When I made the decision to come to France, everyone kept telling me that it would be such a great opportunity to travel throughout the rest of Europe. I do have some international travel planned for the semester, but I think it would be a shame if I left Nantes without having explored its region to the fullest. One of the great things about studying abroad in Nantes is the proximity of significant historical and cultural sites. One of the great things about studying abroad in Nantes with IES is the accessibility of these sites through planned group excursions.
Our first excursion was filled with awkward “bonjours” and “tu viens d’où?s” as we had only met each other two days before and were all still overwhelmed by the newness of the study abroad experience.
Fortunately throughout the two day orientation in Brittany, all of the awkwardness melted away as we rode bikes around the beautiful Île-aux-Moines, visited the picturesque town of Vannes and tasted our first galettes and crêpes au caramel beurre salé, a traditional meal in Brittany.
At our second excursion we climbed the steps to breathtaking views and sat in the peacefulness of the chapel at the famous abbey, Mont Saint Michel. Then we let loose on the beach at the nearby walled city of Saint Malo.
Our third excursion took us to Clisson, the “Florence of France” as my host mother called it. After a short nature hike and a stroll through the beautiful town, we went on a guided tour of the ruins of the town’s castle where we learned about the town’s Italian architectural influences. Then we learned the secrets of wine making (and tasting!) at a Muscadet vineyard.
Last weekend was our final IES sponsored excursion and it was certainly the most fantastic of them all. We traveled to the heart of the Loire valley where we explored the gardens and secret passageways of the famous Châteaux de la Loire.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “world traveler” mindset when studying abroad in a European country, but I didn’t come to France to see the rest of the world. I came here to improve my French and learn about the culture which has had such a great influence on my life. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to visit these extremely significant French historical sites and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit some of them without the great planning on the part of IES. I would encourage all future IES students to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to explore the culture and heritage of the country in which they’re living because there’s more to these four months than earning as many stamps on your passport as possible.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>