Hello from the US! I am happy to be back in the states, but I miss my friends and the city of Tours. I came to love all of my teachers, and I miss my classes very much already. Immediately after coming back, I went straight to California for an SSLP. Since I have been in California, I have spent so much time thinking about all I learned during my time in Tours.

I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity because of all I have been able to learn, and the ways in which my perspective has changed. After this experience, I have a far deeper understanding of and appreciation for French culture. I have been particularly struck by the importance of culture to the French people. It is difficult to equate or even compare the culture of France to that of the United States. Of course, this distinction exists between the US and most nations because of the brutal ways in which our country was founded. The values of our founders and the time at which they arrived has meant that our country ascribes neither to an indigenous culture nor to any singular European one.

There is, however, a value placed on culture that is seemingly unique to France. In our last week of classes, we focused on the French school system, and analyzed differences between the ways in which children learn in France and the rest of the world. I was surprised by many of the methods by it was most difficult for me to imagine a school in which there is such an emphasis placed on culture. It is necessary that all students express an interest in the history and contemporary events of France.

Our professor spoke about the fear of nationalism among French people, and I had learned about this and read about this idea for many years, but I was finally able to understand it. It was interesting to consider the distinction between love for one’s nation and pride and nationalism.


One of the most popular topics of discussion in class was the subject of immigration and the refugee crisis, specifically the crisis facing the European Union. When we spoke about this in our class of people from across Europe, the discussion quickly developed into an intense debate. Students from Spain all agreed that their nation had taken more than its fair share of refugees, and that other European nations needed to accept more migrants. The larger problem, they argued, was not finding a place for these people to go, but that their home nations needed to arrive at a state at which masses of people did not flee from them. This was not a very popular opinion, as the other European students argued that solving the political problems at the source of the conflicts in countries like Libya and Syria would take years and likely generations and the current inhabitants needed immediate aid.

I know that these conversations were so meaningful because I was able to have them in such a unique setting. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to have learned at the Institute of Touraine and to have formed such amazing relationships. My time in Tours has proven to me that I want to go to back to France very soon, and hopefully develop my French well enough to be able to work in France after school.


I have seen immense growth in my ability to express myself in French and to understand spoken and written French. I am most excited about the improvements in my ability to understand recordings in French, as this was the area with which I have struggled most in the past. I am also very pleased with the changes that I have seen in my written work, as my essays have become more complex and sophisticated. Since I have been home, I have been watching as many videos in French as I could. As I go back to campus, I am excited about my French course for this semester.

Blog 4!

It’s difficult to believe that my time in France is coming to an end. I have spent the last six weeks meeting people from all over and learning so much not only about the French culture, but also about cultures from across Europe, Asia, and South America. I am so grateful for these experiences, as well as for the improvements that I have seen in my French abilities.

I have found myself growing even closer to my friends from the Institute of Touraine, and I know that it will be very difficult to leave them.

I feel far away from home sometimes, but I am only here for six weeks. Many of my friends are studying at the institute are staying here for ten months or longer. I have realized the magnitude of certain distinct, unjust advantages because of my race and the country in which I was born.  While I have tried in the past to consider the privilege that comes with being white, I have rarely thought about how fortunate I am to have been born into a family that speaks English, in an English-speaking country. All of my friends here, regardless of whether they are from an Eastern Asian or Scandinavian country, have expressed the importance of learning English, a task that many of them have found to be very challenging. I now  know that I am so fortunate to have learned English as my first language, but I also know that I still feel a responsibility to learn as many languages as I can. There is inherent value, I have learned, in the ability to communicate with someone in his native language.

My physical traits have meant that it is immediately obvious that I do not live in Tours.  A friend of mine from India has spoken to me about the isolation that she has experienced because of her ethnical background. She has been here for four months and is staying for another two. My friend says that as there are very few Indian people in France, even in the major cities like Paris, she feels as though it is immediately obvious to locals that she is not from here. Further, as French is incredibly different phonetically from her native language of Hindi, she has difficulty with a few words, and as soon as people hear her struggling with these sounds, they immediately dismiss her, as though she cannot speak the language. Not only can my friend speak French, but she also speaks four other languages, so these attempts to communicate with the local population can be incredibly frustrating.

Another friend of mine is studying in Tours to become an engineer. He has lived with the host family of one of my friends from the Institute of Touraine since he left his home in Kuwait two years ago. Similar to my friend from India, he told me that his physical traits, like the color of his skin, serve as an immediate source of prejudices. In Tours, he has found, the locals tend to be relatively welcoming to foreigners, as there are multiple institutes for foreign study and many universities. In other cities that he has visited, however, this is rarely the case. He told me that people are quick to assume that he has fled a warzone of the Middle East, and this typically leads to a politically charged conversation.

I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to know these incredible people and to call them my friends. I have learned so much about the importance of understanding and respecting foreign cultures during my time here.

Blog Post 3

To begin my fifth week in Tours, I decided to wake up early on Sunday to explore parts of the city that I had not yet seen. For a late breakfast, I met my friends at a small café that one of their host moms had recommended. She told us to try the poached eggs au chinon. I had certainly seen poached eggs many times, but I had never tried them, so I did not know what to expect.

Two eggs were served on a small piece of baguette with spinach and tomatoes on the side. It was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had. My friends and I thought that they looked very similar to over-easy eggs but we all agreed that they tasted at least slightly different, and so one of my friends asked the waitress (with some help from Google Images) the difference between the two dishes. She explained that poached eggs are boiled, while over-easy eggs are simply fried in a pan. Our waitress also told us that these eggs were among the most popular local dish, though omelets were also popular.

After breakfast, my friends and I went to the Botanical Garden in Tours. The city has many beautiful gardens, especially considering its relatively small size. My host mom told me that the gardens in Paris are essential to the Parisian culture, and a point of pride for the residents of the city, and that Tours has a similar relationship with its public gardens and parks. There is another park that my friends and I have visited multiple times called l’Île Simon, which is a small piece of land in the middle of the Loire. We go there after classes some days to play cards.

À bientot!

Update from Tours!

My time in Tours is going so fast!! It’s very difficult to believe that it is more than halfway over.

I have spent the last couple of weeks exploring Tours and taking advantage of the cultural excursions that the Institute of Touraine offers. We first went to the Chateau of Chenonceau, which was a beautiful castle in a small, charming town called Chenonceaux. Most recently, I visited Mont St. Michel in Normandy and St. Malo in Brittany. Mont St. Michel is an island that hosts an incredible building that has served as a monastery since the eighth century. St. Malo, a city on the English Channel, is about an hour drive from Mont St Michel, and is the prettiest place I have ever seen.

On my excursion to the Chateau of Chenonceau, I spent much of my day talking to a woman from El Salvador named Carolina. Carolina lived in Los Angeles for twenty years but decided to leave about eighteen months ago. About two years ago, her mother had come from El Salvador to visit her, and while in the grocery store they were talking to each other in Spanish. Carolina told me that someone yelled down the aisle at her “This is America! Speak English!

When she finished telling me this story, I felt angry, but mostly, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I thought of how many times I had called home in a café during my time here and spoken English, or how many times I had made grammatical mistakes while communicating with cashiers and waiters. I think that I have always maintained, to some degree, the naïve image of the US as the home of immigrants. Evidently, for plenty of immigrants, many Americans have proven that our country does not deserve this label – at least not now. Carolina told me that she believes that the United States underwent a cultural change in 2016, and that she felt that as an immigrant, she could never feel like a part of the country, regardless of how many years she lived there, or how well she spoke English.

Beyond the cultural excursions, I have been so fortunate in my classmates and instructors. The people class come from many places across the globe and range in age from nineteen to sixty-five. I have been able to learn so much, not strictly from the curriculum, but also as a result of meeting these incredible individuals and talking to them about the differences between our cultures.

In one of my morning classes, our daily assignment is to read the French newspaper and present to the class a summary of an article that we found interesting. This has resulted in many interesting debates, often centered around American politics. Following a particularly exciting discussion, I asked one of my friends from the class, who is from India about her impression of the political situation in the United States. She told me that growing up, she had always been infatuated by the idea of American popular culture, because of how easily accessible it was to youth in India. She had the impression, at a young age, from films and television shows, that women were treated with more respect in the US than in her country, and this idea was very inspiring to her. My friend says that she believes that women’s rights are progressing in India, but that certain restrictions still exist. For example, arranged marriages are still very popular across the country. In respect to the United States today, it was shockingly difficult to hear my friend’s current position. I listen to, and typically agree with, my classmates’ negative opinions about our country’s politics daily in class, but it was hard to hear the loss of hope in my friend’s tone. She still wants to work in the United States, but she told me that many of her friends had tried and failed multiple times to receive visas in recent years, despite having multiple degrees. She also told me that she fears that women’s rights seem to be regressing, and that she does not know if she wants to move to a country where that is the case, when she could be a part of the exciting progress being made in India.

I have also found myself becoming more engaged with my host family, who could not be more welcoming.  Last weekend, my host mom invited me to her granddaughter’s Confirmation lunch. I was able to meet her entire family.


One of the cousins, Matthieu, was two years older than me and spoke English very well. He was interested in international economics, so, as he explained, English was essential. To learn English, Matthieu had gone to Sweden, which was very interesting to me. It was also fascinating to hear his opinion of American politics. His opinion of the current state of American affairs was far more optimistic that those of my two classmates. Matthieu told me that he felt inspired by the youth of America, in relation to the France’s young population. As he saw it, politically, American youths are more optimistic and hold a more comprehensive worldview. I was inspired by this hopeful, albeit simplistic, interpretation of the American political climate, and it reminded of many conversations from my French classes at Notre Dame, about the differences between political trends between our two nations.

I am so grateful for every aspect of this trip thus far, from my new friends and the beautiful places I have seen, to the improvement in my French speaking and writing, but I think that I am perhaps most thankful for my deeper comprehension of international relations, and the role that the United States plays in global affairs.


Weeks 1 and 2

Bonjour from Tours! I am writing this in my bedroom in my host family’s house, a farm-style home about a mile west of the campus of the Institute of Touraine. I arrived a week ago yesterday, and the time has gone shockingly quickly so far. In the last eight days, I have met people from five continents, eaten countless new dishes, and learned more new French words than I thought possible.


Prior to coming, I was very nervous about my host family and about the other students at the Institute, but very quickly, I realized that I had no reason to be anxious. The other students have quickly become my friends, and my host mother, Marie, could not be more welcoming. She is a middle-aged woman with grown children who has been hosting students from all over for many years. Every night, she makes me a new French dish and last night she took me to the movie theatre to see a French film.


Over the weekend, Marie’s son came over for dinner and brought his son Louis who is in high school. Listening to the family speak to each other was a very humbling experience, as they are able to speak very quickly to one another and use slang with which I am not familiar. Louis in particular was very difficult to understand and there were many moments throughout the night when Marie had to act as a translator so that I could fully understand.


One term that Louis used throughout the evening was ouf,which Marie explained was an inversion of the French word fou, which means crazy. The two words share the same meaning but ouf is used primarily by young people and has a more informal connotation.


An expression that I heard first in my classes was C’est top! In the movie that we saw last night, I heard this expression numerous times. Marie used it this morning at breakfast after checking the forecast for the day, so I asked her about it. She told me that it simply means that something is the best, and that it is an expression that is popular among all age groups.


The local expressions make it more difficult to learn French, as there are so many  left to learn, but they also make it much more rewarding and interesting.