The first week of classes are officially over, so yes, I've survived. The director of our program calls the first two weeks of classes the 'faire du shopping' period. We are supposed to add and test out as many classes as possible and drop the ones that don't interest us too much. I've decided to take the majority of my classes at IES because my French level is abysmal, no exaggeration. However, I've opted to take a 'Sociologie de l'Immigration' class at the university that focuses on migration patterns in France and the various identity issues that arise because of them. Surprisingly, I could understand the first lecture with ease and didn't feel the need to whip out my mini French/English dictionary for the entire two hour lecture period. I have a feeling that this class is going to be one of my favorites, the professor seems enthralled by the topic and we will be reading a variety of French and non-French writers. I'm excited for the rest of the semester to commence, all of the tumultuous energy that has accompanied orientation and finding classes has left me a bit frazzled. Okay, enough with the school related stuff, here's what I've learned during my time in Nantes!
Since I've had more time to actually explore the city I've noticed some key things about French/Nantais culture. The most striking being how different Sundays in France are compared to that of the States. For one, I'm certain that Nantes becomes a ghost town, one where literally every boulangerie within walking distance of my host family's house is closed. (Hint hint: I learned the hard way.) Time comes to a full stop, and no one has any complaints about it. Family time and food are central to French culture thus for my host mother, Sundays seem to be reserved for attending mass and catching up with her children who live in the various departments of France. Having a day where the rest of the outside world basically closes up shop forces you to have meaningful conversations with those around you.
Sidenote: Public transportation is amazing here. No US city I've visited can compare to Nantes' TAN system. I can literally hop on a bus or tram and get to where I need to go in a matter of minutes. Unlike Los Angeles or Atlanta, you don't need a car to run weekend errands and visit various museums or exhibits, there's always a bus stop a few meters away from wherever you need to go. And the buses are CLEAN and HEATED (two very important character traits). This has definitely made my experience navigating the streets of Nantes more enjoyable, and the city seems be constantly looking for a variety of ways to make itself more accessible.
With classes, exploring, and winter break coming up there will probably be a bunch of other things I figure out about the French way of life and Nantes in particular. Here's to my first week of attempting to put the 'study' in study abroad!
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<p>Chandra Dickey is a junior at Scripps College in Claremont, California studying Politics, International Relations, and History. She is really excited to journey to Nantes, as it is her first time out of the United States. While abroad she hopes to learn more about Nantes’ rich history, try a bunch of new foods and learn the many quirks of the French way of life. </p>