As suggested, the UA in France: Language and Culture program does involve actual class time. It almost sounds wrong to say I was in summer school because the whole month was so surreal that to call it school would appear to negate the experience which would be a remorseful assumption since I thoroughly thrived during my stay in Tours.
After spending a week in Paris sight seeing and bonding with fellow students we bussed down to this ‘little’ town roughly three hours south of Paris called Tours. It is in fact NOT a small town (sure, ok yes next to Paris it’s small) but did place all us students within walking distance to the main hubs: the Institute, La Guinguette, our homes, shopping on Rue Nationale, Place Plumereau (Plume), and a few other commonly known highlights of the city.
It was nauseatingly nerve racking when we first arrived and each went off into our host homes and began speaking French 24/7. I will freely admit I freaked out a bit when we pulled up and they were all waiting for us but magically it all melted away when my French Grandpa (yes, I now have French grandparents and they are the cutest people) greeted me and took me home with him for the next month. Their apartment occupied the second and third floor of the building and they even had a small garden out back. I’d say they spoke slow at first and then got up to speed but that would be a lie. They spoke, I understood 80%, we pantomime, they repeated: this was day one.
Classes started that next Monday morning and Grandpa walked me to class so I’d know the way. (Again, adorable, I know.) A few introduction meetings, brief campus tour, then we each got tested and assigned to a variety of levels based on our knowledge of the language. I bombed. So bad. But it was ok because I wasn’t alone. And the institute does allow you to move up in level so I was able to quickly do that and get placed better accordingly.
The thing I loved the most about the full immersion is that beyond class time I was able to practice the language and everyday dialogue with my host family. As time went on dinner became less silent on my end and dialogue flowed much smoother. Obviously I made mistakes, to which Grandpa usually caught me on and corrected, but I found it awesome by week two/three where I was no longer having to translate things in my head so much as just freely speak and add to whatever they were talking about.
Classes lasted Monday-Friday 9am-12:20pm with additional ‘ateliers’ (electives essentially) in the afternoon. Mine were Monday 1:30-3:30, Tues 3:30-4:45, and Thursday 1:30-4:45pm. It may sound like a lot but it really wasn’t bad and because so much of the program pushes you to use French outside the classroom (and you can easily) there wasn’t much outside of class homework to be done which was a blessing.
On Wednesday afternoons we would usually have excursions to a nearby Chateaux (Castle) in the Loire Valley which were really cool to see but tended to be a bit rushed following the guided tour. One weekend we visited Mont Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo which took from all day but was worth the trip. The middle two weekends were free but our UA teacher found lots of fun things for us to including: 2 Dance Shows, an advanced screening and Q&A with Yann Gonzalez following his film, multiple dinners of specific courses for the meal, walking tour, a degustation, etc…
Those are just some of the highlights of my month spent in Tours. Hopefully the pictures can help lend to the stories that you usually ‘had to be there for’ but if nothing else you can glimpse into my world from a tiny window. I was truly blessed to be able to spend 6 weeks in France this past summer and I hope to return very soon.