Summer Semester in Angers, France: More from our student abroad
Senior Communications major Meredith Bard is looking up and looking out at her world from a vantage point in Angers, France, this summer. “I don’t think I will get used to looking up while eating lunch at a café and seeing cathedrals and other beautiful landmarks,” she tells us in her second blog submission. While in Angers, Bard is taking Contemporary World Issues, a communications course with faculty member Stephanie Poole-Martinez, and her senior Capstone with Political Science faculty member Brian Smith.
Bard is one of 60 students and five faculty members from St. Edward’s in Angers this summer. Angers is the home to Université Catholique de l’Ouest (UCO), the university’s official partner in France. Since the launch of the partnership in 2008, more than 176 students from St. Edward’s have traveled to Angers as part of their higher education experience. UCO is one of eleven international partners to St. Edward’s around the globe.
More from Meredith on her adventures in France:
Good news – I found the rest of the group at the airport! Fortunately, Charles De Gaulle had signs in English that helped me navigate to our meeting point with the help of a few English speakers.
So far, this trip has been way more than I could have imagined. The sights in Angers alone have been absolutely breathtaking. I don’t think I will get used to looking up while eating lunch at a café and seeing cathedrals and other beautiful landmarks. I went inside the Saint-Maurice Cathedral the first day of class and my jaw dropped to the ground in awe of the high ceilings, stained glass windows and stunning art pieces displayed throughout the cathedral.
Before arriving in Angers, I had an image of a medieval city painted in my mind. Although Angers does have remnants of feudal France like the Chateaux D’Angers that our group toured, it is much more modern than I imagined. On Friday when I landed, I had good intentions of staying awake on the four-hour charter ride to Angers from Paris, but jet lag won that battle as I passed out for a majority of the trip. When I woke up, we had arrived at the Lamy Residence. I was shocked to see a modern building with a Subway restaurant on the first floor. Who knew the French like Subway sandwiches?! Mind blown.
As the first week in Angers has progressed, I’ve observed several differences between French and American culture. Below is a list of a few things I have noticed so far.
- Public transportation – Their public transportation system is on steroids. They have trams, buses and trains to commute quickly. But if you want to save money, everything in Angers is within walking distance.
- Coin currency – They value their change. In the U.S. I catch myself flippantly tossing change when my wallet gets too heavy, but in France you purchase tram tickets, vending machines items and much more with coined euro pieces.
- Fashion – Everyone dresses nicely. I play volleyball at St. Edward’s and many times wear Nike shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes to class because I know I will be sweating afterwards at practice. The French dress to impress wearing heels, blazers and often dress up their outfits with accessories. Even male children run around in suits and ties rather than the typical American casual clothes that are optimal for playing in the mud.
- Buildings are connected – In the U.S., most businesses have their own separate buildings or are located in shopping centers. In France, roads are towered over by long stretches of three to four story buildings that break only for another street or alley crossing.
- Days are longer – If you wake up at six in the morning the sun is up and if you go to bed at 10:00 p.m. the sun is just setting. Because of the higher latitude, the days are longer than what I am used to, but I am slowly starting to adjust.
- Fresh food – Angers has a farmers’ market twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s like an outdoor Whole Foods multiplied by 10. You can get meat, cheese, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, jelly, wine, flowers and clothing items all at the market at cheaper prices than the grocery store.
- Alcohol – People often have a glass of wine or beer at lunch and dinner. The bars are classy and drinking is more of a social event to talk about private matters or business with friends, family or co-workers. From my observations, the French don’t binge drink but definitely enjoy a glass of wine or beer at meals.
- Water – Water is expensive in France. Unless you clarify at a restaurant that you want tap water with your meal, you will be charged for drinking water. Also, they do not have water fountains. At home, I am used to carrying around a Gatorade bottle full of water and refilling it when necessary. In Angers, I have to buy water bottles from the grocery store if I don’t want to pay an outrageous price for a bottle of water.