Ten days ago, I spent a quiet Sunday in with my host family. Looking back, that doesn’t seem too long ago. Realizing that I will be on a plane back to the United States in another ten days makes me very aware of how quickly our time in Tours is running out. However, I am (unsurprisingly) filling the next ten days with enough work and activity to keep me busy through then, so maybe I can keep my mind off of it for just a little longer!
Classes have been going well, though I have fairly quickly realized that I am in the lower end of the class when it comes to proficiency in using and understanding the language. However, that’s a completely welcome experience for me: it means I have a lot of opportunities to build and learn my French skills. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to practice French with skilled students from the United States, England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Japan, Korea, and Russia all in the same room! Phonetics continues to be both my favorite and least difficult class (hmm, maybe the two go hand in hand), though I’ve unfortunately developed a strong least favorite in oral comprehension. As it turns out, while I can usually understand my friends and host family when speaking French, recordings of French speakers (sometimes with regional accents thrown in, no less) are much more difficult for me to comprehend in two fast listens without the nuances of regular conversation.
In addition to my classes and additional reading for my MSU classes, I am preparing to take the DELF exam on Friday, as previously mentioned. The exam consists of multiple sections much like the ACT or other standardized tests in the United States: written comprehension, written production, oral comprehension, and oral production. The first three sections of the test are taken on Friday morning on paper, while the oral production section is an individual test in the afternoon during which I will prepare an argument based upon a written passage, then present and defend this argument to one of the exam proctors. The exam realistically provides nothing to me but a line on a resume unless I were to pursue the chance to enter a French university, but the opportunity is worthwhile, so I hope I do well enough to pass and receive a diploma.
Though it might not sound like it from the preceding paragraphs, I have had my fair share of fun events during the past week as well. The Tour de France came through Tours late last week, arriving at the end of their stage on Thursday and departing on Friday. While I was unable to make it to Thursday’s arrival due to logistical issues concerning my class schedule, I was excited to see the cyclists leave town on Friday, especially since my family and I have watched the Tour on TV for several years and my father and grandparents are avid cyclists as well. After classes let out early Friday afternoon, we made our way to the departure point of the course, which was right near the Institut de Touraine where we study. Since we were seeing the very beginning of the stage, the cyclists pedaled their way out of town all together, following behind the official vehicle escort that keeps the riders behind them until they’re out of the well-populated town. Because no one could break away from the pack (or as they call it, the peloton) at that point, the actual event of seeing the cyclists start didn’t last very long, but it was still very cool to see up close something that I had previously been used to seeing only on a television screen (and I got a nice picture of the four jersey-wearing riders leading the pack).
Following the Tour on Friday, I spent Saturday alone for what I believe was the first time this trip, doing a little bit of shopping during the soldes and checking out the local IKEA (no, it wasn’t very different from those in America) for lunch.
Les soldes — The sales (annually from late June through July in France)
Sunday, however, was much different: July 14 is the fête nationale, or independence day, in France, also referred to as Bastille Day. After sleeping in, I went to eat breakfast and was stopped by my host parents, who informed me that the parade in Paris was being broadcast on TV, so I watched the military groups and music ensembles march down the Champs-Élysées with them before a barbecue lunch in the garden. Later that evening, everyone in Tours (and I am likely exaggerating only slightly when I say that) made their way to le pont Wilson or la guinguette to watch a patriotic fireworks show. Being accustomed to annual July fireworks during our own country’s celebration of independence, it was a neat experience to substitute that with a celebration of the country where I have lived and studied this summer. And of course, their fireworks were spectacular as well.
Le pont — The bridge
Today brought a return to Amboise, the city nearby that a group of seven visited on our own during our first weekend in France. However, we still were lucky to experience new sights: while we had decided during our first excursion to skip le Château du Clos Lucé (Leonardo da Vinci’s house) due to excessive cost, the Institut-sponsored trip meant that the cost had already been included in our tuition payments. While the house itself was only mildly interesting to my eyes, it was very cool to see a large number of da Vinci’s many inventions modeled or diagrammed throughout the property, including the first automobile and an attempted flying device that eventually became the helicopter. After finishing there, we returned to the Château d’Amboise, where da Vinci had reportedly been buried and where François Ier (Francis I) once lived. Despite having already seen the château, the sights were certainly interesting enough to see a second time, and having a professor from the Institut as our guide gave me a little more information about the castle that we missed when visiting it alone.
While it is now approaching dinner time on the east coast of the United States, midnight is around the corner here, which means that we will officially be in the single digits for days remaining in France. It’s very hard to believe that six and a half weeks have already passed here, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re having fun, learning French, and, as my mom put it, eating your way through Europe. Speaking of food, I plan to post more about the French delicacies I’ve enjoyed while here, as well as a summer playlist (because how could I write blog entries without including a musical element, right?), a recap of the DELF exam, and our upcoming excursion to Mont Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo on Saturday. A+ (that’s not a grade, but rather modern shorthand for à plus tard, or “see you later”)!