From Paris to Caen: Exploration of France!

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titreFrom Paris to Caen: Exploration of France!
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Instead of doing the traditional journal (which I also wrote outside of this), I decided to combine a journal and a sort of scrapbook to show pictures and share stories, while still giving some of my day-to-day thoughts. Remember: this is a journal, so it does have EVERY day in here! However, if you just want an overview of my thoughts and experiences, feel free to skip to the end. I hope you enjoy!

My Journal

As an overview, our journey of France began with a two-day adventure in Paris. The first day, Saturday June 9th, was spent getting our bearings on the surroundings of the city and walking to a few places, including Notre Dame, since our hostel was very close by! It was a great way to begin to see the city, since the size of Paris didn’t overwhelm us by diving into tours. I enjoyed using my French in cafés, boulangeries, and patisseries during our first day in Paris. The second Paris day was spent seeing the tourist destinations: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and the Opera House, to name a few. It was a very busy day, but a great time of seeing the “typical” tourist sites. We also had a chance to get to know our group from Cincinnati. On Monday, we boarded a train and took our two-hour trip to Caen to begin classes! (More on this later)

Normandy Beach

The beaches of Normandy were some of my favorite visits!

Trip Journal and Photos

Discovering Caen and Normandy

From Paris to Caen: Exploration of France!

L’été 2012

After packing up all my things at the MIJE, Evan, Jim, and I headed out to the bookshops on the Seine for some last minute shopping. We were so early, however, that only one bookshop was open! We browsed for a while, and then used our French skills to talk to the shop owner, which went fairly well!

After a bit of trouble at the train station, we made it on the train on time and headed off to Caen. Caen is a great city with a lot of rich history. We made it to the University and settled nicely into our small but efficient rooms. Classes start tomorrow!

le 11 juin

Quel jour! Je me suis reveillée à 7h20 pour visiter La Notre Dame pour la masse du matin, mais elle commence à 8h30, pas 8h. J’étais une heure en retard pour le tour, mais la groupe m’a attendu.

Okay, I’m working on my French, so I hope that wasn’t too bad! Being here in Paris has helped me take a chance and just speak French, even if I’m completely wrong! If I try, people usually understand what I mean, which is very nice. Two days is so little to see such a big city, but this quick tour has shown me what I can visit someday in the future.

Our hostile, the MIJE, is magnificent! It is really cool to be around people from countries other than just France and the U.S. while we’re here in Paris.

As for the fun today, after we took a boat tour on the Seine, today was our sightseeing on Les Cars Rouges, which took us to all the major monuments, at which we were allowed to get on and off as we choose to get pictures and see the monuments up-close. We didn’t climb any of the monuments, since there wasn’t time, but we did take a tour of the Opera, which was marvelous!

My funny story of today is that on the metro, the whole group got on the train…except for me! The doors closed before I got on, so everyone waited for me at the next stop, thankfully!

le 10 juin

le 8 juin au 9 juin

Flight day! I’ve been so filled with nervous excitement that I could barely eat or focus on anything all day. When the plane took off, it just made me more anxious to finally set foot in France. After eight hours of flying, we made it to Paris. I couldn’t stop smiling when I realized my dream had come true: I was actually in France!

I have seen so much of Paris, well the North corner of Paris, in just one day. I want to just continue to explore! Too bad we only have two days here. I guess I’ll just have to come back someday!


Paris is an amazing city, with many things to do, many sights to see, and countless places to visit! Even spending only two days gave me a lot to talk about!

Aujourd’hui, C’est l’anniversaire de Jim! Il a 23 ans, donc nous avions un dîner pour lui, avec un gâteau, et un soir à Caen.

Well, I hope Jim had a good birthday because it was a lot of fun! We went to Dr. Jezequel’s apartment and had a light dinner and a fantastic apple cake, since apples are plentiful here in Normandy. Even though we were too late to catch up with the tour of Caen at night, we still had a good time exploring the city at night.

My classes are difficult in the sense that it takes a lot of concentration, focus, and brain-draining activity to think so much in French. However, Fabien does a great job at keeping the class lively and he teaches a lot in such a short time! I hope we can make it to the point where we don’t need any English in class and that we can function on French!

le 13 juin
Au premier jour des classes, j’avais un bon temps avec le prof et aussi les autres étudiants. La grammaire est un peu facile, mais la conversation et le comprehension orale sont parfait pour moi!

My professor’s name is Fabien Geslot and is he great! I am excited for the next three weeks of classes, lots of French, and lots of great French food – even in the dining halls!

Today was a tour of the University and the city, even though it was quite rainy! I had no idea there was a historic castle and gothic cathedrals very close to where I am living here. It was nice to have a tour in French, even though I didn’t understand all of it, and to ask questions for some extra information when the tour guides were a bit chatty. I feel at home in this city, and I think I will have to visit these boulangeries often!

le 12 juin

The First Week in Caen!

le 16 juin

At 8h30 this morning, I was on a bus with the Cincinnati group headed to St. Pierre sur-Dives. It is a small city in Le Pays d’Auges, a flowing, hilly countrysite in Normandy. We spent the morning at L’Hôtel de Ville learning about the local government, and then headed over to the abbey, which has been beautifully restored! Le maire de ville gave us a great explanation of the workings of the government, which were very interesting, since it does not quite work the same way in America. However, the best part of the day, for me at least, was in the abbey.

The cathedral was lovely, but my favorite part was getting to meet a famous organist, Jean-Michel Bachelet, who just happened to be rehearsing for a performance the following day! Thanks to Dr. Jezequel, I got to go up to the organ and see him in action! It was an interesting journey up a winding staircase, through the tower, and around another winding staircase, but it was worth it! I even got to take a picture with him! I guess the music nerd in me definitely came out at this point.

After a lovely lunch in the courtyard of the abbey, which Dr. Jezequel’s sister is working to restore (a very interesting process), we headed to Troutville and Deauville, two port cities. In Deauville, we went to la plage and went wading in the chilly Normandy waters to finish off a great day of history, churches, and lots of French speaking!

Today was supposed to be a scavenger hunt, but it was canceled due to rain, which is plentiful in Normandy, for sure! For me, it was a great resting day. I’ve been pretty worn out from doing so many activities and all the French classes, for sure. After it stopped raining, however, I joined some others from our group and went downtown in search of a café, none of which were open, so we went to Caen Castle.

The castle is dirty in places, one of which is unspeakable. It is a great place to imagine times from long ago, as well as get some good pictures. We did eventually go to one café, but rather than getting coffee, we got delicious gelato!

le 15 juin

Who knew French could be this tiring!? Today’s cultural activity was a visit to L’Abbaye-aux-Hommes, which was the Benedictine abbey for men, built under William the Conquerer in the 11th century. We got to venture around the church, then a man, who I didn’t quite catch his title, led us through a series of locked rooms and gave us a tour, in French of course. I really like seeing churches with such a history! It was nice to try to understand another tour in French, though I didn’t catch everything with all the vocabulary that was unfamiliar to me.

Another adventure of the day was the concert “We Are Pop #2” at Le Cargö. The concert featured local musicians from Caen. This was a really cool experience! Each band had their own feature, but all the bands were on stage the whole time. Those who were not playing, however, were the “backup chorus” for the main band. This was definitely an experience I will not forget!

le 14 juin

It is really great to go to these abbeys and churches, but sometimes they seem to run together! This one was to L’Abbaye-aux-Dames, which included a guided French tour. These tours are a great way to test my French comprehension because I really have to focus to understand what the guides are saying so I understand the history behind the place. In classes, I know I’m learning a lot in a short time, but I cannot tell because time is flying! It feels as if I’ve been here forever, when it’s only been one short week so far!

My adventure of the day was to the Lavamatique to do some much-needed laundry. Though Laundromats are not much different in France, the directions in French threw me for a bit of a loop, but I handled it and finished my laundry with very few problems.

le 18 juin

La Deuxième Semaine d’Aventure!

Even though today was Father’s Day, I also did some other things, including wishing my dad a happy Father’s Day. Our excursion began at 8h at the “Phénix” in front of the University so that we could excursion for the day to Mont Saint Michel and Saint-Malo. It was a great excursion, though a bit more touristy than most of the places we have visited thus far.

The morning was spent enjoying a tour of Mont Saint Michel, which included the abbey and the castle. This great sight includes architectures from many different stages of construction, including Romanesque, Gothic, and Napoleonic architectural styles, all bundled into one place. The tour was, of course, in French, which was good because our tour guide gave us many little details that made the tour much more interesting and full of knowledge that I would not have seen by just looking at the building.

A short bus ride away is Saint-Malo, which is a fortified city in Bretagne where the French defended and fought against the English. The city includes the place where Jacques Cartier, the founder of Quebec, knelt in the church before heading off to discover Canada.

This program shows a great deal of sights in Normandy and Bretagne today that makes it all the more engaging. My favorite part is the history of all these places and having the chance to see them on the weekends and evenings, rather than only learning the French language. It is a worthwhile experience!

le 17 juin

le 20 juin
After classes, we boarded a bus to les plages du Débarquement, which were the landing sites for D-Day, which is called Jour-J in France. It is a big thing in history, so of course I’ve learned about it in previous history classes, but always from the American perspective. I’ve never stood on the cliffs that thousands of young men climbed to look straight into the face of death as the price for the freedom of France and the world, until now.

It is eye-opening to imagine those young soldiers charging across the beach, men falling all around them. Even the abandoned, destroyed bunkers gave me a new perspective on the price of the war, which is far greater than I could imagine! I don’t know what it’s like to have a war fought on my turf, though I’m sure that it is terrible.

These kind of cultural excursions make this trip unique. Yes, we learn a LOT of French, but what a great chance to see a part of history and experience something that gives us cultural perspective, rather than just classroom knowledge.

Il y a une fête des films à Caen où un film independent gange un award parce que c’est la meilleur film du festival. Donc, cette année le film était “Journal de France.” En resultant, notre excursion aujourd’hui était au Café des Images en Caen pour le regarde! C’était un peu difficile de comprendre, mais je pense que c’était un bon film. Après le film, une group allait au centre-ville pour le diner, mais à l’heure il n’y avait pas des cafés, restaurants, ou boulangeries qui était ouvert! Marli a trouvé une boulangerie et nous avons achetés des sandwichs pour le diner (un peu plus tard).

The movie was a bit difficult to understand, but it was a very different sort of documentary that showed that people are the same no matter where you go. People are people and we all have a spot on this planet. Though I did not catch all of the dialogue, I definitely learned a lot from the film.

le 19 juin

le 22 juin
As a celebration of the first day of summer, Caen has the “Fête de la Musique,” which is a street festival with music, of course, in the centre-ville of Caen. Because it rained, there was no main concert stage, but there were plenty of small groups playing in the streets to enjoy. This is the busiest I have ever seen Caen! It was alive and great fun.

In addition to this great festival, the day was also filled with goodbyes to our teacher, Fabien, who had his last day today. I made a card for him, with original drawings, and everyone signed it, attempting to write in French without making too many grammatical errors! These teachers here are fantastic and though they teach a little bit differently than in the U.S., I enjoyed it greatly and learned a lot in such a short time!

It is a good and bad thing that we change professors during this program. We get to experience multiple French speakers, but we also have to try to change with the teacher, where if it were the same teacher the whole time, we may be more comfortable. Mais enfin, c’est pas grave!

Today we visited a top museum, le Mémorial de Caen. Though it is a museum, it is also a memorial, as the name suggests, to honor those who fought in the wars, particularly the world wars. I tried to read all the placards in French, which I did for the majority of the museum, but it took a long time! My favorite and most awe-inspiring part was the video about D-Day. It was a simple video without dialogue, but it had a huge impact as we saw both sides preparing for battle on the morning of the attack.

C’était un choc, mais j’aime d’apprendre de la guerre. C’est une partie d’histoire que nous ne pouvons pas effacer, donc, c’est necessaire de se souvenir les personnes qui sont mortes pour notre liberté. Le Mémorial de Caen est très grand avec les exhibitions chronologique, et le fin est le vidéo du Jour-J. C’est une experience que je n’oublierai pas.

le 21 juin

Au matin, nous sommes allés au centre-ville pour acheter la nourriture et aussi des souvenirs au marché. Le marché n’est pas chaque dimanche, mais une fois par mois. Les rues du centre-ville à côté du port était plein par les vendeurs avec les legumes, les fruits, les vêtements, les vidéos, et beaucoup d’autres choses. C’est une expérience! J’ai acheté des carottes, des bananes, le saucisson, des raisins, le pain, et aussi des souvenirs pour ma famille et mes amis. À 12h, il a pleut BEAUCOUP! Tom, Jim, et moi, nous sommes allés au café pendant la plue, puis nous sommes retournés au campus pour l’après-midi. Parce que c’était un jour libre, je suis allée au concert d’orgue à l’Église Saint-André. C’était un très bon concert, et l’organiste a joué aussi le clavicon pour le dernier pièce de musique. Donc, c’était une autre jour pas vite, mais bon.

Le soir, dans la chambre d’Anna, nous avons regardé le film Amélie jusqu’à trop tard dans la nuit!
le 24 juin

C’était une autre excursion trés bonne aujourd’hui! Nous visitions le ville historique de Honfleur, et puis nous arrêtions à Etretat pour monter la falaise pour l’après-midi.

At Honfleur, we began with a stroll through the market to a part of the city dating back to the 15th century! It is my favorite part of many of the excursions to see these historic sites, since many things in the United States do not date back that far. I enjoy seeing all this French history during trips. In this part of the city, there was a cathedral unlike the ones we have already visited because it was built in the traditional Normandic architecture, called Chaumière. This means that there are wood beams filled in with clay, which uses materials that are easily found in Normandy.

At Etretat, some people went to swim in the waters and lie on the rocky beach, but I went with a group climb the sea cliffs, using a path, of course. There were many landings along the way that were fabulous for pictures, both of Etretat and the English Channel. Overall, this was a great day to enjoy the beauty of France!

le 23 juin

La Troisième Semaine
le 25 juin

We had a new teacher today: Fabien’s wife, Muriel! It is very engaging to listen to someone new speaking French because at first, it is difficult to comprehend exactly what they are saying. Nonetheless, I caught on and it was a great day of learning!

C’est une autre jour libre! After classes, we went to town for an afternoon of shopping, which ends at 19h, or 7pm, since all the stores close at that time. The stores run a bit differently than in the United States, but it’s refreshing to have a different routine.

Tonight demonstrated to me the opportunities Caen offers to do things in the evening because around 22h, a band started a concert somewhere near the campus, maybe even at the castle!

le 26 juin
I can’t believe we’re already two days into the third week! I feel like each day is very long, but the weeks are flying by! Classes are wrapping up, but we’re still doing important things like reviewing the many verb tenses, both speaking and writing. When we are learning the verbs, we use the French terms for the tenses, which I think is truly language immersion! I also don’t think I have spoken English to my professors, except for a few clarifying words, for at least a week, maybe even more! It is cool to know that I can give answers in French and I am understood. I guess my main goal while I’m here is to get better at speaking, and I think I’ve accomplished that very well!

As for my activities of the day, we had a Pétanque tournament! We played the “French” way, including using the French terms, which I don’t completely remember... Most of the time, we played by speaking French, but we did use some English while debating about who won!

le 27 juin

À la classe, nous avons decouvrir les verbes et aussi les pronoms. Ce n’est pas difficile, mais je fais beaucoup de fautes! J’aime bien Muriel Geslot, mais aujourd’hui était le dernière classe avec elle! Maintenant, nous avons seulement deux jours des classes et le week-end avant nous retournons aux États-Unis.

After classes, we rushed to Les Bus Verts to head to the beach! It was a great day of relaxing waves, warm sunshine, and delicious desserts! I was almost sad to leave, but I did accomplish something: I went swimming in the chilly waters of La Manche! It was cold, but definitely worth it.

Today was our last day in Caen. Every day has passed slowly, but I can’t believe my time here is already up. I had a good time today taking advantage of “Les Soldes” in town to buy some last-minute gifts for my family and friends. This evening, we went to a fondue restaurant with everyone in the Cincinnati group, as well as our friend, Kelsey. It was a great last night together, and I’m sure we were all STUFFED! Well, we’re off tomorrow at 5am to the airport. I’ll be in Ohio tomorrow! What a fantastic three weeks are now behind me.

le 30 juin
Les classes ont fini! Je suis un peu triste, mais c’est d’accord aussi parce que je veux retourner chez moi. Caen me manques, mais un jour, peut être je peux retourner ici.

Pendant les cours, les classes one arrêté et tous les étudiants sont allés au marché Saint-Sauveur pour un jeu! C’était une chasse du trésor du marché avec une équipe. C’était nécessaire de parler avec les personnes au marché pour les réponses des questions pour la chasse du trésor. Puis, avant le déjeuner, il y avait des fromages et du pain, mais seulement les spéciales de Normandie!

La groupe de Cincinnati est allée au conseil générale pour parler avec les personnes de la gouvernement. Après ça, Jim, Partheib, et moi, nous avons fait du shopping au centre-ville. Après je suis retournée, je suis allée au concert d’orgue, le dernier concert du Festival International d’Orgue de Caen. Une bonne journée!

Aussi, les personnes dans la groupe de New York sont partis demain. Ils étaient mes amis, mais j’ai déjà dit “au revoir.”

le 28 juin

Les classes aujourd’hui n’étaient pas spéciales, mais demain j’aurai ma dernière classe ici à l’Université de Caen. Après les cours, je suis allée au lavamatique parce que je n’aurais pas des vêtements pour demain si je ne les ai pas lavé. Aussi, ce soir, nous avions une soirée pour tous les étudiants. J’ai joué au jeu de dames, “checkers” en anglais, avec Tom pour beaucoup de la soirée. Après, une groupe est allé au centre-ville pour regarder le match du foot. C’était une bonne nuit!

le 29 juin
Studying abroad opens your mind to new and exciting possibilities of what the world has to offer. My three weeks in France has taught me many things, and I can’t even count the number of fantastic experiences I have had in such a short time. I have learned that even a short amount of time in another country can teach me a lot!

In just two days of being in Paris, I saw many monuments that people only dream of seeing. I spoke French with vendors, crêpe makers, and a few people on the street. This was only in the first two days! After three weeks, I was much more comfortable and much more competent to use the French I had learned wherever I went. It was a great experience, though a little bit scary, to be thrown into a situation where everyone around you is speaking French, and your only option is to learn it or be hopelessly confused! I think I learned a lot from this immersion, and I know that my speaking skills have improved greatly, as well as my comprehension skills!

In addition to learning the French language by immersion, which I think is the best way, I also got to see some famous places in Caen and Normandy. I saw the D-Day beaches, the Memorial of Caen, many cathedrals and abbeys, and even Mont Saint-Michel! I don’t know how this program fit so many trips and experiences into only three weeks, but they did a fantastic job doing it. I think seeing and learning about these places, including tours in French, made this trip even more influential and unforgettable.

My favorite place we visited was Saint Pierre sur-Dives, which is a small city outside Caen in Normandy. It was a day of seeing the workings of a small city, rather than a large one like Caen, and having a quick look at what life might look like there. I enjoyed the Abbey and most of all, having the chance to see a professional organist at work! There are so many different things to see in just one country, and I didn’t even leave Normandy!

Since I learned French in France, it seems only fitting that I reflect on the process by utilizing my new skills in French.

Cette programme était une bonne experience pour moi parce que je n’étudie pas le français à l’Université de Cincinnati. Avant je suis allée à Caen, je n’avais pas parlé en français pour un an! Mais après les classes à Caen, je peux parler en français au magasin, au restaurant, et aussi avec mes amis.

En addition des classes, les excursions me donnaient beaucoup d’information au sujet de Normandie et aussi les guerres, comme la guerre mondiale II aux plages du débarquement. Aux plages, j’ai vu les monuments, et aussi les musées comme le musée à la plage d’Omaha. Aussi, j’aime bien les cathédrales, et les visites à l’Abbaye aux Hommes et aussi à l’Abbaye aux Dames. Les tours aux cathédrales avec le guide étaient un peu difficile au commencement de comprendre, mais après les classes, j’ai compris les tours en français! Je pense que c’était bon pour les étudiants d’écouter et comprendre des tours en français parce que c’est l’immersion!

J’avais des experiences “françaises” quand je suis allée au centre-ville pour faire du shopping et pour manger avec mes amis. Ce n’est pas simple d’utiliser le français tout le temps, mais je souhaite que je l’utilisais pour être meilleur en français. Je n’étudie pas le français à l’Université, mais si je parle une autre langue, c’est un skill pour la vie que je peux utiliser au futur.

La France me manque, mais un jour, j’y retournerai pour une visite et peut être pour apprendre la langue plusieurs fois! Jusqu’à ça, je vais parler le français chaque fois je peux, et je vais se souvenir les grands experiences en France.

A Reflection/ Une Réflexion


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