Valentina Palm/Guest Columnist
In Summer 2018, the annual Angers Study Abroad Program at FIU provided students the opportunity to earn six credits while immersing in French culture with newly included cultural classes and local activities.
Located in the Loire Valley region of France, the college town of Angers is home to the Universite Catholique de l’Ouest, or Le Catho. The FIU Department of Modern Languages and the FIU Study Abroad Office organize for students who have taken at least one French language course to attend the private university every summer.
Nathia Paz, a senior majoring in art, said she fulfilled her French minor requirements on the trip by enrolling in two upper-level courses.
The lectures in the cultural classes detailed the regions students visited, such as their characteristic landscapes, activities and monuments. Lecture content was also focused on the historical background of the places visited by the students during the weekend excursions led by the University.
“What I learned in the culture courses related to my everyday experience abroad because I had the opportunity to learn about typical wine and meals and go enjoy them right later after class,” said Paz.
Students like Paz who attended the study abroad trip said that without the cultural classes, their experience wouldn’t have been as enriching.
“Learning about the places we visited like Normandy Beaches made me more appreciative of being there because it gave purpose to the excursions as I could actually learn from them instead of ‘being a dumb tourist,’” said Paz.
Outside of the classroom, Paz and the other students were paired with activities that gave her the opportunity to actually interact with the culture. Lucy Reimes, a senior majoring in French, said she was also able to relate to the material taught in the course because of the activities.
The program offered classes taught by local French professors who accompany students to the excursions and cultural activities. These professors lectured on the significance of each custom and place.
“My favorite aspect was having each professor actually have a relation to the material they were teaching as they made learning immersive with their passion for their region and its history,” said Reimes.
Content of the cultural courses also focused on the impact the monarchy and the World Wars had on France and its development.
“I understood the impact the Second World War had in French society and why they consider it so important to continue teaching, studying and learning from their experience so it never repeats itself,” said Paz.
Instructors created historical lessons with anecdotes that demonstrated the struggles and victories that influence French society to this day.
“In order for international students to understand current French values and behaviors, they need to study French history and its significance,” said Francois Grillet, instructor at Le Catho.
The local activities organized by the host university Le Catho was an initiative created to promote student interaction with the local community. The activities, guided by the course monitors included visiting local hotspots, cooking classes, music clubs and concerts.
“The cultural activities were my favorite part as I got practice my French speaking and socializing skills, making me feel part of their world, living their lifestyle and attending their community events, things I don’t get to appreciate in Miami,” said Paz.
Reimers said participating in the program improved her French skills by giving her the conversational confidence she needed to continue her French studies.
Ludchiana Cherenfant, a senior majoring in chemistry, said she would recommend the program to other students really looking to improve their language skills.
“The experience is magnificent, the friends you make incredible, the amount of improvement in the language you make unbelievable and the moments you make are priceless. I would do it all over again for even longer than a month,” said Cherenfant.
For more information on the program, students can contact the FIU Department of Modern Languages at fiu.edu/languages/french/france-study-abroad/.