I had the pleasure of spending 5 weeks this summer studying the French Language in the city of Tours, France. Looking back on the time I had, I would never hesitate promoting studying abroad and how amazing it is. It’s a perfect way to not only get college credit, but to really connect with a place like you never have before. I have vacationed to many places, but never before I had an experience so intimate where I’ve lived abroad and had both the struggles and the joys of adapting to a new culture.
So here some of the most noteworthy aspects of my time in France:
In my opinion, the people you meet is the most rewarding part of studying abroad. Of all the memories I made, the ones with new friends are the most special to me. Studying in France allowed me to meet my host family (of course), other students from the U, international students in classes, and French locals. Being in a host family was definitely nerve racking at first, but they were quick to make me feel at home. Meeting students both from home and afar was great; everyone is there for the same reason so you have that in common with people right off the bat. From what I learned from speaking French with my host family and with other students even allowed me to make friends with French locals as well. When all was said and done, meeting people was my favorite part of this experience.
Don’t let being a beginner stop you from studying abroad. I had only one semester of French under my belt, yet in only 5 weeks my speaking confidence and vocabulary improved immensely. Three things helped me with the learning process:
1. Talking with my host family: If you’re taking a language immersive program, your family likely doesn’t know/won’t ever speak English. Try your hardest to speak with them, even if you think you sound stupid.
2. Practice with other students: You’re not alone; all the other students are there for the same reason. If you’re a beginner, confide in the expertise of students who know the language better. Most the time you’ll be speaking English with the others, but now and then making the effort to speak the language with your peers goes a long way.
3. The classes: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Classes really helped me with the basics.
French food is amazing! My favorite meals were the ones my host mom made. Wherever you go, definitely stretch outside your comfort zone with the food. It was part of the fun for me trying a rancid smelling morsel of cheese or ordering something on the menu I couldn’t quite translate. With that said, don’t give yourself too much guilt when your missing home and cave into eating at an American food chain (just don’t make a habit of it!).
Wherever you go, you are bound to see some incredible sights. Classes don’t restrict you’re time to really see the country! With my program we spent the first week exploring the different chateaus of the Loire Valley. The weekends were awesome too, I was able to take excursions to Mont St. Michel, La Rochelle, and Paris. Class time was fairly short, so there was plenty of time for us to sightsee around Tours or to just relax at our favorite bars and cafes. Wherever you go, study abroad is perfect for seeing the amazing sights your country has to offer.
Studying abroad is definitely an experience I will never forget. The people I met and the memories I made have had a big impact me. I loved the time I spent there, and if you are considering studying abroad, you won’t regret it!