Bonjour from Durham, North Carolina!

I have been away from my quaint little city of Tours, France for almost three weeks now which has given me the opportunity to reflect on the six weeks I spent abroad there.  While the group chat with my friends still prospers and I continue to talk incessantly about my time abroad, I still miss my afternoons spent at Amadeus Bagel with Lara, my evenings spent talking with my friends at the Guinguette, and my weekends spent traveling to near and far places in France.

Since being away, I have also been able to reflect on my French language acquisition in my short time period there.  Prior to going to France, I was not confident in my abilities to speak French and the goals that I set for myself seemed ambitious.   Yet, the immersion process (i.e. a host family) awarded me the opportunity to speak constantly in French with instruction by my host mother and teachers when I made mistakes which helped me to further reach my goal of attaining fluency.  While this vast improvement in my language abilities was personally rewarding, I was also given greater appreciation for people.  While it is true that many people speak some English, the ability to engage with people in their native tongue gives a completely different and more whole idea of what their identity is which was the most invaluable and intangible skill I learned.  From these interactions I came to understand a culture more fully than I ever would have been able to without knowing French.

The most amazing things my SLA experience gave me other than just language acquisition were confidence and a global network of friends that I get to see when I go back abroad for the Spring semester.  This being my first time traveling alone somewhere across seas,  the thought of arriving in a foreign country without knowing a soul, navigating the public transportation system in another language, and learning the layout of a new city frightened me.  When I first arrived in Paris I was timid, nervously looking around for someone to help me, and always doubting whether or not I was on the right train or taking the correct route.  However, when leaving and taking a weekend trip in Paris before departing, I felt confident navigating the metro system and finding my away around the city.  The achievement of these small, daily tasks were incredibly awarding for me.

Following my SLA experience I look forward to the further acquisition of my linguistic abilities in my two upper level French courses next semester and following that during my semester in Angers, France!  The SLA was the first step I needed down the long path to fluency.  Without my time in Tours I would not have had the ability to improve so quickly which will make me better prepared for the next two years at Notre Dame and after that for graduate school (hopefully in France!).

To anyone reading this blog who is thinking of applying to do an SLA, I highly recommend it because it will help you vastly improve your linguistic capacities, provide you with practical life experiences, and offer you a friendship network that may otherwise me impossible!

(& if you find yourself in Tours- give my favorite little city a “Salut” from me!)

À la prochaine!


One Last Day

My first week spent in Tours felt like a year.  However, as I finished my last couple of weeks  it seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.  As I (admittedly) came in late to my last day of class with a pain au chocolat in hand (my guilty pleasure in France) I looked around and realized it would be the last time I would climb the creaky stairs to the third floor of the Institute and I started feeling nostalgic.  The friends I have made, the teachers I have had, and the amount I have learned makes me want to rewind my time to my very first day when I walked in and Lara (my first friend) and I took our oral exam together.

My time here in France has been characterized by meeting groups of people who I would never have the opportunity to meet who are all united by a desire to learn French but each having a different motivation.  My time in Tours has also been characterized by one incredibly important event- the World Cup.  After watching the first France game of the tournament in Place Plume I was hoping that France, a team that wasn’t supposed to go far, would somehow end up in the finals.  The World Cup became such a significant social activity for everyone in my friend group and for really everyone in Tours (and I suspect across Europe).  Having never been a fan of watching soccer I was shocked how captivated and invested I became in watching the tournament.  My friends and I would look forward to watching the games at 4pm and then going home for dinner and then coming back at 8pm to watch the game after that.  Our lives started to revolve around watching the World Cup games together.  One of my most fond memories from my time in Tours was when France was playing Uruguay in the quarter finals.  My friends and I knew we would have to get to a pub early to find a seat for the game so we decided to get there 1.5 hours early.  By the time the game started the pub that we were in was jam packed with people and everyone had abandoned the idea of sitting.  It was so hot in that room that when you turned around to look at the mirror it was so foggy that you couldn’t see out of it and when you put your hands on the cement walls there was water dripping down them.  Yet, no matter how hot and sweaty we were it felt like we were in some type of dream each time that France scored.  Everyone in the pub was chanting, singing, jumping, there were water guns being sprayed at people trying to cool them down and 18 year olds who were pouring water down each others necks.  When France won that same to go into the semi-finals the streets were jam packed with people wearing france jerseys, holding France flags above their heads, and singing “La Marseillaise” (the national anthem).

The city after France won!

Fast forward and France is in the finals against Croatia.  At this point I am in Paris and it is one of my last days in France.  That is a game I will never forget and an evening after that is even more ingrained in my brain.  After France won against Croatia to win the World Cup every single person in the city of Paris crowded the streets.  It seemed like all 7 million people who live in Paris and every single tourist that was there were taking up the characteristically narrow French roads.  The Champs-Élysées was jam packed with fire crackers going off, people driving in cars with passengers hanging out the windows and sitting on the tops of the cars, and  people walking in the road to give the car drivers high fives.  Nothing else in the city seemed to matter except for the fact that France won the World Cup!

If you had asked me six months ago if I cared about the World Cup I would have asked you when it was going on.  But, if you asked me today how I feel about the World Cup I would tell you it was the perfect reminder of the times I had in France during the summer of 2018. À toute à l’heure, France (& thank you for taking a piece of my heart)!


A trip to the South

My dream has always been to visit the south of France, particularly the French Riviera.  In fact, when I was deciding where to pick for my SLA I was almost compelled to choose Avignon, a small city close to the Riviera.  Thus, when my father told me he would be coming over to France at the tail end of my time in Tours I knew that our shared dream of visiting the South would lead us there.  My father has a very interesting attitude about international travel.  Unlike me, who welcomes the unknown, he shys away from it and is unsettled by traveling to countries in which English is not the primary language.  Recognizing this about him, I knew he would be relying on me and my recent French language study to carry us through.

Welcoming the opportunity to practice my newly found love of speaking French outside of classroom walls, I was transported back to one of our class discussions at the Institute where we were discussing the importance of accents in France.  In the South, the language is spoken more slowly with each syllable being pronounced.  This is counter to the accent that is spoken more so in Paris and the surrounding regions where words are seemingly “cut off” and shortened.  For example, the word for Saturday is Samedi.  In Paris, it would be pronounced in two syllables like Sam-di yet in the South it would be pronounced in three syllables such as Sam-e-di.  When we watched a video in class the distinction is very difficult for non-French speakers to make because students of French, particularly Anglophone speakers are taught to pronounce each syllable in the word.  However, since my time in France I have begun to speak more as the Parisians do and shorten words or swallow some of the syllables.  Thus, I was concerned that my conversation attempts in the South would go less smoothly than they had been going in Tours.

The view from our hotel in Nice!!

However, I was quickly proved incorrect about my assumptions in my language abilities in another part of France.  Upon our arrival to our hotel my father began speaking very quickly in English to explain a desire to change the credit card he had put on file.  His quick speech confused the woman at the desk to which my father turned to me.  Hesitantly, I started speaking to her in French.  I was delighted when she was able to understand and respond to me perfectly.  Linguistically, the rest of the trip went smoothly.  The people were kind and inviting and the slower speech in the South was actually significantly easier to understand.


The view from the botanical gardens in Èze
Cobblestone streets in Èze

Aside from the continued practice of language away from Tours, the South of France is a lovely place.  We made our home base in Nice which appeared to me the largest of all the cities we visited.  There is a flowers market in Vieux Nice each morning which is incredibly charming.  While the French Riviera is a very touristic place, Nice seemed to me the most touristic of all the cities we saw whilst there.   We took daytrips to the cities of Èze village and Antibes both of which were much smaller and more quaint than Nice.  In Èze,  My father and I spent time strolling the narrow, cobblestone streets that lead you up to an exotic botanical garden that offers the most magnificent views of the Mediterranean.  Antibes offers a quite different experience as it is located right on the water.  Thus, we strolled the sun-soaked streets with purple flowers reaching up the walls until we found an exit that led you right to the ocean.

A treasure in Antibes where we had the most delicious and fresh lunch

The final daytrip we took was to the city of Cannes, which is highly celebrated for its famous film festival, offered a very different experience than the others.  The beach was the only sandy beach (the others had big rocks) and offered a slightly less touristic feel than Nice.  For the day my dad and I decided to go out on a boat (because what’s a trip to the Mediterranean if you don’t actually sail on the Mediterranean).  After a five hour boat ride and a long conversation with the boat captain, Pascal- who spoke no English but was an incredibly funny French comedian- we made our way back to Nice for our final night.  The South of France is nothing less than the dream it promised to be.  We spent our days sitting on the beach and exploring the small jewels the Riviera has to offer- if you ever get the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to go!!

France, I love you


An Alternative 4th of July

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.  Not because of the American flag cakes; the ‘appropriate one time a year’ red, white, and blue bathing suit; or because of the red food coloring that turns every bland drink into a truly American beverage. But, because it is a day that I have always spent amongst friends and family, enjoying the heat at the beach together, not having a worry in the world (to appropriately quote Zac Brown Band).  Thus, when I woke up on the 4th of July to the garbage truck at 6:00am outside my window, sweating from the mini heat wave that we’re all suffering through without air conditioning, my heart started to ache a little bit for home.  Nonetheless I decided that I would take on my last community interaction task and spend the 4th of July striking up a riveting conversation about foreigner’s perceptions of the United States (if I can’t spend the 4th in America at least I can justify talking about it for the day!).

Posing questions on the United States, or really even telling anyone you’re from the United States, will frequently invite many questions on the political environment.  More times than I can count I have been asked about President Trump from my friends and from any French person I meet.  For a group of people who truly dislike everything about the American president, they also really love to talk about him.  Thus, openly asking questions looking for perceptions was something I was a bit weary to do but, while we were all sitting after class having a coffee I decided to ask  two of my friends, Anna and Lara, who are both from Switzerland.  Lara (20 years old) and Anna (24 years old) both had the expected first response, a severe dislike for President Trump.  Lara commented how the one question she always wants to ask Americans is “Why? How could he become president?”.  She then brought up the political structure and voting process and thought that the Electoral College was a “stupid” way to vote and that having a popular vote, like Switzerland, was a much more logical system.  Having been to the United States before she noted how unfortunate it was that Trump was president as she was in love with the natural beauty of the United States and the diversity of our landscapes and national parks but felt that she would not return until Trump was no longer in office.  Anna, after having agreed with Lara throughout the discussion, piped in that she always dreamed of going to the United States (particularly Disney World- random, I know) but that she also would not go until Trump was not the president.  After the topic of politics they started moving into a more cultural discussion.  The Institute where we study has a fare share of American students and they started talking about the two different groups of Americans they observed and how they thought this applied to the larger country itself.  The first group were those they described as being superficial.  These were what they characterized as being the “stereotypical American” meaning they were in France to not actually learn French but to go out every night and drink because it is legal for them here (sidenote: the American drinking age is something they both thought was so bizarre).  These Americans are loud and obnoxious and travel in a pact so to only stay with other Americans.  The second group of Americans they commented on were those who had “their feet on the ground”.  People who were here to actually learn, not only about France, but about other cultures as well.  Though the stereotype of the loud, obnoxious American exists here, it’s interesting to me how this small group of people sets the precedent for such a large and diverse population of the United States.  The final comment they made about America was how “developed” it was.  They didn’t mean it in the sense that we were more industrially or educationally developed but that the United States will have things before everyone else does.  For example, movies will come out in America and people in Switzerland will have to wait two more months to watch the same movie.  They perceive the United States as setting a precedent for popculture and what is going to be the “next big thing”.

Later that night at dinner I continued the conversation with my host mother, Brigette, and her friend (both in their 60’s) who had come over for dinner.  The conversation started very naturally as the friend was asking my host mother if her son, Mathias, was going to be joining us for dinner.  She responded that no because he always eats in front of the computer.  After the friend and her discussed this she turned to me and commented that “comme les Americains” (“like the Americans”).   Slightly ‘offended’ I saw this as the perfect opportunity to continue my discussion of American perceptions.  To her, she thought that all Americans sat in front of the television with their microwave meals and watched American series.  The friend then commented that it was either our microwave meals or our McDonalds (this truly made me laugh because I opened the fridge the other day to find a BigMac).   Basically, she culturally stereotyped all Americans into being a group of people who enjoy eating fast food and watching t.v. all day.

Really though I can’t blame her because as I was sitting there eating goat cheese and a baguette for the 50th day in a row all I really wanted to be doing was eating a hamburger laying in an air conditioned room!!

“Une Nana” learns slang!

The French language is different than what we are taught in schools, a fact I have become increasingly aware of.  The French language is not only spoken very quickly but, in familiar conversation, will often be shortened as well.  For example, the other day I asked my host mother a question at dinner to which she responded “sais pas”.  My ear, often not picking up on little phrases like that, perked up and I responded “sais pas? comme je ne sais pas?” to which she shook her head yes.  Basically, she had shortened the phrase from “I don’t know” to simply “don’t know”.  I equate this to in English when a friend asks me a question and I will simply respond “dunno” (a probably totally incorrect spelling of that word) instead of saying “I don’t know”.  This cutting of the language into shorter, more familiar, responses is something that has taken my ear a while to catch onto.  Again, for example, I was in class the other day when I asked me teacher a question and her response was “comme d’hab”. I thought, “comme dab? Comme d’hab?” what the heck is she saying.   It took me a second but I soon realized that what she was trying to say was “comme d’habitude” or, in english, “per usual, like always” something like that.  This shortening of the language, or slang (“argot” in french), is something that can be really hard for a person who has only ever learned formal, grammatically correct French. 

One of my favorite parts of the my time here in Tours has been learning and discovering these familiar words that are spoken amongst friends.  I discovered my favorite of these words the other day after being invited to go to a music festival with my host mother and two of her friends.  On the car ride home she was discussing with her friends a man she had run into at the concert who was in their salsa dancing group.  In the midst of this conversation she kept saying over and over again the word nana.  At one point she turned to me, waiting for me to respond to her when all I knew to ask was “je suis desolée, mais, qui est nana?” (“I’m sorry but who is nana”).  Suddenly, all of her friends started to giggle a little bit to which she responded that a nana is another word for fille (girl).  This word, for no reason other than that I loved the way it sounded, has become one of my favorite words in the French language.  Later in that week at La Guinguette (an open air cafe on the Loire river that is a favorite of every person in Tours) I was having a conversation with my friends about all of these different slang words.  I mentioned to them the word nana to which my friend Bilal, who has been here for six months already, started discussing other familiar terms for girls and boys.  He commented that a mec was another term for a garçon (a boy) and that a meuf was yet another term for a girl.  Curious, we started discussing the differences between a meuf and a nana.  Deciding that a meuf was potentially a more vulgar word for a girl I decided to take the issue up with my host mother and her group of friends.  As we were in the car driving, I asked her what the word meant to which all of her friends giggled a little and said it was a not good word for a female.  My host mother at dinner later on made sure to tell me to not say that word in my classrooms so my professors wouldn’t assume she taught me it.  The difference between how this slang word is portrayed generationally shows a gap in how this word, and others I am sure, are understood and utilized.

Since these interactions, I have come across many different slang words and expressions.  I’ve listed a few of them that I like the most below!

  • Conduire dans des nids de poule: Directly translating to ‘driving in the hen’s nest’ this is used to describe a road with many potholes
  • C’est Coton!: Another way to say c’est difficile (“its difficult!”).  Of course was heard after taking a test to which my teacher saw all of our faces and goes “c’est coton! oui? Bienvenue à niveau B2.2!” (it’s difficult, yes? welcome to level B2.2!)
  • Être Pistonné: The familiar way to comment that you were able to get a job because of knowing a friend in the enterprise.  The equivalent to the english phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”
  • Neckel: Other than the word nana this is my other favorite.  After randomly deciding to spend a weekend in Bordeaux.  We woke up super early to catch our train and by the time we got into Bordeaux (where it was significantly warmer than in Tours) we were DYING for a coffee.  Finding a place on a small side street that looked like a hip coffee shop you would find in the U.S., we decided to go in.  Knowing nothing about Bordeaux we started asking the barista where we would go and what there was to do in the city.  After chatting for a bit he asked where we were from and when we told him Tours he responded “ah Neckel!”.  Looking over to my friend to see if she understood I noticed that she was also looking at me seeing if I could translate.  We asked the guy and he said it meant “very cool”.   This has been my new way of saying that something is cool since I learned it.

(a little slice of Bordeaux)

À Bientôt




Le travail en France!

Bonjour once again!

Blogging has proved to me a larger beast than I once thought.  Although I never thought of myself as being “creative”, per se, I did think that it would be easy to talk about my time here in Tours.  Each day I am introduced to another word, another phrase, another idea, another place, and another person – each unique from the last. 

 Earlier this week at dinner I asked my host mother how to say overwhelmed but, not knowing the word, had to search to find the words to piece together a definition (the word is submerger– if you were wondering).  Through all of this sensory overload, finding the most eloquent and comprehensive way to explain things to others has been a difficult, but rewarding task.   In this post I will briefly cover the concept of work in France and some socio-political controversy that surrounds a critical aspect of French work life which are strikes.  Then, I will touch on my recent trip to Paris (note the rad picture- when in France, am I right?!)

Since last writing I have successfully started my third week in Tours.  I am astounded at how quickly time passes and how my journey here is almost half way finished.  It is only at the start of my third week that my automated responses to people are in French, not English, and hearing French at the tables next to me at cafés has become comforting, instead of unnerving.  My week days in Tours have fallen into a beautiful routine with classes in the morning and afternoons spent at Amadeus Bagel, a small coffee shop where the two women who work there greet me with a familiar smile and ask “un café au lait?”, already knowing my answer will be “bien sûr!”.  The familiarity of this coffee shop has awarded me the ability to have interesting interactions with these two women and who, due to increased engagement, have commented to me that my French has noticeably improved- something I am immensely proud of.  It feels like home to be known in a place where you spend many hours each day- an experience that is quite regular to me back in Alabama.  Further, spending my afternoons here doing homework, reading Le Monde (the French newspaper I enjoy reading), or playing cards with my friends from the Institute has allowed me to observe, in a sense, the way the French live.  It is not unlikely that I will look over to the door of the shop and find the “Nous sommes fermés” (We are closed) sign in the door only to look back to the couch and find one of the women napping and the other with a group of her friends smoking and laughing outside only to come idly walking in humming a song and changing the sign to “Nous Sommes Ouverts- Bienvenue” (We are open- Welcome).  When I approach the women to ask if I should leave they only laugh and smile and comment that they are only taking a break for an hour or so.  I have grown accustomed to this style of work and only wish this aspect of sociality in the workplace would translate back to the United States.

The concept of work (travail– like in the title!) in France has been something my class at the Institute has been studying for the past couple of days which is probably the reason for my recent interest in discussing it with my host mother at dinner.  French workers are given many benefits from their employers that I was not accustomed to, such as health care for everybody.  Further, one I found more shocking is that every French working citizen is, by law, guaranteed five weeks of paid vacation time.  In the United States, there is no law that states how much time off your employer must give you but is instead given based on criteria such as rank in the corporation, time spent working with the company,  etc.  At dinner that night I asked my host mother if what I had learned was actually true, I couldn’t believe that an employer would automatically grant their employees so much vacation.  My host mother laughed and said “but of course, and I have eight weeks off!”.  Eight weeks? Eight weeks!? That’s two full months of not working during the year- what a life!  We also started discussing other concepts of the work life in France, such as les grèves (strikes). As my host mother commented, “When the French workers are not happy with something- they strike”, then, under her breathe she mumbled “even if those workers have more benefits that most workers – such as early retirement!”. Softly, I asked her what she meant by this.  She was, of course, talking about the workers of the SNCF railway company who were striking due to French president, Emmanuel Macron, implementing new statues that were not favorable amongst the workers.  This issue, although political at its core, has a stark social impact, on people like my host mother, who feel it in their day to day lives. 

I decided I would try to discuss this issue further with Paula and Dominique, my two professors at the Institute.   As we were discussing work in class, the subject was fitting.  When I asked Paula about it, she shook her head, noticeably irritated by the subject itself.  She commented how she takes the train to work everyday, as she does not live in Tours and, having to determine when the train will be running is an annoyance in her daily life.  While these workers are fighting for more rights, Paula is trying to simply get to work everyday.  Although she recognizes that striking is a part of the French culture, she does not like the impact that she feels from it day in and day out.  Dominque, possibly two decades older than Paula, feels the same way.  This sentiment I’m sure is not an unpopular opinion amongst the French, especially those who rely on the train for daily transportation.  Thus, this issue that is purely political for the train workers, is a huge social issue for others.     

Being an American, it never occurred to me that the strikes from the SNCF workers could have any affect on me.  The issue would only be something I read about in the papers or heard my host mother or professors speak about.  However, I realized the inconvenience of the strikes when I wanted to book a train ticket for a weekend in Paris.   It never occurred to me that I would be unable to get from Point A to Point B.   However, the day I wanted to book my train ticket for was a day the workers were striking!  Trying to figure out the website in French and determine what trains would be running that day was a stressful component for booking a trip!  While this was only a minor inconvenience and I was able to simply take the bus (which was actually a lot cheaper), it was a reminder that current transportation in this system is not as easy as Americans are convinced it is and allowed me to think about how difficult it must be for some people, like my teachers, to plan their days around when the workers will be striking.  

 After making it to Paris I was back to observing the laid back culture of work that I was accustomed to at my little coffee shop.  On Saturday, after a long day of walking and seeing many, admittedly, “touristy” attractions like the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and sitting on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower at sunset we went to have dinner at a small brasserie we found in the 6th arrondissement.  After enjoying  a classic French meal of steak frites (steak and fries), we sat for another hour.  While having two hour long dinners is not an uncommon experience for me, adjusting to the waiter simply not even entertaining the idea of giving you a check until a couple of hours sitting down, is.   While hoping I am not stereotyping or generalizing, I have noticed that the French live more social workplace lives, an aspect I find appealing and charming.    

Per usual, This blog has taken some turns covering topics such as my astonishment at the passage of time, to the concept of work engrained in French society and some of its benefits and downsides, and somehow making it to a quick description of my weekend trip to Paris.  Tune in next time for another scatterbrained blog from Tours!


Bien à vous!

Bonjour à tous!

My first week in Tours, France has been as hectic as can be. From being lost in the city more times than I would choose to admit, to moving from one welcoming host family to another, and trying to take in every possible word of French, I can honestly say that my mind and my body have never been this tired. In France, there have been numerous things that have been different for me- such as having to sit down in the shower holding the head above me, eating dinner at 8:30pm (opposed to my strict 5pm eating time at school), saying désolé (sorry) so many times when I can’t understand that I have come to be known as la désolée fille (the sorry girl) in my class, and having to constantly focus on each phrase being spoken to me and each phrase I speak back.   However, there are many things that have felt very natural to me since I have been here. I have realized that a smile, a bonjour, and an invitation to have coffee to people at the Instiut de Touraine (the school I am studying at) is a sure way to make friends; sitting at a boulangerie or a patesserie for countless hours just talking is seen as a normal leisure activity, and reading a physical newspaper in the middle of the day (instead of reading an article on a phone app while hurrying to class) is seen as not being an ancient past-time but a normality.

My first interaction with Tours was being swarmed into a car by my french host mother, a woman who, after twelve hours of traveling, I could barely understand as she spoke quickly and relentlessly in French. After being completely unsure of what was happening, I soon realized that she was telling me we were going to their country home near Chinon for the remainder of the weekend. For La Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day) we ate a hearty meal in their garden that consisted of chièvre de frommage (a goat cheese that is a speciality in the region and has been served at every meal thus far), foie gras (a French speciality served on special occasions), and a gâteaux de macaron avec la crème frais (macaroon cake with fresh cream).  After this meal, my host mother and I went and picked cherries from their cherry trees so we could also prepare un gâteaux de cerises (cherry cake).   My meals since this first evening have not been a disappointment and I quickly have realized how important meals are for understanding the family I am with. We discuss everything over meals – the parties my host mother is throwing that weekend, excursions I should take whilst here, American politics and their perceptions in France, French grievances over things such as les grèves (strikes) from the SNCF workers, and gaining a better understanding of the way French is actually spoken amongst friends- just to name a few.  Since the weekend at the country house, I been introduced to another speciality of the Touraine region called Nougat de Tours. This is a cake that looks like a small pie and, when cut into, has a layer of different fruits such as prunes and apricots. Getting to know the local foods has been particularly interesting, especially getting to talk with my host mother about how other regions as well have the particular food items that they are known for. This idea of communities being recognized by their food is a French ideal that is comforting to me and reminds me just one more way people seek to find their identity in the foods that they eat.

When I am not eating, enjoying an espresso at a local café, reading a book at La Guingette (a local bar on the river that everyone goes to) or attending class (of course!), I have enjoyed exploring the numerous things to do in the city and its beautiful surrounding area. During the short time I have been here, I have visited La Musée des Beaux Arts, the Église (church) de St. Martin, and have taken a 20km bike ride to the Chatêaux de Villandry with my Swiss friend, Lara. There, we spent the afternoon exploring the surrounding French country side, strolling through the marvelously landscaped castle grounds, and enjoying a typical French lunch of a baguette, meats, and various cheeses.

The city of Tours is beautiful, charming, and has seemed to make a personal connection with me where each morning I walk along the sun soaked, tree lined, Grand Boulevard that makes me seem moreso like I am at home than just visiting. Further, I have begun to adapt to the little English that I hear whilst strolling through the city and am starting to be able to pick up French conversations when I am walking. It is crazy how much easier it is to understand and speak a language when everyone around you speaks it.  My teachers at the Institut are some of the most exciting people I have ever met, especially my teacher Paula.  Paula encourages mistakes and allows her students to form a personal connection with her and the other kids in the class. It is because of her that I have met people from all over the world, united by a common interest in learning French.

While writing this, I am sitting at a local café on the river taking a break from reading a book that is way above my level and I am realizing that things are not as clearly or eloquently put as I wish I could describe them.  Yet, in a way, that has been the way I have spent my first week here. It has not been without error or like a scene out of a movie. In fact, there have been struggles with having to explain myself in a language that is not my native tongue and moments of frustration when I feel that I am not being understood correctly. But, to me, that is what I have found is the beauty of this experience – being okay with being uncomfortable. Instead of going to a café and asking if they speak english, I try to place all of my orders in French and, when out with my friends, we attempt to speak French with each other, even when all of us understand English. This experience has been about placing myself in a culture that is unlike my own and learning to embrace all of the hours I have spent lost in the city, the conversations I wish had gone differently, and adapting to doing things that are different than have always been done.

Bien à tous!