Bonjour!

10678448_10152518040763645_2166576915161259024_nBonjour tout le monde et bienvenue à l’année scolaire de 2014/2015! J’espère que vous soyez préts pour une année inoubliable! Cette salutation vien pas de notre belle province Québec mais du beau pays France où j’habite et étudie ce semestre!

I cannot believe that I have been in Tours, France for over a month now! I am an exchange student at l’Université François Rabelais where I am studying French to work towards my French minor. So far, I love my exchange program! I have met tons of new people, seen many new places and have eaten more cheese and baguettes than ever before in my life! My adventures are just beginning and I am looking forward to everything I will do here over the course of this semester.

In my opinion, the life of an exchange student can be divided into 3 parts: academics, social life and travel. So here is a look into the three parts of my new life in Tours:

Academics: This is the actual “study” part of a study abroad program. The reason I chose UFR is because of CUEFEE, or the Centre Universitare d’Enseignement du Français aux Étudiants Étrangers. At this place, all the exchange students can take French courses to learn and practice French and earn university credits. When I arrived, I took a placement test to determine which level I had and would be working towards. I was then appropriately slotted into written and oral language classes. I am also taking courses at UFR’s Faculty of Languages. School here is very different from school at home. First of all, the courses are only held once a week here and range from between 1-2 hours. Second, I have not had to buy a single textbook. Third, grades here are a mark out of 20, with a 10 being a pass. However, on a French student’s transcript, the only thing that matters is the average of all the courses at the end of the program. (Side note: this does not apply for exchange students. To earn credits, we must pass each course). Fourth, the average tuition for a French student 200 EUROS A YEAR!!! (Side note #2: Exchange students pay fees to their home institutions).

Social Life: I have to admit, it was very hard arriving here knowing absolutely no one and not being fully fluent in French. So, in typical exchange student fashion, I gravitated towards other exchange students, at first English speakers and then slowly moving on to ones with whom I had to speak French. It took a lot of confidence but it paid off in the end. UFR also has an international student buddy program, for which I was paired up with a fellow third year student to help me settle in here. As well, in my residence, we have 3 resident-referents who organize weekly activities, such as movie nights, games nights, and local excursions. These activities have been a great way for me to meet fellow students and practice French. Unfortunately for other people, not all residences have referents, so I feel extremely lucky that I chose this residence.

Travel: This is the part that everyone automatically associates with studying abroad! My advice for this is to start planning early and make lists of your ideas. For me, my Europe bucket list includes the south of France, England, Amsterdam (thank you Fault in Our Stars), Belgium and wherever else the wind takes me. I have a reading week at the end of October and am planning to visit the south, London and Italy and am working on planning trips to the other places. I have also been busy exploring my region, the Loire Valley, which is full of castles and historic gardens. Next weekend, I am going to climb Mont St-Michel. Look it up – it’s going to be so cool!

So if you are looking at doing a year abroad, I have two things to day: 1) DO IT!! Force yourself to do the research, fill out the paperwork, ask questions and apply for the Visa. 2) Start planning early! Do your research, start saving, find opportunities to start using the language of your host country and start planning your travels! You can never be too prepared! Being an exchange student is not always the easiest role, but I promise it will all be worth it once you land in your host country!

À bientôt mes beaux Gators!!

Erica xox

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