Fantastic voyage

Being in a different environment can really help you expand as a person, and my experience studying abroad in France this summer is a testament to that. While I’ve always been pretty open-minded, living in France made me more adventurous than I’ve ever been, and the trip wouldn’t have been as great as it was if I had refused to try new things and be adventurous.

After arriving in the town of Angers, France, I was ready to explore all it had to offer. But there was one problem: I had no luggage other than my carry-on backpack. British Airways lost both my roommate’s and my luggage and didn’t deliver it to us until more than a week later. As a result, we didn’t settle in comfortably until it arrived and were very inactive that first week. Having almost no clothes, we decided to shop at the French stores, where differences such as pants being measured with one number instead of two (width and length) was confusing and funny. But once I got my luggage and unpacked, I spent a lot of time out of the house enjoying all France had to offer. I knew that I had to be very outgoing and open because I was lucky to be in France and might not see the country again.

One of the first outings the group of Houston students had was attending Soiree International, a show featuring students that went to our university, the Centre International D’…tudes FranÁaises. Students from all over the globe performed skits and live acts.

Afterward, we walked to a bar called the Kronenburger and spent hours in there talking. This was during our first full week in Angers, and was the first of many times that we all hung out. The way that we meshed that night made me realize that we all had something in common, despite our distinct backgrounds – we were essentially strangers who came to live in a foreign place together and ended up becoming good friends (it also helped that we went to school with each other everyday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

After hanging at the Kronenburger, a few friends and I made a stop at T-Chips, one of the many kebab restaurants in Angers. Located on a street called Bressigny, T-Chips was a few minutes away from several other kebab places, but was definitely the best, with only one other coming close to it in quality. The kebab was a part of everyone’s diet; especially mine because I grew tired of being fed tuna almost every night at home (baked tuna, tuna casserole, tuna out of a can, you name it).

The kebab is a sandwich with lots of lamb or turkey, lettuce and your choice of a sauce, such as ketchup, mayonnaise and even a sauce called "Americaine." You could get a meal with fries for around 4 Euros, so it was a quick and delicious option (you could say it was the country’s "fast food"). My friends and I definitely consumed many a kebab while in France. It was also conveniently located across the street from Soft, a bar that was frequented by American students in Angers on a nightly basis.

After eating, everyone met up at the Jardin du Mail, a park in Angers and another popular spot among U.S. students. It was here where we Houstonians met our fellow CIDEF students from states such as Oregon and Kansas. These students, who had been in Angers for months, told us all we needed to know about Angers, and the friendship we built with them was another great element of this trip. Almost every night, a stroll to this park guaranteed that you’d run into someone you knew.

One of the key parts of this trip was the inclusion of weekend excursions. There were three of these during our month in France: a two-day stay in Paris (which deserves its own part in this series), a visit to the Loire Valley Castles and our last excursion to St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. Not only were these obviously cultural activities, but with long bus trips and joint experiences, they helped strengthen the bonds between my classmates and myself.

Angers is very small, and one can walk almost everywhere. The place where all the action took place was Foch: the long, main street features many restaurants, bars and stores. A big difference between America and France is that you can sit outside one of these locations, right next to the sidewalk, and see many people walking by all the time. In Houston it’s not the same; you only see people driving by in cars.

As I said earlier, traveling can help you expand, and the people who went on this trip all went through at least one change. There’s a certain feeling that you can only get when you are traveling: you feel that you should let yourself go because you probably won’t ever see these people in this foreign town again. Many of my friends and I adopted this attitude during our summer in France, but it’s difficult to muster up this feeling when you’re at home, which is what made our experience abroad so enriching.

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