I write this post on a warm, calm Sunday morning. It’s the tail end of my second week of classes, and I am finally beginning to feel settled in. It is difficult to comprehend how less than one month ago, I was watching an NFL game on television or how less than two months ago I was hunched over a notebook studying for my game theory final exam.
My class schedule has been finalized, and I feel content with my choices. In my French grammar and vocabulary class, we are in the midst of a unit on triangular trade, which plays an integral role in Nantes’ history. Nantes had the largest slave port in France during the 18th and 19th centuries. Later this week, our class will visit a memorial exhibit dedicated to the abolition of slavery. I am also taking a class on the European Union with a focus on France’s role in the organization. Having never before taken a class on this subject, I am ecstatic to learn about the economics and politics of such a complex institution. In my history and religion class, we are studying the intricate relationships between various religions and French society. At Grinnell, I have not yet taken a single religion class, and only one French history class, so I am ready to cross a new academic frontier.
The other two classes I am taking are gastronomy and a teaching internship. Every week, the gastronomy class provides an amusing, yet educational opportunity to gain an appreciation for French cuisine. This past week, we sampled mead and two French wines in order to begin developing a knack for identifying and describing subtle flavors. For the teaching internship, I spend four hours per week at a vocational high school assisting English classes. There exist a multitude of English proficiency levels amongst the students, but they are all equally respectful, motivated, and curious about American culture. I look forward to talking with them about American history, culture, and current events and serving as a liaison between the students and the U.S.
Outside of classes, I have been trying to explore all wonders Nantes has to offer! There are so many museums, parks, shops, restaurants and cafes that I seriously doubt I will ever not be able to find something to do here. Furthermore, the weather has started to warm up here, which makes walking and biking around town much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, my goal of discovering the city by going on runs has not yet come to fruition. I continue to battle hamstring, IT band, and knee problems in my right leg, which most likely stem from a spontaneous long run that I did with some friends during final exams week in December. It’s been about a month since I started the recovery process, and by this point I thought that I would be capable of running longer and more frequently than I actually am. During the few runs I have done, I have taken advantage of a delightful nature trail near my host family’s house. It offers a peaceful retreat from the noise, cars, and concrete in the city. In an attempt to substitute running for another form of cardiovascular exercise, I subscribed to a bike sharing program called Bicloo. With the subscription, I can easily check out a bike from any of the numerous stations around town, and then bike around for thirty minutes. As a means of transportation, the program is both practical and more enjoyable than walking or taking the bus.
As I am beginning to feel more settled in, I also feel increasingly comfortable with the French language. To accept the fact that I will frequently make mistakes when I speak or that I will not always understand everything that someone says takes a long time, but I believe it is necessary to accept in order to make progress. It didn’t take long for me to realize that satisfaction stemming from my progress with French language will not come about quickly. Rather, it is through a long term process of learning from my mistakes and seizing opportunities to improve that I will be able to look proudly upon my progression.
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<p>Bonjour! My name is Keanan Gleason, I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but currently live in Iowa where I am a third year student at Grinnell College. I am double-majoring in Economics and French, and this spring I will be studying abroad in Nantes, France! I hope to get to know my temporary home by going on lots of runs, eating at various restaurants, and exploring with friends.</p>