Study Abroad: Integration key to enjoying France

"Je voudrais voir ton passeport," the lady behind the desk said. After handing her my passport, which is required to purchase cell phones in France, she made a copy of it and finalized my transaction. Seconds later, I walked out of the Orange Mobistore on Foch Boulevard with my new Samsung portable in hand. You could say this was the moment when I transformed from an uninitiated foreigner who often stumbled through sentences in French to someone who thrives in the French way of life.

I immediately contacted my American friends, who had previously purchased phones, and sent French text messages to locals I had met. Over three weeks, everyone adjusted quite well to life in Angers. Our daily regimen of classes, particularly our grammar class improved our command of the language.

Because class ended at 4:30 p.m., we had time to study together at an Italian Restaurant on the corner of Bressigny Avenue and Foch Boulevard. We liked the people with whom we interacted because they made us feel welcome. This change we felt inside of us was more extraordinary than our improved French speaking. One result of studying abroad is confidence. You feel you can thrive in a foreign setting, anything is possible. Life in France was less stressful, and the people were open and inviting.

I learned this fact when I walked down Foch Boulevard one night to Le Jardin du Mail and conversed with several locals for hours on many topics, from music to their view of America. I found they were enthralled with my Los Angeles background, and when my friends told the locals they were from Texas, they automatically said one word: "Bush."

We also realized how important soccer is to French people. Every corner featured fans shouting and countless cars honking repeatedly, with passengers waving flags. Willie Wright and I were clueless to the spectacle, until Wright asked a man with his son on his shoulders. The man responded, "Angers won the Ligue! (League)"

We also realized how close other countries are to France. Because of the proximities of European and North African countries, there are many travel options. Program Director Claudine Giacchetti cancelled classes Friday during our third week so we could enjoy a three-day weekend. We walked with Giacchetti to Angers’ gare (train station) to find travel information. Some friends went to Paris, Scotland or Switzerland, but Willie Wright, James Cox, Katie Baker, Corrin Feagins, Heather Martin, Elizabeth Ramey and I opted for La Baule, a beach town on France’s Northwest coast. The ticket was fairly inexpensive, around 11 Euros round-trip, but the experience of being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean was priceless.

On the way back, Wright, Cox and I visited Nantes, a city with historic castles, much like a combination of Paris and Angers. We arrived in Angers that evening, giving us enough time to go out. As our final week approached, I woke each morning counting down the days mentally, realizing the Angers days were ending and should be enjoyed accordingly, and indeed they were. Find out how next Tuesday.†

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