‘My childhood dreams were fulfilled’
Maddie Daly | Sunday, March 23, 2014
My study abroad experience is different than others in that it is designed to be an immersion program centered specifically on France. We have several excursions on the weekends, and our only time to really travel outside of France is during our two-week spring break. Since I have never been to Europe before, I am planning to take full advantage of every free day to travel to the places I have only seen in pictures, but I also appreciate the nature of the program for focusing so much on the country in which I am currently residing. Upon leaving, I am going to have a deep understanding of French culture and language, rather than getting a quick preview of every European city I am interested in. Also, since the program is not located in Paris, I am not just spending my time here as a tourist. I am mixing in with the people of Angers and trying to live like the French do.
Although I have only been here for three weeks, I already feel like this is my home. I am comfortable in my host family’s house, I know my way around town and I can speak French well enough to interact with the locals. Before coming abroad, I was warned that the transition would be difficult, I would miss home frequently and I would question my decision of coming. However, I have not had a problem adjusting. Living with a host family, rather than in an apartment, helps because I have a second family to lean on for support. Also, since the program is so small, all eight of us have been friends from day one, providing yet another support group. I haven’t regretted my decision once, and I am taking full advantage of every day here.
Even though I have yet to travel outside of France, I have gone on two weekend excursions with the Notre Dame group and the entire international population of the University. The first excursion was just in Angers, but it was a good opportunity to discover the main attractions of the city and to bond as a group. First, we took a bus to a cooking class, where we learned to make macarons. Even with the instructor speaking French extremely fast, we were all able to produce delicious chocolate, caramel and pistachio macarons. Next, we had a reservation for lunch at the most famous crêperie in Angers, La Crêperie du château. We dined on delicious gourmet crepes, starting with savory “galettes” loaded with various vegetables, cheese and meats, followed by sweet crêpes covered in caramel, fruit and sugar. Meanwhile, we sipped “le cidre brut,” sparkling cider, because for the French, crêpes without cider is like a night without stars. My favorite crêperie, however, was a tiny little restaurant in Saint Malo where the only employees were the owners, an older French couple, and they were blown away by our ability to speak French, since we were Americans in a touristy town. We spent the rest of the Angers excursion at the museum of David d’Angers, a famous sculptor, and at the famous Château d’Angers, the city’s ancient castle that has become a popular tourist attraction. By the end of the day we were out of energy from all the sightseeing, but everyone enjoyed discovering our “home town” of Angers.
The second excursion was to Saint Malo and Mont St. Michel. The weather was surprisingly beautiful, even though it has rained practically every day since we have been here, and we were able to enjoy the two sights and take pictures with a blue sky as our backdrop. The town of Saint Malo was quaint and breathtaking with its view of the sea and its port full of sailboats. Mont St. Michel was more touristy, full of souvenir shops and English-speakers, but the trip was also pleasant due to the beautiful weather. After the excursion, all the Americans went out to our favorite Irish pub, Inishmore, for a pint of beer to end the day. Next weekend, five of us are headed to Paris for a weekend getaway. There is never a boring moment for us in France.