Erica Cook is studying at the Université d’Angers for the spring semester. Here is her news:
It has been exactly two months since I have been here in France, in the beautiful city of Angers. Thinking back to my first day, that first week, even that whole first month – it all seems like ages ago, so long ago that I feel like I was different person back then. I was nervous. I was skittish. I was self-conscious. I was, in a sense, scared of everything around me. The culture was intimidating and unwelcoming, the language was hard, and the classes were impossible to understand. The first month was the most difficult obstacle I have had to overcome, but also the most liberating experience.
The minute I got off the train in Angers with my two large suitcases and my backpack, I wanted to turn around and go straight back home. France was terrifying at that moment – looking at nothing familiar and hearing not one word of English chilled me to my bones. Now, I look forward to going to new places and talking with the natives about their way of life. France has given me the confidence that I don’t think I would have ever achieved back home. I am no way, by any means, fluent in the French language. I still make silly grammatical mistakes and constantly struggle holding a long conversation in French, but now, I have the confidence to not care about the mistakes I am making and to just try.
I have learned to become an independent, traveling learner. I have mastered the Paris metro, the Angers city bus system, and asking for help (mostly directions) from random natives on the sidewalks. In two weeks, I am about to take my two week vacances, and travel alone through the south of France, visiting 5 cities (Biarritz, Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, and Lyon) and eventually circling back ‘home’ to Angers.
I have met some other incredible international students – American, English, Greek, Scottish, and Irish. They have been my support system here and also the ones who have given me a push to come out of my comfort zone. We are all learning together and pushing each other to do our best. We lean on one another through the homesickness and the difficulties that some classes bring, but we also create memories such as spontaneous weekend trips to visit castles in the Loire Valley. Most of the best moments here have been with these new friends and I know these friendships and memories will last forever – this is the time in all of our lives that we will never forget.
I have two more months here in France and I know when the time comes, I will be sad to leave, for this université, this city, and this country – they have all given me such a great gift. This experience has made me become comfortable with not being comfortable – it has made me not be afraid to be in new places, learn and listen to different languages, and not to plan and be in control of every detail of my life. Doris Day has become my role model and I listen to “Que Sera Sera” on a weekly basis. Study abroad gives you the comfort and the ease of mind of not knowing everything and how that can be the start to a great adventure.
From Angers to MWSU,
À bientôt !