I have lived in France for a little over three months now, and every day is still an adventure. My exchange program is placed in Tours, France, and idyllic and quaint French town about an hour train ride outside of Paris. This little town, located along the Loire River, is the perfect mixture of old renaissance buildings and modernity. I live right in the center of the historic quarter—I’m actually typing up this blog post in my favorite coffee shop across the street from ruins dating back to the time of Charlemange. Things here have only barely been touched by globalization, with two McDonalds and one Starbucks across town. Comforts of home have been left behind in exchange for cozy, outside cafes that spring to life when the sun is shining, kebab shops that are there for you when you get home late from an exhausting trip, and fresh pâtisseries where you can buy warm pain du chocolates on the way to class in the morning and then buy an equally fresh baked baguette on the walk home. Some of my favorite pasttimes in Tours have become those of the locals, getting friends together for picnics in the park or by the river, sitting at one of the many outdoor tables in Place Plume, and or going to the fresh markets every morning.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far, which would have been great to know before I left, was that it is almost impossible to plan for a study abroad experience. You can’t plan for everything, but still try anyways, and always have a back-up plan. Trust me you won’t need all the clothes you are planning on packing, and even if you think you’ve packed thoroughly enough you will inevitably forget something. Studying abroad helps you learn to roll with the punches, whether you get lost in a city where you don’t speak the language, miss your bus/ train, or walk into so many wrong classrooms until you get the right one. Take things in stride, relax, enjoy the scenery and the coffee, and while you may not be a local, you can definitely pretend. And as the French say Bon courage!
– Sarah xx