Coming to France to study abroad for the Fall 2010 semester was a decision I will benefit from for the rest of my life. It is crazy that I only have a few more days here! I am leaving Friday morning, the 17th of December.
Not only was this my first time in France, it was my first time coming to Europe! I have seen so many places and different countries, I can’t believe how much I have really experienced through this semester.
France: Tours, Paris, Normandy, Provence, and many cities in the Loire Valley.
Spain: Barcelona. The memories I have are unforgettable for sure.
I have learned so much here. Taking all French language classes has really helped me focus on improving my skills and it definitely paid off. I just passed the DELF B1 language test!! Passing this big four-part test was a massive accomplishment for me. Starting here in September, I really didn’t know a lot of French and I didn’t even think I would be able to take this test at the end of the semester. I am really proud of the hard work I have put in this semester and I will always have that certificate to remind me of it! Right now, it is being mailed to my house in Rochester, N.Y.! I know what I have accomplished has exceeded my goals and expectations for where my language skills would be.
Aside from everything that I have learned French-wise, I have also learned so much more, life-wise. I am going to list these important things:
1. Met so many different people. I came to Tours, France with BEF not knowing anyone. Everyone in this BEF group is incredibly nice and I am really glad I became friends with everyone. Also, going to the Institut de Touraine in Tours, France, gave me the opportunity to meet an enormous amount of people from different countries and of different ages. Americans, Koreans, Libyans, Mexicans, Spanish, someone from Qatar, Polish, Irish, British, Japanese, and Chinese. Another way I met some more people was from traveling. When I stayed at a Youth Hostel in Barcelona, Spain, I met a lot of people. The Australians I met were the first Australians I had ever met so I was super excited. I absolutely love their accents!
2. I have learned how to use Celcius instead of Fahrenheit to figure out the temperature outside! It is so funny to think back of the first few weeks here. I was so confused by the Celcius temperatures. I think I can finally understand what it is going to feel like outside after seeing the Celcius temperature! I think that is a pretty important accomplishment. I also feel more comfortable with kilometers instead of miles. However comfortable I with it, I still think miles are easier to work with!
3. I have a new found love for Coffee Vending Machines! Upon arrival in France, as we were driving from the airport to Tours we stopped at a gas station. Inside the store was the first encounter I would have with these glorious machines! You can get coffee with milk, small shot of coffee, normal size coffee, coffee with cream, cappaccino (my favorite), hot chocolate (2nd favorite, especially during winter), and teas! The Institut de Touraine also has wonderful machines. This is the inanimate object I am going to miss the most about France!
4. I feel like it is really important to document everything. I have loved blogging about this great experience. I have been able to reflect back on what I have done, probably once a week here in France. Having the camera with me all the time throughout my semester here has been so beneficial as well. I have photos from the first day here throughout the whole time here. I hope to continue capturing my life through photos when I get back home. I have a new understanding of how important and fun it is to look back on what I have done or seen. I really enjoy looking through my photos and feeling so fortunate for getting to experience all of it.
5. Living in a different country broadened my world view. Before coming to Europe, I didn’t really think about other cultures and other languages. After being placed into another country and meeting so many people from different areas of the world, I have a greater interest in learning about other cultures/countries. Also, a greater interest in learning more about America! Being abroad, I feel that I am, in a way, representing America. However, I really don’t know as much about its history as I should.
6. Continued love for winter and Christmas! Even in France, Christmas spirit is alive! Winter is my favorite time of the year so I was really excited when Tours put up winter lights around the city in late November! It gives me warmth in my heart when I walk around and there are bright, shiny lights all around.
7. Skype is amazing. Like most people who study abroad, I missed my family back home. But, luckily with the help of Skype, I could talk to and see my family. That was great because not only was it free (using a cellphone would be ridiculously expensive), it also made me feel better. This was the longest time I have gone without being with my family, so Skype was great because I was able to stay updated on my parents and my brothers! So, thank you Skype.
8. I definitely have established a liking for more foods here in France. I get made fun of by my friends because I don’t like a lot of food, for example, cucumbers and pumpernickel bagels. However, I now really like tomatoes, which before this experience, I would never eat. Also, vegetables in general are more appealing to me. However, the food I am now obsessed with is taboulé! It’s made with couscous and it is delicious!
9. One thing that shocked me when I first got to France was the fact that when you are in stores or in restaurants they play American pop music! I was expecting only French music. I guess I underestimated how much of an impact America has in the world.
10. I have realized that life in France and the USA really isn’t that different. People work during the week, eat dinners with their families, watch the news at night, go grocery shopping, go to the movies, and enjoy life in their town/city. Once you get past the different language part, life in general really isn’t too different. I have found comfort in that over these past three and a half months.
So, if you are reading this and want to study abroad, I highly suggest it. It is challenging at times but it is completely worth it. I have gained so much from this experience, I probably don’t even realize how much I have benefited from it yet. Think of a place you have interest in and go for it! Oh yeah, and pack light – I definitely packed too much. Thankfully, my family took one of my big suitcases back to the USA with them last month.
My last update will be early next week when I am back in my comfy/familiar house in Rochester, N.Y. I wonder if I will experience the reverse-culture shock? I feel like I’m going to accidentally say “Merci” when I go to the grocery store! Well, I will let you know soon enough!
Thanks for reading!