never consider myself well-traveled as I have only been outside of the US twice, and now thrice, but it has been an invaluable experience that has left me feeling empowered.

new classes and birthday celebrations

It is now the end of week 6 here in Tours–of what felt like the quickest week since my time here in France. The start of the week was met by many new students at the Institute, primarily those from America, but also those from places such as Spain, Russia, Venezuela, and elsewhere. I was placed into a new class, and it was a little interesting yet taxing to go through the process of re-acquainting myself with others and doing a bit more than the typical Notre Dame introduction. I have made mention of my school name and what I study, along with where I live, but the discussion of heritage has actually been quite prevalent since my time here in France. Americans often marvel at the accents of others, and I usually hate the fact that my French accent does not sound as natural as I would like, but I find that others have come to enjoy the sound of the “American” accent or what one man called my American twang.

Class discussion this week focused on grammar, as well as NGOs within France and elsewhere in the world. Unlike last week, it is back to normal–where we work within groups to explain the use of the subjunctive and conditional tenses. We even discussed some of the French slang spoken by the younger population. With my teacher being an older man, he made the joke that if we wanted to pick up on any of the slang, we would have to visit the guinguette where younger French locals spend their time. He taught us some phrases such as “Je kiffe grave”, which is the equivalent of “J’aime beaucoup”. He also taught us something that I have picked up on since being here in France. When speaking French, the French will take many short cuts. Rather than creating a sentence with the subject, verb, and object, when speaking, they will combine both the subject and the verb to say something like “J’suis Francais” or “T’es quoi?” rather than “Je suis Francais” or “Tu es quoi?”. I have even found a way to truly practice my French without simple rote learning. I have now gotten into the habit of journaling in French. While I am not entirely sure if all the grammar is correct, it has forced me to enhance my French vocabulary, rather than using the same adverbs and adjectives. Since doing this, engaging in class discussion, and speaking with both my host family and locals outside of class, I have actually seen a marked improvement in my oral comprehension and my reading and writing skills. At dinners with my family, I am now able to understand about 85% of what is said, while the other 15% is spent shifting my gaze between my house mates to see if any of them understood what was said. And even before, as we would eat dinner and watch the World Cup, it would be as though I was only passively listening to the French commentary. I would recognize words such as “tourner” or “catastrophe!”,  essentially all of the French words that sounded the exact same in English, but I have now been able to identify particular phrases and other key words about players and their teams.

Shifting towards the sports, (something I think it actually quite critical to French culture like in any other), this week for the World Cup felt quite slow, as it is now almost over. What used to be a daily spectacle now occurs every few days. Japan lost against Belgium and Colombia lost against England, but today is the day that my host parents keep referring to as stressful, although I think it will pass rather quickly. Today, France plays against Uruguay, and although stressful, these days seem to be the funnest as streets near Place Plum become crowded with a montage of red, white, and blue. Many French people will cover their faces with tiny French flags and sit in groups in front of TVs preparing for the match to commence. But aside from just this, the Tour de France is also starting this weekend. My host father tells me this is actually one of his favorite times of the year, given that it is televised on TV from an aerial perspective, giving people the ability to see the eclectic terrain in France near the Alps. But aside from these athletic events, there is a lot to be happy about. Just two days ago, some students and I from school celebrated the 4th of July. Although a very small celebration with just a few sparklers, a group of French people approached us asking if it was someone’s birthday, but after mentioning that it was the “Fete National” for the US, many of them joined in the celebration, making note of the fact that they were actually quite familiar with the 4th of July.

Yet, the festivities did not end there. One of my housemates from the US was actually preparing for her departure and with my birthday approaching, my host parents decided to have a small celebration–a farewell and a birthday party all in one. Often, dinners are quite extravagant here, or at least more formal than anything I would typically prepare at home. Yesterday’s dinner, however, was slightly different. The table was adorned with some of the most beautiful plates I had ever seen, and beside our cutlery, were small containers of bubbles. After going through the first two courses–poached eggs and then a Moroccan dish called tajine (accompanied by couscous), my host family brought out the typical cheese platter. The cheese course is usually followed by dessert, but this dessert was beyond my expectations. I was presented with a giant cake and gifts, but even without the additional surprises, our discussions over things such as the importance of the ecosystem (and the ways in which France attempts to preserve it), the predominant religions existing in France and other countries, or even the ways in which the cultures of others (Africans, Asians, and other Europeans) have been taken and adapted by France are enough to sustain me.

That night we decided it was necessary to take a “family” photo. Thus far, this is probably one of the most multicultural families I have ever been a part of–with a girl from Spain (and previously, a girl from Colombia), a girl from Taiwan, and another from America. With the night coming to a close, I decided to visit the cathedral in Tours to view the frequently talked about light show–documenting something so modern on a very ancient building.

In turn, I’d say the past three days were some of my best days since being here, but for now, au revoir!


n’est pas la semaine dernier, juste le cinquième

After 5 weeks here in France, it almost feels as if I have been here for months. I have gotten used to a lot of the same things–such as going through Les Halles each Sunday after my runs and walking through particular streets when I decide to go for walks.  This week at the Institute was a bit different, as most people have left, with the intentions of returning next week. Friends from my class last session have gone to their respective countries–Iran, South Korea, Taiwan, and India, but with others departing and new students arriving, I have had the pleasure of fortifying new friendships once again.

This week’s classes were dedicated to oral comprehension. Often, we had class discussions about a particular topic such as the use of phones while driving. but we also had an activity where we were forced to go on a scavenger hunt inside a store to answer questions such as, “what are some foods that are exclusively French or exclusively found in Tours?”. Most people thought it was quite weird that we were approaching them with such specific questions, but that activity  actually proved to be one of my favorites.

During the weekend, unlike most of my friends, I did not go to Paris, London, or Amsterdam, but I was actually fortunate to experience something that I did not initially anticipate. Saturday, after a nice stroll through Tours and time spent at a local bagel restaurant for a game-watch between France and Argentina, I had dinner with my host family and decided to take one last walk past the river and through Place Plum alone. My stroll actually led me to a group of men playing soccer and a group of children running alongside them playing a game of their own. After acknowledging what these children were running from, I noticed there was a celebration taking place inside a building. It became the perfect opportunity to use my French, and although this is something I would have never done had I been in the US, I decided to walk up to one of the people standing outside the building. Out of curiosity, I simply wanted to know what was being celebrated, as I heard a lot of the music and quickly recognized that those people were of African descent. He then invited inside, which would typically seem very weird and slightly unsafe, but my intuition did not steer me wrong that night.

The first person I met was a Senegalese woman who had been studying in Toulouse–a city in southern France, but we instantly became friends. She was a little taken aback by the fact that I didn’t actually know anyone at what I later learned was a wedding reception, but after informing the rest of her family members, they were delighted to have me. They were excited to come across someone who spoke English, but after learning I was a student who had the intentions of learning French, they made the decision to solely speak to me in French. Occasionally, I would ask them to slow down or revert to English and sometimes my previously learned Spanish, but my time with them was rather heartwarming–especially when I met a woman from Sierra Leone who was happy to find another person with whom she could speak English rather than just French. They asked about my time here in France and my perspective on Tours, and I then inquired the same. I later found that most of them did not even live in Tours, but in neighboring cities, cities in Belgium, or Paris. We talked about French cuisine and the more obvious cultural differences between the French, Americans, and Africans. When leaving, I talked to the woman I first met, expressing my appreciation for the way in which they welcomed me. She laughed and told me that this was quite common for them–that they would have easily treated anyone else in the same. This isn’t the first time I have really had an interaction like this, and perhaps it is based on context, but being abroad, I see that life here in some ways is not entirely different, but the values upheld are.

After returning home, I was still surprised that I had managed to truly go outside of my comfort zone–to speak French (which is actually a lot harder for me when I come across people I have never met) and to walk into a party alone in an entirely different country. Nonetheless, it was more of a growing experience for me than anything else.

My Top 4 Favorite Things About Tours, France

I spent the past few weeks with very inconsistent internet, and I still struggled to fully adjust to everything in France. Nonetheless, I have remained open-minded and developed a lot of friendships with people at the institute who live abroad.   This past week I said goodbye to many of my American friends I had made whilst being here, and we were keen on spending as much time together in places around Tours such as the botanical garden and restaurants in the tiny streets adjacent to Place Plumereau. I was also fortunate to experience “Fete de la Musique”, which is a celebration of the first day of summer. Around 5 or 6 PM, people began to open their windows and place their speakers near them so that others could marvel in the music they had to offer–and this proved quite satisfying after I came across a man who was playing Afrobeats (a sort of pop music that incorporates many African sounds). Throughout the night as my friends and I roamed throughout the town, we walked alongside the many crowds of people. At one corner we would hear techno music and at the other it would be rap, and although very busy, I enjoyed the ambience of Tours that seemed to sustain itself into the night.

But truly, what I wanted to share were the 4 things I truly enjoy about Tours that I may miss once I return home.

  • Runs early in the morning. Most of Tours seems to be asleep on Saturdays and Sundays from 8-10 AM, yet this time seems to make for the best type of runs. While the uneven pavement can be annoying, it makes my morning runs slightly more exciting and challenging as I am forced to run up and down hills and through streets and allies previously unexplored.
  • The ethnic shops and migrant communities. Being a Nigerian-American, I was excited to come to France and learn about the many migrant communities living alongside the French (obviously some of these people also identify as French as well, given that they are 1st or 2nd generation). Since being here, I have had the pleasure of meeting many people from the Middle East as well as North, West, and Central Africa. Last week I had decided to walk around Tours alone through many unfamiliar streets and I had found a small African restaurant owned by a Congolese woman. It was actually quite funny, considering that I saw a family of Africans sitting outside the shop before actually noticing what I was looking at. When I decided to visit a few days later, I saw the same family and decided to converse with them. I learned that they were from Gabon and had two daughters that were the same age as me. It was funny trying to engage in conversation with them, as they quickly realized that I spoke English both because I am American and because Nigeria is one of the few countries in Western Africa that does not speak French. With that being said, a lot of the conversation was an exchange of smiles and stares, but still, lovely people. I also developed a nice relationship with another family (a woman and her daughter) from Cameroon. I, too, found their restaurant kind of randomly. I got off the tram at a random stop and after finding it, I walked inside to greet the owner. Each day I passed by and I figured I would actually take the time to introduce myself, which later led to a conversation about why they decided to come to France. I learned that the mom had actually considered moving to Canada from Cameroon, but it was quite far, so she settled on the idea of France. She started working in France, taking care of the elderly. She told me that for the most part she enjoyed her time here, and it was quite easy to integrate into society when she first arrived as there were many jobs that the French were unwilling to do that became opportunities for people of color.  I have met with many others whilst walking throughout Tours with my friends. We have found some of our favorite spots–a Guatemalan cafe, an Indian restaurant down Rue Colbert, and a candy shop near Place Plumereau owned by an Arab man. Although awkward at first, I have found that most individuals who look like me or may identify simply as the “other” are quite receptive and quite intrigued once they realize that I am not a native-French speaker.
  • The sunset and the newly installed ferris wheel. I assume that the ferris wheel installed just on Rue Nationale (the main street that runs from North to South in Tours) was a result of “Fete de la Musique”, but either way, it makes for a great luminescent contrast against the backdrop of the sky as the sun sets at 10 PM, rather than the 8:30 or 9 PM sunset that I am used to back home.
  • Proximity. Some may describe Tours as a medium-sized city, but sometimes it feels even smaller than that. In some ways it reminds me of being back at school on a campus where there are only about 8000 undergraduate students. But in many ways, it doesn’t feel like being back on campus. Despite seeing familiar faces on the street and on the tram, I often discover new places each time I step outside.

These are the four things I have truly come to appreciate since being here

un voyage à Paris pour le-weekend

Maintaining a blog has proven difficult, as I have come to realize that I am not as creative as I once assumed. It’s not easy identifying what it is that I should talk about, or what is even worth talking about. Yet, it’s the start of Week 3, day 2. You would assume that by now I would have established some sort of normalcy in my life–and in some ways I have, but in others I haven’t. I have yet to become fully accustomed to the vast amounts of bread eaten for every meal or the traces of dog poop that line each street in Tours, but at least three times a week, I visit Monoprix to purchase something such as cough drops or tupper ware, only to be met by the same worker who always makes it a mission to communicate with me in French and teach me new words such as “Noix Cajou”.

I have moved up in my class, which I am truly happy about. In my last class, I sat alongside my American counterparts, making it difficult to truly speak French. Although I was enthused by our daily lessons in grammar and discussions on things like the French Revolution and World War 2, perhaps I wasn’t being challenged as much as I should have been. I now find myself in a class with only 5 Americans, as opposed to the 9 in my last class. This may not seem to be a big difference, but my class now harbors a group of girls from Iran, a group of people from South Korea, and a man from the United Arab Emirates, and the first day made it clear that we would only communicate in French if I expected to learn anything at all.

This past weekend, many students from the Institute, including myself, went to Paris on Friday; however, my trip to Paris was more of a solo adventure alongside 3 others rather than a mere day trip to Notre Dame and Musee d’Orsay. Being in Paris, I appreciated my time in Tours a bit more. Although I love the feel of Paris, as it reminds me of being both at home and in New York, I finally understood the frustration of being in a city in France where everyone seemed to speak everything but French. As I meandered through people to find the metro, or our hostel, or even restaurants, I often said, “Excusez-moi” and was surprised to see that many people failed to move as they looked back at me with confusion. I was quickly identifying the Americans who had come from afar, along with the British, the Irish, the Chinese, and the Spanish. Speaking French became quite normal for me, as I had been expected to do so in Tours. Most people in Tours either speak very little English and are vocal about their insecurities when speaking it so I quickly respond with, “en Francais, s’il vous plait”. In Paris, I still resorted to French–only using English when I found it incredibly difficult to express the need for things such as shower shoes or after feeling embarrassed for asking the waiter to repeat themselves after failing to understand them the first time. My friends and I were unable to identify whether Parisian French is any different from the French spoken in Tours, and I am not sure if we were even able to confirm any of our preconceived notions, but the French spoken in Paris is definitely spoken at a quicker rate.

While in Paris, the 11th arrondissment quickly became my favorite–which would not have actually happened had I been given the correct address for a restaurant in the 5th (Clasico Argentino, if you were wondering). The 11th arrondissment was far from our hostel right within the center of the city, but I appreciated this. Although being able to see monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, serving as a reminder that we were still in Paris, the 11th felt oddly familiar. Walking through this part of town, there was a flea market displaying all the clothing and music of different cultures and countries, leaving me to marvel at how people who looked so different and harbored different histories could traverse these apparent differences by their ability to speak French. Walking through, I stopped at the spot where an African man was selling clothes with the most beautiful textured patterns, or what we would call Ankara in Nigeria, and for some reason, I found joy in his very informal greeting when I walked to meet him. “Ca va? Oui, ca va. Et toi?”. Moving forward, my friends and I even stopped at a fruit stand owned by an Arab man from Qatar, or perhaps another one of the Gulf states. He, too, did not speak English, and it became a transaction of words in both Arabic and French, asking and responding to the questions of whether or not we could sample some fruit and explaining where we were from. We spent our time in a park afterwards (parc de Belleville, if you are ever in the area), which gives off a very strong suburb vibe but was still very nice as our bench in the area by the entrance of the park offered a nice view of the children and parents leaving and entering for what appeared to be a birthday party.

During our quick trip to Paris, my friends and I also ran into kids from the Institute while walking down the Champs Elysees, but what was actually the best part of our trip through Paris was viewing the Eiffel Tower at night. After descending the RER C line from Le Marais, we could see the Eiffel Tower, and as we moved closer, the smells in the air mimicked those of the state fair in Texas as vendors were selling crepes and other things. Next to the tower was a carousel, however, we opted for following the group of other foreigners towards the giant patch of grass where we gladly set up a small picnic, despite being harassed by those wanting to sell umbrellas, mini Eiffel Towers, and champagne.

Last but not least, my first trip to Paris would not be a trip to Paris unless I had managed to lose my way. Already unfamiliar with public transportation in all its forms, I woke up early on Sunday to ensure that I would be able to board my bus in a timely manner back to Tours. Yet, after taking one line of the metro and getting ready to transfer, I quickly realized that the line we needed was no longer running, and within the 30 minute time span I had remaining, I would quickly have to find an alternative. Although this proved successful, finding the bus station was another struggle as the address provided did not actually exist. While under stress and under the impression that I had missed my bus, I moved through groups of people asking, “Est-ce que vous pouvez m’aider” or “Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?” after realizing that I did not have time to speak in broken French. After being met with men who only spoke German and women who only spoke Spanish or drivers who were unable to decipher my terribly spoken Franglish, I found the bus going back to Tours (and lucky for me, the bus had been 20 minutes late).

I am not sure if any of my future posts will be this exciting, but for now, a bientot!


I’ve completed my first week of courses here in Tours, and in many ways this week has been challenging. I arrived last Sunday in Paris, but to my surprise, it wasn’t too difficult to utilize the little French I had to purchase breakfast and lunch. Throughout the airport, I found myself surprised and startled by many things that made apparent the stratification brought about by many cultural, social, and political values. The airport was filled with various individuals of color–some arriving in Paris to stay, while for others it only served as their resting stop before reaching their final destination. Many of these individuals looked like myself, in fact–coming from various countries in Africa. I mustered the courage to say “Bonjour” or “Comment ca va? Parlez-vous anglais” before taking my seat beside them. But even then, the normalcy that I thought would be provided by sharing a common language or appearance was not present. Rather, in those moments, it seemed I was too American. Not too American in the sense of being attuned to only myself and my disposition, but I was too friendly–hoping that the accidental eye contact made would result in a friendly gesture such as subtle smile. Even the presence of the security throughout the airport proved strange as they were adorned in military-like clothing with their guns held in position as if there was something that had previously taken place, but it seemed to be normal behavior as most French individuals entered the airport without taking notice.

Regardless of these slight stressors, my initial interactions with the French were pleasant as some were more than willing to assist me when boarding the train to Tours.  The 2 hour train ride proceeded quite quickly from Paris, as I was seated next to a mother and daughter, and a girl who found humor in my inability to completely understand the messages relayed over the intercom.

Upon my arrival, I was able to meet both my host mom and dad, along with my “host-sister”, who is also American. With the drive made through the small city of Tours, I took recognition of the narrow French paths that sometimes appeared as roads, while others as just a continuation of the sidewalk.

At school, I was placed in the upper beginner level–which was to be expected, considering I had not taken a French course prior to my departure from the US. Once arriving in France, I was only confident in my ability to ask, “Where is the nearest…” and “Bonjour, est-ce que vous avez…”. Even with just a week of being in France, I have grown comfortable in reading French as I make my way through the epicerie or look at the menus provided by the many restaurants that line La Rue Nationale, and even in introducing myself and asking a few questions. My comprehension has increased and often times, to ameliorate the difficulty brought about by any language barrier between myself and others, I now ask individuals to speak French so that I may attempt to respond–despite them knowing English is my native tongue. In many ways, they show their appreciation, although I apologize for my broken French afterwards.

At the institute thus far, my classes have focused solely on grammar and tenses such as the passe compose, imparfait, and future simple. The courses have moved at a slower pace than I would like, and although this was met with initial frustration, it became apparent that I was in a class where many individuals had already cultivated varying degrees of comprehension of the French langauge. While others showed mastery of oral understanding by use of context, they struggled in understanding the nuances of the language. I found myself in the same situation alongside my counterparts, but my interaction with those living in Tours (both natives and immigrants) has bolstered my confidence in being able to speak, although their remains difficulty in maintaining some sort of progress across all areas of reading, writing, and speaking.

Hopefully with the upcoming weeks I will have seen a marked improvement in my French in the ways that I have wished for, but for now, a bientot!

(disregard my lack of proper accent marks)