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Au revoir, France – hello, ND!

Maria Fernandez | Monday, January 23, 2012

“Merci,” I said to my Political Science professor as he handed me the course syllabus last week during our first class meeting. He gave me an odd look and continued handing out papers to the rest of the class.

Ten seconds later, I realized I had just spoken French to my American professor. I could not stop laughing as I thought to myself, “Maria, what are you doing? You are back at Notre Dame!”

Last fall semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Angers, France. I did not know much about the program beforehand and was scared to live with a host family. I truly did not know what to expect. However, I wanted to leave my comfort zone and explore a country I had never been to and, being a French major, France seemed like the ideal destination.

To my surprise, all of my fears and worries about France, my living situation and overall study abroad experience disappeared as I got out of the TGV at the Angers St. Laud train station, quickly looked around and met my host mother.

Those three and a half months in Angers were characterized by complete cultural and language immersion. My host family and I clicked immediately. Coming from two different worlds, we discovered we were very much alike. From family parties to delicious traditional French meals or just a simple conversation, I felt I was part of their family; I felt French.

Our courses in Angers were also all taught in French. In the beginning, I have to admit I struggled a little finding the correct words to express myself in class and in conversations with friends and family. My French accent would quickly turn into a rough Spanish one as I got exited and interested in what we were talking about.

However, in the end, I thought in French, I spoke French and even dreamt in French and I did not have to make an effort to do so. It came naturally!

Now back at Notre Dame, instead of hearing and speaking French while walking down Rue Bressigny, I hear and speak English as I order a sandwich at Subway in LaFun.

I am slowly but surely getting used to being back, but the new mix of English, Spanish and now French in my head is definitely not helping.

So, “pardon,” professor and thank you for the syllabus. It’s good to be back!

Contact Maria Fernandez at mfernan5@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.