Okay, this continues the explanation of my year – well, really ten months – at the university in Angers, France. After a somewhat circuitous routing flying Icelandic Air, our group arrived and we spent the first afternoon in Paris. A couple of staff members from the university met us with a bus. Despite the jet lag, we did get a quick tour of some of the highlights and one would think I could recall my very first meal, but I don’t. As I mentioned, I was the youngest of our group and when we later met the students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, that also held true. Everyone was basically indulgent with me, although in addition to being the youngest, I was also the one with the least French background. Most had of course taken multiple French classes, although my month in Canada had helped. In fact, my first day of class with our professor, she asked why I spoke French with a Canadian accent. Naturally, I wasn’t aware I was speaking with an accent.
Anyway, the program was set up as semi-immersion in the sense our professors did not speak English to us. You could choose to take this even further by living with a French family rather than in the dorm, but I wasn’t ready to go that far. My lack of French background did place me in the lower level class so only one other student in our Louisiana group was with me. As I mentioned in the last post, this part of the university was designed specifically for foreigners to learn French. We had students from Denmark, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and probably another country or two. All the classes were the equivalent of college freshman level. We had a number of field trips as well as classes and we were able to travel on weekends and holidays. It was about a three hour train trip to Paris and so it was not uncommon to do so. I tended to not go off as much as some of the others, but after a while, one of the French girls invited me to dinner with her family and I went there maybe once a month. She was the only one who spoke English so it was good practice.
English was not widely spoken in town and so transactions in stores, at the post office, etc. did sometimes result in either misunderstandings or protracted time to accomplish something.
As for food, what a difference it was. Aside from the fact I never thought about eating horse, (and didn’t have that very often), it was doing things like learning to eat fruit with a knife and fork. Peaches are not all that difficult – an apple is a different matter. At the time, I wasn’t a coffee drinker and that’s one of my regrets. I had a lot of hot chocolate and hot tea.The experience quite simply changed my life and when I returned home, there was a bit of, “How do you get them back on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” (Old WWI song for those who may not know of it). Also, as it turned out, my high school diploma and college credits were unexpectedly impacted. That will be the third part to this tale.