Charles Frey ’19, Toulouse, France — Mark Twain wrote in The Innocents Abroad, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” After spending four weeks in Toulouse, France for my summer study abroad, I would agree with Mr. Twain. The amount I grew, both in the French language and in my world view, continues to surprise me. Through my coursework, excursions, and evenings spent talking with my host family or mes comarades des classe around a glass of wine (rosé, usually), I’m always learning something new.
CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) offers two courses in Toulouse for the summer months – Business & Culture (BC) and Language & Culture (LC). I was in the LC class with nine other students learning about French national identity, history, education, and many other facets of French culture. Through these classes we connected what we know (i.e. American culture, identity, politics, history, etc.) with the content taught in class and I realized every day that humans are more alike than different. This goes for the positive and the negative, and currently both nations – France and the US – are tackling similar wicked problems, from immigration to women’s equality to LGBT+ acceptance in society. Like I said, more similar than it seems, even from across the sea.
Aside from the class, our program offered an overnight excursion and several cultural activities in Toulouse and elsewhere. Our whole group, BC + LC, went to Ariège for an overnight trip, where we dined at a small, family run foie gras farm, walked llamas in a mountain village, spent the night right outside the Pyrenees, toured a pre-historic cave (with caveman drawings not unlike those seen in the Bachelor), and visited a castle. It was a jam packed schedule but completely worthwhile, filled with experiences and memories I know I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. In Toulouse, we cooked a French meal as a group with a professional chef, went to Le Capitole for Fête de la Musique, and listened to an opera recital. This was all within the first two weeks!