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Alabama in France students adapt to French culture

Christy Boardman and Alexandra Tucci

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Editor’s Note: “Where in the World” is a summer series giving UA students studying abroad an opportunity to write about their summer adventures in their own words.

If you’re studying abroad in a fascinating place and would like to tell your story, e-mail editor@cw.ua.edu.

We are writing this article on a bus headed to the Chateau Chenonceau situated on the edge of the Cher River. Around us the French countryside whirls from one impressionist painting to another—first haystacks, then cathedrals, farm lands, poppy fields, stone cottages and bright explosions of flowers. It feels as though we are living in a dream.

Maybe it is just a combination of too many pastries, the warm bus and the lullaby-like descriptions from our French tour guide that is making us a bit sleepy. Whatever the cause, we are very thankful to be a part of this study abroad program in France.

Alabama in France is a study abroad program through the University in which students spend one week in Paris and four weeks in Tours.

With the guidance of our professor, Michael Picone, we visited all the “must-see” attractions in Paris during our first week in France. We gazed at the treasures within the Louvre, watched French theatrical performances, got lost in the seemingly endless gardens of Versailles and mastered the Paris metro, among many other activities. Although little could replace the exciting songs and colorful costumes of “Le Roi Lion” (“The Lion King” musical) or the traveling eyes of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” we both agree that we began the transition from American tourists to French inhabitants while living in Tours.

Upon arrival in Tours, the Insitut de Touraine, the university through which we are studying while in France, put us into different class levels, depending on our proficiency in French. Monday through Friday, we return to the Institute for classes with students from around the world.

Additionally, the Institute separated our group of twenty-three students, placing us in various French homes. The vast majority of us were placed with non-English speaking families isolated from other students. In order to have a common language with our families, our professors and other non-English speaking students, we are forced to speak almost exclusively in French both at the Institute and at our homes.

We have found that living with a French family is the best way both to dive into and to heal “culture shock.” After over two weeks in France, we have become accustomed to bread with every meal and toilets on separate floors from sinks, and we are trying all the cheeses—despite the colors or smells.

It is now understandable to us why French women stormed Versailles in 1789 in search of bread; this staple food is served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. No French meal is complete without it. Food—whether it is bread or pastries—truly is a major facet of the culture here. Fortunately for us, eating is one of our favorite pastimes.

We have gotten to experience a variety of French foods. Our families provide us with a traditional breakfast and dinner. Our lunches, however, are open to trying local cafés and restaurants. Even on a student’s budget, we have found plenty of delicious food for lunch—from a baguette with tomatoes and chevre to a Nutella crepe, fresh apples and raspberries from the market.

Not only have we been able to enjoy the food, monuments and countrysides that make this country famous, but we have also been able to truly experience France.

In fact, we have become so immersed in the culture that we have begun to dream in the French language. Having reached this level in our French is a dream-come-true itself. If that sentiment is too cliché, we apologize. But, at least “cliché” is a French word.

Alexandra Tucci is a junior majoring in International studies and advertising and Christy Boardman is junior majoring in economics and French.

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Alabama in France students adapt to French culture