Monday, February 25, 2013

Amanda A. - Nantes, France - Spring 2013

France is not what I imagined: it's better. I can't tell you how to prepare for it, and you can read all the  blogs and books in the world, but you won't know until you've experienced it. At first, a semester will feel like a long time. You'll probably question your decision to come and won't be able to wait to go home. But, not long after you'll feel at home. I already do, and I already wish I could stay longer and know that it is going to be so hard to leave.
On my first day of my teaching internship, one of the students asked me if I like the American or French way of life better. Um… can I answer “no”? I like that Americans smile at each other if they make eye contact on the street, even if it’s barely a smile. I like that the French carry around baguettes and eat them, just like in cartoons. I like that Americans clean up after their dogs. I like that the French clearly show their respect (or disrespect) through their language. I like that I don’t usually feel like a car might hit me when I’m in the U.S., but I like that if I decide to walk in front of a car in France it will stop. I even miss fast food a little bit, but I love that dinners here are much more formal. I’ll miss the public transportation system when I return (though I might be relieved to not have to use it anymore). There are some things that I miss from home, like understanding everyone 99.9% of the time,and others that are better here, like that boulangeries exist.
Photo 1: Street concert in Place Royale, Nantes
Photo 2: Outside IES Center, Nantes


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I will not be going to study abroad in Nantes, France your blog was very interesting to read and even made me laugh. Tentatively I will be attending The University of Ulster in Derry, Northern Ireland in the Fall of 2013 for psychology. I am a little anxious to study abroad because I am being directly enrolled, so I will really have to go out of my comfort zone (with socializing, getting involved in extracurricular activities, site seeing, eating, etc.) and it will force me to be extremely independent which is a little worrisome. Not to mention the fact that I will be in a foreign place by myself where I do not know anyone, 3000 odd miles away from home. Do you have any suggestions for adjusting to such a vast change compared to studying at Elmhurst where I am extremely comfortable (my mother works at Elmhurst in the nursing dept. and my hometown is a half hour away) and know my surroundings. Did you go through a program and had to get to know those that are in it with you or were you directly enrolled? That’s an interesting question for a student to ask you, I don’t think I would know how to reply to that. What was your response (if any)? I am assuming that people in France are not as “friendly” when simply passing by each other. That must have been quite odd at first, did you get weird looks if/when you did smile when passing by? Carrying around baguettes in cartons, that’s awesome! I picture everyone walking, stuffing their faces with baguettes like it’s no big deal haha. You said that the French show their respect/disrespect through their language. Are they more verbal (as in complimenting you, swearing at you, etc.) when showing their opinion versus physical (fighting-wise)? It sounds so different to hear that a car will stop for you if you walk in front of it, especially since it’s typical in the U.S. that most don’t even think twice before driving right past you and not stopping. Are you living in a dorm, apartment, or with a host family? When I picture formal meals, I picture being expected to eat at a specific time, being dressed nicely, eating a four course meal, drinking wine while talking casually. Is that what it is like or not at all? Are there any fast food chains in France that we have here in the United States? Also, have you eaten anything that you never thought you would try or like? As far as public transportation goes, do you have to take a taxi, bus, train, etc. often? Is it difficult to navigate or even just simply communicate and study abroad when you do not always understand those around you? Overall, what was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when first getting to France? Well, I don’t want to overwhelm you with questions, so I hope you’re having the experience of a lifetime in France and I am excited to here from you!

Megan Scanlon CPP-250

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It sounds like France is just spectacular! You had mentioned the transportation system. Is it better than the ones you've experienced here? And can you get from country to country on it?

Jenna S. CPP250

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like you are having a great time over in France! Is there any advice you could offer regarding how to pick out classes and registering for classes?
Nicholette, CPP250

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, I am in Nantes through IES, but I didn't know anyone here before. There's one group of 6 students in my program who are all from the same small school. And so, yes, it's been a huge change. French people seem colder to people who don't understand their culture: they don't smile at each other on the street, and most would prefer you don't either, but if you need help or have a question people are happy to help you. And they're very nice people, their approach to strangers is just different. With the language, I was specifically referring to using different forms of the word "you," but you're right, too. They use language differently. A lot of things that we think of as kind of "taboo" (politics, religion, etc.) are normal. I think it's more like that all around Europe, in fact, because some German people we met in a hostel asked us who we voted for in November. Your description of formal meals is pretty close: every night with my host mom I have an entree (appetizer), dinner, and dessert. Every night. I think you'll be surprised at the amount of fast food in Europe. It's not quite the same (American fries are better), but it reminds me of home. The hardest parts to adjust to in France was probably setting up a routine, making friends,and feeling frustrated when I didn't understand something. The public transportation systems in Europe tend to be really good, and you'll get used to it. As for making friends and not understanding culture or language, try to stay open-minded and give everything a good chance. Also, accept that you may be adventurous, but you are American and won't understand what's going on all the time! =)

Jenna,the transportation system is way better than anything I've ever used in the States. There is lots of lines on the bus, tram, and navibus (boat) that work for me. There's also regional buses that go to the coast, etc. for only 2.30 euros. It is relatively easy to get from country to country, and for the most part nobody is very concerned. We went to Switzerland a few weeks ago and accidentally walked into France without realizing it!

Nicholette, for my program, I didn't get to pick out my classes until about a week after I arrived, and for 2 weeks after that we were allowed to try any classes at our program center or at the local university. If you get that opportunity, try it! Also, if possible, I think it's great to take a class at the university with native students. Mine is sometimes really confusing, but sometimes I'm amazed that I can do it. It's a really good way to get a feel for the culture.

Feel free to ask anything else! And good luck =)


3:56 PM  

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