It doesn’t always rain in Nantes, but when it does, it pours. This morning, I awoke to the sound of pounding on my ceiling. Those noisy neighbors…wait. I’m on the top floor. Is that…rain? I reluctantly crawled out of bed at six-thirty in the morning to look outside my window. Yes. It was raining. Again.
I was warned about the rain in Nantes. With three rivers and an ocean nearby, Nantes is a very wet place. Still, on my first day of class, I wanted to be dry. Instead, I arrived for my eight-thirty literature class wet and slightly irritated at the never-ending rain. After a week of running around from office to office, I was finally in a classroom. I was wet and exhausted, but the professor walked in with a smile. He asked a simple question…
What do you know about French literature?
Other students mentioned literary movements and authors. I was timid at first, but then I realized something. I know books. I know literature. I am a student. Something clicked inside of me and I was at home. It didn’t matter that I was thousands of miles away from my university or thousands of miles away from my home. A classroom is a classroom and, for me, that will always be home.
I raised my hand…and kept raising my hand with confidence throughout the day. Since I did not enroll in the university the first semester, I cannot take regular French classes. Instead, I must take French as a Foreign Language classes with other international students. During this first week, we are encouraged to try new electives (we can take two electives) and to try the level we were placed in. If we believe the level is too easy or too hard (or if we don’t like our electives), we can change. At first, I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to take French classes with other French students, but the IRFFLE department at the Université de Nantes is amazing. My professors are so interesting and they are passionate about teaching foreign students.
I started class at eight-thirty and did not end until five, with a break for lunch of course (many stores in France are closed between 12 and 1:30 for lunch). I ended my day with registering for Autour du Monde, the international student organization, and an English table at an Irish pub. There, I got to speak to French students who were trying to improve their English skills. They were extremely advanced and essentially fluent in the language. I don’t think I spoke French that well at the French table at West Virginia University! Of course, I have noticed that many of the students and adults here in Nantes are more globally aware and have a near-native language capability in one (or even more) languages.
It was a great day, but since my last post, I had a few adventures. On Sunday, I discovered that nearly everything in France shuts down. I don’t think I saw a single store open! It wasn’t raining on Sunday so I took tram line four (the last tram line I had to investigate)…and found it was actually a bus that acted like a tram! It had its own lane like the tram, but it was a bus. It was a little strange.
I walked around Nantes and found the following things:
-Château des ducs de Bretagne (I still haven’t gone in yet, but I will one day !)
-Cathedral of Nantes
-World War II memorial
-L’Île de Versailles, which is an island park designed like a Japanese Garden. It is free and open to the public. It even has a house which has lots of neat exhibits of fish, the rivers of Nantes and Japanese art! I plan to come back when the flowers are in bloom and whenever I need a study break! It’s so beautiful here.
-A café called Caribou (which is also the name of my hometown of Caribou, Maine)
-A trail by a creek that led me to campus!
It doesn’t always rain in Nantes. Sometimes, it is overcast, but you just have to know that the sun is behind the clouds. And, when the sun finally shines, never waste a ray of sunshine.
Note: I know you are all wondering about François (since he has become the star of my blog). François is doing well. He’s still sitting in the lobby and still receiving love from students who pass by and scratch his belly.