And so the program comes to an end…

Dear Parents, Guardians, Family, and Friends,

It was a great pleasure to work with your sons and daughters — saying goodbye to them for the final time was difficult! I apologize for not being present to greet you at arrivals—alas, I had a flight to catch to Indianapolis! I’ve spent a day resting and I look back on our voyage with nostalgia; they are so talented and industrious… from the first day to the last they amazed me.

For this final post I’d like to share with you the best photos from our trip to Paris. I apologize that the photos lean towards certain students in my Paris student group — we spent Paris in groups of 8+ students with professors (to better let them visit certain preferred sites together) and thus I only had limited moments to capture those outside my group.

The last week has been so busy that I include the pictures here without the general summary that you may be use to (they all come from our final week); they are all from our Paris adventure and I will include as much detail as comes to mind.

Saumur, the final day
Saumur, the final day
Just outside the Abbaye
Just outside the Abbaye
Ellen, Lydia, and Christina about to enter!
Ellen, Lydia, and Christina about to enter!
Rachel strikes a pose
Rachel strikes a pose
Groupe photo in the Abbaye
Groupe photo in the Abbaye
In the Abbaye
In the Abbaye
A group photo outside Fontainebleu
A group photo outside Fontainebleu
Discovering the corridors of Fontainebleu
Discovering the corridors of Fontainebleu
Joe snaps a photo
Joe snaps a photo
The exterior of Fontainebleue
The exterior of Fontainebleue
Lauren, Cassandre and Casey
Lauren, Cassandre and Casey
Fred and Cleome
Fred and Cleome
Rachel
Rachel
Outside the Abbaye
Outside the Abbaye
Outside the Abbaye
Outside the Abbaye
Laruen and Lindsey
Laruen and Lindsey
Megan and Casandre
Megan and Casandre
Group photo!
Group photo!
We cruised the 'fly boats' the first night in Paris!
We cruised the ‘fly boats’ the first night in Paris!
A bridge full of lover's locks
A bridge full of lover’s locks
On the bateau-mouche!
On the bateau-mouche!
The Eiffel Tour!
The Eiffel Tour!
Inside the Orsay Museum
Inside the Orsay Museum
Matthew and Robin
Matthew and Robin
Lauren and Lindsey
Lauren and Lindsey
Group photo!
Group photo!
Rachel catches me
Rachel catches me
Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur
Amazing view from Sacre Coeur
Amazing view from Sacre Coeur
Group photo!
Group photo!
Les filles et moi!
Les filles et moi!
Exploring Paris
Exploring Paris
Les Champs Elysees
Les Champs Elysees
Photo du groupe avec les filles et moi!
Photo du groupe avec les filles et moi!
Group photo!
Group photo!
Matthew and Cleome in the Montparnasse Tour
Matthew and Cleome in the Montparnasse Tour
Group photo!
Group photo!
Casey, Paris at night
Casey, Paris at night
Matthew, Paris at night!
Matthew, Paris at night!
Group photo!
Group photo!
In the metro!
In the metro!
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Group photo at Louvre
Group photo at Louvre
Visiting Notre Dame
Visiting Notre Dame
Notre Dame from afar
Notre Dame from afar
Shakespear and Company - lots of books to buy for the students!
Shakespear and Company – lots of books to buy for the students!
Exploring the Latin quarter, such good eats!
Exploring the Latin quarter, such good eats!
Mmm... crepes!
Mmm… crepes!
Isabel and Emily
Isabel and Emily
More exploring
More exploring
Group photo at Pantheon
Group photo at Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
At the metro our last day!
At the metro our last day!
Food, dancing, singing - last night!
Food, dancing, singing – last night!
Food, dancing, singing - last night!
Food, dancing, singing – last night!
Food, dancing, singing - last night!
Food, dancing, singing – last night!
Food, dancing, singing - last night!
Food, dancing, singing – last night!

The Spectacular Spectacle of Students!

Dear parents, guardians, family, and friends,

Our time in Saumur has come to end with a whirlwind of activities and preparations. Early this past week we had our final three classes, a guided tour of Saumur, and practiced for the farewell show. Yesterday students thanked host families for their warm welcome and put on a terrific show. Next Monday morning your sons and daughters will say their final (sure to be emotional) goodbye to their families and then we will head off to Paris for our three day excursion before returning to the USA. I’ve been asking students how they feel about their final days and I was met with many a resounding: “What! Only three more days in France for Paris? Let’s do another two weeks!”

As usual, here is a brief overview of the week that will be followed with details and pictures:

  • Final Week of Classes (Monday-Wednesday)
  • Guided Tour of Saumur (Monday)
  • Farewell Show (Thursday-Friday)

Final Week of Classes

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday final classes were held at the Institution Saint-Louis. Students turned in their final projects for each class and their projects for the program magazine that we distributed to host families during the farewell show. That all sounds perhaps a bit dreary though and it wasn’t: as these pictures below can attest to the fact that students were rather amusing themselves this last week!

Students strolling into Saint-Louis - Robin gives a pose
Students strolling into Saint-Louis – Robin gives a pose
Cleome, Alex, Christina, Meghan, Cassidy, and Lydia give us a beautiful group photo
Cleome, Alex, Christina, Meghan, Cassidy, and Lydia give us a beautiful group photo
Always upbeat and cheerful, even on a Monday!
Always upbeat and cheerful, even on a Monday!
Lindsey and Julia
Lindsey and Julia

Guided Tour of Saumur

On Monday we had a terrific and energetic tour guide who met us at the Chateau of Saumur to give students a guided tour of the city. Students are already familiar with Saumur, but this tour helped to give them details and sights that they may have overlooked. During the tour we discussed the history of Saumur (a city, she explained, that in its early days was prone to flooding and attacks), saw a very old chapel for traveling knights, and climbed one of the city’s original tower defenses.

Students pose for a group photo overlooking Saumur from the Chateau
Students pose for a group photo overlooking Saumur from the Chateau
Our very nice tour guides begins with a bit of background information about the city
Our very nice tour guides begins with a bit of background information about the city
She moves along to discuss the Chateau in more detail
She moves along to discuss the Chateau in more detail
We head out into the city; here we are facing the town hall and behind us is the Loire river
We head out into the city; here we are facing the town hall and behind us is the Loire river
A group photo of students after we climbed the tower with the guide!
A group photo of students after we climbed the tower with the guide!

Farewell Show

Since the start of the program instructors have been working with students to put on the farewell show for the host families: songs, sketches, theater pieces, and a magazine. In the first few weeks students selected the songs and plays that they wanted to perform and drafted sketches and articles. They’ve made a lot of progress in French since then and this last week they were prepared to give an entire show in French! On Thursday and Friday we spent the day practicing the performance (with a cookie/candy break of course!) and then gave the show from 8pm to 10pm on Friday evening. The students did a terrific job: they amused the families with their plays and sketches and touched their families with heartfelt song performances. At the end of the show there were more than a few tears shed when the students sang Toi + Moi (You + Me) and descended from the stage into the audience to hug and dance with family members.

 

(2) The choral
(2) The choral
(3) "Art" our first play
(3) “Art” our first play
(4) "Il y avait foule au manoir" our second play
(4) “Il y avait foule au manoir” our second play
The final moments of the show. Students sent photos to instructor Michael to be compiled. The song Toi + Moi played and students came out from behind the curtain to find their families; my camera's battery died after this photo!
The final moments of the show. Students sent photos to instructor Michael to be compiled. The song Toi + Moi played and students came out from behind the curtain to find their families; my camera’s battery died after this photo!
Our first sketch entitled "The real professors"; Robin as Michael, Matt as me, Paige as Amy, Rachel as Renata; Hannah, Federica, and Cleome played the students
Our first sketch entitled “The real professors”; Robin as Michael, Matt as me, Paige as Amy, Rachel as Renata; Hannah, Federica, and Cleome played the students
Aux Champs Elysees with umbrella choreography!
Aux Champs Elysees with umbrella choreography!
Sketch two about finding the perfect student at the supermarket
Sketch two about finding the perfect student at the supermarket
Sketch 2
Sketch 2
Sketch 3 about stolen bread, murder, and mystery
Sketch 3 about stolen bread, murder, and mystery
Sketch three, the other half of the scene with Casandre, Megan, and Becca
Sketch three, the other half of the scene with Casandre, Megan, and Becca
More singing!
More singing!
More singing!
More singing!
Cassidy, Hannah, Alex, and Joe taking a short break during the show
Cassidy, Hannah, Alex, and Joe taking a short break during the show
Ian gives a great performance!
Ian gives a great performance!
Alex and Matthew look dazzling
Alex and Matthew look dazzling
Students enjoying the show during their brief breaks!
Students enjoying the show during their brief breaks!
Our 4th sketch; Joe and Lauren pretend to be a romantic couple that a professor discovers!
Our 4th sketch; Joe and Lauren pretend to be a romantic couple that a professor discovers!
Julia, Cassidy, Emily, and Hannah do their sketch: "risky business"
Julia, Cassidy, Emily, and Hannah do their sketch: “risky business”
Our final sketch of the evening; Ellen, Lindsey, Lauren, Christina, and Lydia pretend to be with a student who only says "yes"
Our final sketch of the evening; Ellen, Lindsey, Lauren, Christina, and Lydia pretend to be with a student who only says “yes”

I’d like to take a final moment to thank you all for checking out, supporting, and commenting on the blog. Your sons and daughters have grown a lot during their time in France and I’d like to thank you all for making their total immersion experience possible! It’s been a pleasure to work with your students and share their experiences – I look forward to posting pictures and details of our final excursion in Paris next week!

Accrobranche!

Hello all!

This week we are getting prepped and pepped for the Family Farewell Show. This will happen Friday evening from 8pm to 10 pm. Your sons and daughters having been busy polishing their theater pieces, working on their sketches (which they wrote!), and practicing multiple French songs. I will grab as many photos as I can of this evening as possible to share!

Last week we requested permission for the Accrobranche (A rope course in the forest) and for this midweek post I thought you might enjoy these photos a host mother was kind enough to share!

Host Families and Students share the experience of the Rope Course; there were multiple levels of difficulty so even the host brothers and sisters could join in!
Host Families and Students share the experience of the Rope Course; there were multiple levels of difficulty so even the host brothers and sisters could join in!
Tightrope walking
Tightrope walking
Camille makes her way through the Rope Course
Camille makes her way through the Rope Course

I’m looking forward to the weekend update and I’ll be sure to provide you with some general details about our upcoming three days in Paris before the return!

Hello once again from Saumur!

Dear parents, guardians, family, and friends,

We have a busy upcoming week with students in Saumur! It’s an odd feeling to imagine that it will be our last week before returning to the USA. I know that feelings among students are mixed: they’ve settled into a French life with their host families, but they are also very excited to come back home and see you!

This week’s post will be lighter than the Normandy update as the week has been shorter due to the French National Holiday on July 14th and also because we are preparing for next week’s host family farewell show with students.

As usual, a brief outline of the week which will be followed with details and photos is below:

  • France’s National Holiday on July 14th (Tuesday)
  • The Dessert Contest (Wednesday)
  • The visit to ‘Les Sables d’Olonne’ (Friday)

France’s National Holiday on July 14th

Similar to the USA’s 4th of July insofar as there are fireworks, concerts, bands, plays, and national pride/history… July 14th is France’s national holiday. In Saumur, people gather along the Loire river in the evening where there is live music and regional food vendors (they also had cotton candy; comically dubbed in French as ‘Poppa’s Beard’ ‘Barbe à Papa’. I managed to see several students despite the large crowds: Megan, Christina, Cleome… Once 11pm arrived, the street lights dimmed and people gathered along the Loire’s edge or on the bridge to watch the fireworks.

Saumur fireworks from July 14th 2015
Saumur fireworks from July 14th, 2015

The Dessert Contest

On Wednesday afternoon we had a ‘Concours de Desserts’; an activity where students prepared typical French desserts with their families and then brought them to Saint-Louis to share with other students. We had a good turn-out: two tables full of desserts (which largely disappeared!). We had an apple pie, cookies, Nutella muffins, macaroons, chocolate and yogurt pie, chocolate bread… At the end, students voted for their favorite dessert and we are currently preparing certificates for the winners! We also took this time to celebrate the birthdays of Casey H., Hannah C., and Lydia S. by presenting them with birthday cards signed by all the students and professors. My apologies for not having photos for this section from the event, I forgot my camera alas, but I’m sure some students appreciated not being photographed when eating at least!

The Visit to Les Sables d’Olonne

On Friday we had our excursion to Les Sables d’Olonne, the Sands of Olonne—a port city renowned for its beach about two hours in bus from Saumur. We had a leisurely departure at 9am from Saumur. We arrived in Olonne and (since it was our first expedition to Olonne to test the area for the program) separated into four professor-led groups. My group of students started our visit with a stroll along the port to see the city and shops and then we headed over to the beach.

After a picnic in Olonne, we headed to a beach located a short distance from les Sables d’Olonne (much less crowded and beautiful). Students really enjoyed this day at beach—as we descended onto to the beach I heard more than a few say something along the lines of ‘Que c’est joli ! (How pretty!) I’ll let the photos speak for the rest of this relaxing excursion:

A map of Olonne, we strolled along the Port de Plaisance and also visited the jetee and the beach itself
A map of Olonne, we strolled along the Port de Plaisance and also visited the jetee and the beach itself
A group photo with a backdrop of Olonne
A group photo with a backdrop of Olonne
The impressive coastline of Olonne; students were very excited to go onto the beach!
The impressive coastline of Olonne; students were very excited to go onto the beach!
Casandre, Isabel, and Julia stroll towards the lighthouse
Casandre, Isabel, and Julia stroll towards the lighthouse
One of many lighthouses in Olonne offering a beautiful view of the ocean
One of many lighthouses in Olonne offering a beautiful view of the ocean
Settling into the beach
Settling into the beach
Emily, Julia, and Isabel enjoying the sun
Emily, Julia, and Isabel enjoying the sun
A foray into the waves!
A foray into the waves!
Megan, Becca, Federica, Rachel, Camille, and Hannah graciously permit a photo!
Megan, Becca, Federica, Rachel, Camille, and Hannah graciously permit a photo!
Some students check out the beach from the dunes!
Some students check out the beach from the dunes!
Jacob and Joe check out the escargots!
Jacob and Joe check out the escargots!

The Normandy Excursion Update

Dear parents, guardians, family, and friends,

What a pleasure it continues to be to accompany your sons and daughters in France—to watch them move from isolated words to full sentence discourse in French has been a real treat (and the sojourn isn’t even near its end!).

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week we had our two-day excursion in Normandy. This has been our longest excursion and today’s blog post will focus on that. I’ve been jotting down my impressions of Normandy as well as taking as many photos of the students as possible to give you a better idea of their experience (there will be 50+ photos in this post alone!).

As normal, below is an overview of our visits and activities in Normandy that will be followed with more detail and pictures:

  • Malo (Tuesday)
  • Mont St. Michel (Tuesday)
  • Benières-sur-mer (Tuesday)
  • Pointe du Hoc (Wednesday)
  • Omaha Beach + American Cemetery (Wednesday)
  • Caen Memorial Museum (Wednesday)

St. Malo

From the outside, St. Malo looks like a fortified castle. Inside the walls it resembles a mini, port city metropolis full of shops, a grocery store, cafes, boutiques, and housing. Many students spent their visit walking the streets in groups to shop and some students walked along the ramparts where they could enjoy a view of the ocean and the busy streets of the city below. We only had an hour to visit the city (it would be been easy to spend the whole day here!), but here are some snapshots of St. Malo:

The busy streets of St. Malo lined with shops and cafes.
The busy streets of St. Malo lined with shops and cafes.
Sarah, Megan, and Ian just outside St. Malo's walls by the port
Sarah, Megan, and Ian just outside St. Malo’s walls by the port
I had a difficult time trailing students to get photos... but I found a bundle of them here in the candy shop of all places!
I had a difficult time trailing students to get photos… but I found a bundle of them here in the candy shop of all places!
Rachel, Cleome, Federica, and Jacob along the ramparts overlooking the ocean
Rachel, Cleome, Federica, and Jacob along the ramparts overlooking the ocean
An island accessible from St. Malo only during low tides
An island accessible from St. Malo only during low tides
A side shot of the city walls and beaches; as you can see, it was impressive!
A side shot of the city walls and beaches; as you can see, it was impressive!
The port of St Malo
The port of St Malo

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel is one of the most well-known and most visited attractions in France. After parking, we were shuttled up to the entrance and began our ascent up the steps of Mont St. Michel (there were a lot of them). As we climbed Mont St. Michel, I overheard a few students talking about how the walk up reminded them of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter book series: there were so many different people bustling up and down the street visiting the souvenir/trinket shops and cafes. Once we entered Mont St. Michel, we visited the monastery, the crypts, the cloister, and also the gardens.

Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel
A group photo (as you can see we had a bit of rain that day!)
A group photo (as you can see we had a bit of rain that day!)
It's dangerous to walk around Mont St Michel due to quicksand. Here's a group taking a guided, barefoot tour through the mud (definitely not us!)
It’s dangerous to walk around Mont St Michel due to quicksand. Here’s a group taking a guided, barefoot tour through the mud (definitely not us!)
Students took shots of each others while we got tickets - here's Matthew
Students took shots of each others while we got tickets – here’s Matthew
Julia waits for a photo outside Mt St Michel
Julia waits for a photo outside Mt St Michel
Robin caught me sneaking a shot
Robin caught me sneaking a shot
Jacob, Federica, and Cleome
Jacob, Federica, and Cleome
Robin, Lydia, Alex, and Ellen
Robin, Lydia, Alex, and Ellen
Hannah, Joe, Alex, and Cassidy in one of Mt St Michel's many rooms
Hannah, Joe, Alex, and Cassidy in one of Mt St Michel’s many rooms
Lauren and Lindsey beneath the feather display
Lauren and Lindsey beneath the feather display
Our students ascending Mt St Michel!
Our students ascending Mt St Michel!

Benières-sur-mer

After Mont St. Michel, we headed towards the youth hostel located in Benières-sur-mer where we had a reservation to spend the night. The hostel was very comfortable: we had an entire building to ourselves, each room had its own restroom and shower, and the staff was very welcoming and use to accommodating large groups. After dinner and a pause, we headed to the beach (located less than five minutes walking distance from the hostel) where students had the occasion to relax on the beach or go swimming after our long day of visiting St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. It was a very agreeable evening:

Students excitedly head out for the water!
Students excitedly head out for the water!
Robin strikes a pose after making her design in the sand
Robin strikes a pose after making her design in the sand
The students who stayed on the beach take a group photo!
The students who stayed on the beach take a group photo!
Federica and Lauren strike a pose while playing some football
Federica and Lauren strike a pose while playing some football
The hostel where we spent the night
The hostel where we spent the night

Pointe du Hoc

During World War II, the Pointe du Hoc was occupied by German forces and fortified to protect the coast. During the morning of June 6th 1944, 225 American soldiers landed at Pointe du Hoc and climbed 30 meter high cliffs in order to take back the area. Even with heavy casualties, they captured and defended Pointe du Hoc—helping to establish an allied foothold to liberate Europe.

We visited this important site Wednesday morning. Even to this day students were still able to see the craters left by the artillery and the remnants of the German defenses: rusted iron, bunkers, barb wire, crumbling stone, anti-air battery placements…

It was a very calm and tranquil visit, with lots of wind from the coast and cloudy skies, but still very difficult to fathom all that must have happened at Pointe du Hoc:

Pointe du Hoc entry sign
Pointe du Hoc entry sign
Students read about Pointe du Hoc on the path
Students read about Pointe du Hoc on the path
Juilia and Rachel head down into a bunker
Juilia and Rachel head down into a bunker
Students walk along the Pointe du Hoc paths; the fighting that took place here is still evident from the earth
Students walk along the Pointe du Hoc paths; the fighting that took place here is still evident from the earth
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Christina walks along the paths at Pointe du Hoc
A massive weapon placement
A massive weapon placement
The memorial to the rangers who took the Pointe du Hoc
The memorial to the rangers who took the Pointe du Hoc
Troops had to scale these cliffs to take Pointe du Hoc
Troops had to scale these cliffs to take Pointe du Hoc
Lindsey, Becca, and Cassandra inside of a bunker reading a plaque to the rangers
Lindsey, Becca, and Cassandra inside of a bunker reading a plaque to the rangers
Paige descends into a bunker
Paige descends into a bunker
Lauren and Megan from a distance in front of the ranger memorial
Lauren and Megan from a distance in front of the ranger memorial
The outside of a battered bunker
The outside of a battered bunker

Omaha Beach + American Cemetery

We visited the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery before visiting the Caen Memorial Museum. American troops landed here as part of D-Day and now the area serves as a memorial to the American troops. I felt awed and very proud to come from the United States during our visit here. As you’ll see from the photos, there’s many rows of cross-shaped tombs and other monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers. Many other Americans were visiting the site on Wednesday and a lady asked me in the chapel if I had been looking for someone I knew among the graves—it’s an emotional visit for many.

Several students take photos of the vast cemetary
Several students take photos of the vast cemetary
The interior of the chapel dedicated to troops
The interior of the chapel dedicated to troops
The roof of the chapel was made of tiny colored tiles into this mural
The roof of the chapel was made of tiny colored tiles into this mural
Christina, Ellen, Alex, and Lydia walk through the cemetery
Christina, Ellen, Alex, and Lydia walk through the cemetery
A soldier from Indiana
A soldier from Indiana
A soldier from Indiana
A soldier from Indiana
A soldier from Indiana
A soldier from Indiana
Students make the long descent to Omaha Beach
Students make the long descent to Omaha Beach
The entry sign to Omaha Beach - it's a protected site and they are very serious about respecting the it
The entry sign to Omaha Beach – it’s a protected site and they are very serious about respecting the it

Caen Memorial Museum

The Caen Memorial Museum is such a formidable experience and it really brought together all the sites we had visited up until then. We could have easily spent the entire day here reading and seeing all the Museum offered to commemorate the past: documentary films, testimonies, photographs, paraphernalia… The memorial seemed to take you through time: from the start of World War I up until the Cold War. It was a very informative and emotional experience that I would not be able to do justice in words:

Outside the museum, a sailor and a nurse
Outside the museum, a sailor and a nurse
National flags outside the museum
National flags outside the museum
A plane in the lobby of the museum
A plane in the lobby of the museum
Students in the lobby gift shop buying gifts
Students in the lobby gift shop
The start of the visit with 1918 tolls
The start of the visit with 1918 tolls
Students read and view images about the Great Depression in the USA and its ripple on the world
Students read and view images about the Great Depression in the USA and its ripple on the world
A giant, circular room where footage of Nazi Germany plays as students walk through
A giant, circular room where footage of Nazi Germany plays as students walk through
Students read up on life on the front
Students read up on life on the front
Ellen and Hannah in front of actual rubble
Ellen and Hannah in front of actual rubble
Students view propaganda posters
Students view propaganda posters
Megan takes a photo of the tank
Megan takes a photo of the tank
Ian and Megan at an exhibit featuring information from after Hitler's death
Ian and Megan at an exhibit featuring information from after Hitler’s death
The entrance to the Caen Memorial Museum
The entrance to the Caen Memorial Museum
A group of students in front of actual rubble while reading about the end of the war
A group of students in front of actual rubble while reading about the end of the war

Thank you all for the visiting the blog this week to see how the students are doing and what they have been up to this past week—I hope you all had an enjoyable 4th of July and thank you once again for raising such wonderful sons and daughters!

Back to Saumur!

Hello to everyone reading! I had some time on the bus ride back from Normandy today to write a midweek blog post and I thought you all might enjoy hearing about the 4th of July picnic with the host families in Saumur last Sunday while I prepare the next big blog update for this weekend!

So…

On Sunday the 5th we had our 4th of July picnic with the host families, students, professors, and onsite coordinator. It went very smoothly and the families and professors enjoyed getting a chance to informally socialize. We had the picnic in Montreuil-Bellay, a small village about 20 minutes from Saumur where’s there’s a beautiful park and city to visit. Each family brought their own picnic and a dessert to share. The students talked or played with their host parents and siblings during the picnic and then visited the city and chateau (our onsite coordinator, Marie-Christine, also created a post-picnic treasure hunt activity!).

Here are some pictures highlighting the 4th of July picnic celebration:

Joe, Matthew, Hannah, and Rachel find a spot to sit with the families
Joe, Matthew, Hannah, and Rachel find a spot to sit with the families
We settle in for the picnic
We settle in for the picnic
Rachel, Hannah, and Camille kindly pose for a photo
Rachel, Hannah, and Camille kindly pose for a photo
Lydia, Ian, Robin, Sarah, and Hannah (along with Sarah's host sister I believe!)
Lydia, Ian, Robin, Sarah, and Hannah (along with Sarah’s host sister I believe!)
A lot of students played games while the families finished eating; here we have Lauren, Alex, Casey, and someone I can't quite see!
A lot of students played games while the families finished eating; here we have Lauren, Alex, Casey, and someone I can’t quite see!
There was a large, sand football pit where some students played with the parents and other kids
There was a large, sand football pit where some students played with the parents and other kids
Students sang for the host families to thank them (they're getting quite good singing without the books)
Students sang for the host families to thank them (they’re getting quite good singing without the books)
Ian, Lauren, and Ellen stroll through the city after our picnic. There were flea market shops lining the street and a treasure hunt!
Ian, Lauren, and Ellen stroll through the city after our picnic. There were flea market shops lining the street and a treasure hunt!

I’ll be putting together a big blog post to show you what the students have been up to in Normandy the past couple days – it should be up by Saturday! There will be lots of pictures—your sons and daughters are always so willing to take a picture for the blog!

What a Friday!

Dear parents, guardians, family, and friends,

The weekly update has arrived!

This past 3rd week in Saumur has been beautiful: we’ve had blue skies and warm, warm weather everyday (contrary to other sites—so I’ve heard—where it’s been raining).

From Monday to Thursday this past week we have been having our regular schedule of morning support groups (where we break out into small groups and ensure that students are having positive experiences in France), followed by three morning French classes, then lunch at the Foyer de Jeunesse (they’re doing a great job accommodating our large group and planning balanced meals), then an afternoon class, and ending our day with an afternoon activity (singing, theater, sports, or small groups depending on the day).

The last midweek post featured the afternoon sports activity from Wednesday, but for this big post I’d like to focus in on Friday since so much occurred that day (and also because there’s a big bundle of photos to accompany it!).

So, an overview to start that will be followed with details and photos:

  • L’Abbaye de Fontevraud (Friday morning)
  • The Alienor Aquitaine Retirement Home (Friday afternoon)
  • Le Boule de Fort: A regional French game (Friday evening)

Let’s begin!

L’Abbaye de Fontevraud

The Saumur site annually visits the Fontevraud Abbey (located in the Loire valley) which is famous for its size, beauty, architecture, and history. We picked up audio guides from the welcome desk and students began their visit. Inside the Fontevraud there were many attractions: a restaurant, a hotel, art installations, a crypt, a cloister, and gardens. The students really enjoyed Fontevraud and the pictures will be able to attest to that better than words!

First steps into Abbey
First steps into Abbey
Signs that had motion-activated audio descriptions
Signs that had motion-activated audio descriptions
The Abbey's gardens
The Abbey’s gardens
Students make a break for day
Students make a break for day from the crypt
In the crypt there were many art installations like this made of fluorescent string and lighting shaped into designs
In the crypt there were many art installations like this made of fluorescent string and lighting shaped into designs
The Abbey also had a crypt that students explored
The Abbey also had a crypt that students explored
Robin, Megan, Lauren, and Becca outside the Abbey
Robin, Megan, Lauren, and Becca outside the Abbey
One of Genet's writings
One of Genet’s writings
There was an exhibit about Jean Genet as a prisoner in the Abbey
There was an exhibit about Jean Genet as a prisoner in the Abbey
They had a series of art installations like this in Fontevraud
They had a series of art installations like this in Fontevraud
Alex and Joe
Alex and Joe
Rachel and Federica in the cloister
Rachel and Federica in the cloister
Isabel, Emily, and Julia together in the cloister
Isabel, Emily, and Julia together in the cloister
Casey and Casandre in the cloister
Casey and Casandre in the cloister
Sarah poses for the camera
Sarah poses for the camera
Casandre, Casey, Camille, Megan, and Jacob next to the alter
Casandre, Casey, Camille, Megan, and Jacob next to the alter
Camille and Lydia in the Abbey
Camille and Lydia in the Abbey
Megan in the Abbey
Megan in the Abbey
A good drawing by a student!
A good drawing by a student!
The Abbey had this installation where students could draw images and then have them projected onto the wall
The Abbey had this installation where students could draw images and then have them projected onto the wall
Lauren, Lindsay, and Ian kindly pose
Lauren, Lindsay, and Ian kindly pose
An overview of the interior of the Abbey
An overview of the interior of the Abbey

The Alienor Aquitaine Retirement Home

The Saumur site also annually visits the retirement home, which is located very near the Fontevraud Abbey. This activity is great because it gives students a way to give back to the community.

We spent the afternoon at the retirement home where we were very warmly greeted with an afternoon lunch before visiting with the residents. During the visit with the residents, students sang French songs (La Marseillaise and Aux Champs Elysees), took an informal quiz with the resident’s about French and USA history, and spoke with residents. The residents were very happy to welcome the students and they sang us songs in French as well.

On a personal note, it was very moving to see students with the residents—they did such a wonderful job sharing themselves and engaging the residents (they just blew me away with how much they took this experience into their own hands). After the group had left I had a moment while getting information for thank-you cards to speak with one resident who had been talking with several students during the visit and she told me that she was so happy to have had us. She told me that the students had told her about their upcoming visit to Normandy and that she had really appreciated being able to share her experiences about D-day.

The choir sings for the residents! I had a couple videos of the students singing, but I cannot upload the file type here alas.
The choir sings for the residents! I had a couple videos of the students singing, but I cannot upload the file type here alas.
This was the lady who shared her D-day experiences
This was the lady who shared her D-day experiences
Another lively gentleman who sang to our students to welcome them!
A gentleman who sang to our students to welcome them!
Isabel speaking with a gentleman. He was very lively and led a song for us.
Isabel speaking with a gentleman. He was very lively and led a song for us.
Alex and Lindsey speak with a resident. Just behind them you can see Lydia, Lauren, Ellen, Christina, and Megan speaking with another resident.
Alex and Lindsey speak with a resident. Just behind them you can see Lydia, Lauren, Ellen, Christina, and Megan speaking with another resident.
A group photo outside the home
A group photo outside the home

A Regional French game: Le Boule de Fort

Lastly Friday evening, we were invited by the mayor to play a regional Saumur French game called Boule de Fort. This was an optional activity, but we still had a very good turnout and enough time that everyone got to try out the game. The mayor (who I found out had traveled in the US and could speak English very well; refraining from doing so of course…) greeted all our students and also tried out the game with them!

To briefly (and very generally) explain the game so that the pictures make some sense, it involves two teams, one colored ball, and a set of metal balls. The goal is that each team wants to roll their set of metal balls as close as possible to the colored ball.

Le Boule de Fort hall/game area
Le Boule de Fort hall/game area
In this photo you can see the mayor on the far left playing with Mathew, Casidy, Hannah, and Robin
In this photo you can see the mayor on the far left playing with Mathew, Cassidy, Hannah, and Robin
Casey gives it go!
Casey gives it go!
Rachel gives it a go!
Rachel gives it a go!
Federica gives it shot!
Federica gives it shot!
Camille tries out the game
Camille tries out the game
Christina tries out the game
Christina tries out the game
Hannah did well!
Hannah did well!
The Boule de Fort animator helps Sarah while Jacob and Ian look on
The Boule de Fort animator helps Sarah while Jacob and Ian look on
Jacob gives it a go!
Jacob gives it a go!
Even Amy and I got wrassled into playing...
Even Amy and I got wrassled into trying out Boule de Fort!

Next week we have a regular day scheduled for Monday, but on Tuesday and Wednesday we will have a two-day excursion to Normandy. We’re scheduled to see (among other things of course!): the D-Day beaches, the War Memorial Museum in Caen, and Mont-St-Michel. On Thursday and Friday we have regular days scheduled and an upcoming event for the 14th of July (France’s national holiday).

My next post will be filled with pictures and descriptions of this visit to keep you up to date. This will be my second time visiting the beaches and memorials in Normandy and I can full-heartedly say the students are really in for an experience—they are going to see, learn, and grow so much from visiting these sites.

A Midweek Bonjour!

Hello to all !

Thanks for checking out the blog! We are about half-way through our third week in Saumur and it seems like the students have gotten into the swing of things: they’re doing well in their classes and have been following the honor code to the letter (and I would add to that they they are progressing very well in the level of French!). Here’s a quick midweek post in order to share some photos of our afternoon activity today!

On Wednesday we have our afternoon sports activity. Here's a longshot of students playing soccer (some students preferred to keep cool and play French games inside so if you don't see them here, no worries!)
On Wednesday we have our afternoon sports activity. Here’s a longshot of students playing soccer (some students preferred to keep cool and play French games inside so if you don’t see them here, no worries!)
We've lost the ball...
We’ve lost the ball…
Emily played goalie for one side!
Emily played goalie for one side!
Mid-game
Mid-game
Hannah, Isabel, Casey, Ian, and Meghan
Hannah, Isabel, Casey, Ian, and Meghan
Jacob makes a break for it
Jacob makes a break for it
Ellen had quite the kick
Ellen had quite the kick
Some students decided to play in the shade
Some students decided to play in the shade
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In this next upcoming weekend post I’ll have pictures from the student’s weekend excursion!

Settled into Saumur!

Dear parents, guardians, friends, and family,

Thanks for all the support this blog has seen so far—I’ve even had students mentioning how much you’ve enjoyed reading about their experience last week! I am going to tell you all about your sons and daughter’s experience during the second week in Saumur in today’s post!

It’s been a busy week, so to help you to get a broad idea of what’s occurred here is an overview that I will follow up with details and photos for each section:

Week 2 (Monday June 22nd – Sunday June 28th)

  • Saumur’s Weekend Music Festival (Last Friday-Sunday)
  • Classes started (Monday through Friday)
  • Official Reception at Saumur’s City Hall (Wednesday)
  • Visit to Val de Thouet, Saumur’s pool (Wednesday)
  • Visit to the Multimedia Library in Saumur (Friday)
  • Visit to Bowling de Saumur (Saturday)

Saumur’s Weekend Music Festival (Last Friday-Sunday)

We encouraged families to take students to Saumur’s annual music festival in our last weekly letter to the host families. I saw quite a few of them there and those who went said they really liked it the next day at school! Of course there were some bands that played songs in English (the French love some ‘Beach Boys’…), but not too many! If you get a chance, ask your student about all the different foods and song they got to try and hear during the festival! I wanted to post a video of some French people doing a square dance during this festival, but the file type wouldn’t upload alas…

 

Classes started (Monday through Friday)

Students have classes Monday through Thursday with classes occasionally on Friday when an excursion isn’t scheduled (Grammar & Communications/Linguistics & Phonetics/Culture/Literature). We have three classes in the morning, starting at 9:10 pm and ending at 12:10 when we take our daily walk through Saumur to go the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch we return to Saint-Louis, have a brief pause with announcements, and then have one more afternoon class scheduled before we start the afternoon activities (dance, theater, sports, and small groups). School ends at 3:50 in the afternoon and students head home.

Here’s students in class below!

1st class of the morning
1st class of the morning
1st class of the morning
1st class of the morning
2nd class of the morning!
2nd class of the morning!
2nd class of the morning!
2nd class of the morning!
Afternoon class!
Afternoon class!
Afternoon class!
Afternoon class!

Official Reception at Saumur’s City Hall (Wednesday)

On Wednesday we departed for Saumur’s City Hall at 10:00 (very well-dressed of course!) We were greeted at the Mairie by Amélie Gibouin, who has organized our annual visits for five years now, and took several group photos with Jackie Goulet, the deputy mayor of Saumur. We had the opportunity to see the Salle des Mariages (in France one marries at the City Hall first and then the church if one wishes to do so) and also the Salles des Conseils (where government officials meet). Alex (Sonja), Paige, and Christina gave thanks and gifts (an IU pin and book) to the city (I alas didn’t get my camera out in time for Alex’s presentation – my apologies!) After our visit we took a photo in the courtyard in front of a ‘Nous Sommes Charlie’ sign and then a few along the Loire!

Paige gives a prepared discourse to thank the city and talk about her experiences in Saumur.
Paige gives a prepared discourse to thank the city and talk about her experiences in Saumur.
Christina presents her experience and thanks the city as well with her prepared discourse!
Christina presents her experience and thanks the city as well with her prepared discourse!
A group photo. Students held the American and French flags. Monsieur Goulet, the deputy mayor, is in the right of this photo.
A group photo. Students held the American and French flags. Monsieur Goulet, the deputy mayor, is in the right of this photo.
Madame Gibouin talks to students about the purpose of the Salle des Conseils
Madame Gibouin talks to students about the purpose of the Salle des Conseils
A bust of Marianne (a national symbol of France)
A bust of Marianne (a national symbol of France)
A group photo in front of 'Nous Sommes Charlie'
A group photo in front of ‘Nous Sommes Charlie’
Group photo outside the Marie; the Loire river is just right behind students!
Group photo outside the Marie; the Loire river is just right behind students!
A group photo in front of the Mairie
A group photo in front of the Mairie
Sarah and Megan give us a pose in front of the Loire!
Sarah and Megan give us a pose in front of the Loire!
Jacob, Matthew, Becca, & Lauren give us a pose too!
Jacob, Matthew, Becca, & Lauren give us a pose too!
Ian, Robin, & Camille resting outside the Mairie after our visit.
Ian, Robin, & Camille resting outside the Mairie after our visit.
Alex (John), Hannah, Cassidy, and Joe were dressed to impress!
Alex (John), Hannah, Cassidy, and Joe were dressed to impress!

 

Visit to Val de Thouet, Saumur’s pool (Wednesday)

We had an optional outing to Val de Thouet on Wednesday after our trip to the City Hall (and goodness was it delightful given the warm weather!) We had a large group of students (about 20) come along. The pool had a slide, a no-baggy-swim trunk rule, an outside sunbathing area, and two hot tubs! I wasn’t permitted to bring my camera into the swimming area, but here is the Courrier de l’Ouest’s photo to give you a general idea of what the pool looked like:

Val de Thouet swimming pool. Just past the window they had outdoor sunbathing and you get a glimpse of the slide (many students enjoyed that!)
Val de Thouet swimming pool. Just past the window they had outdoor sunbathing and you get a glimpse of the slide (many students enjoyed that!)

Visit to the Multimedia Library in Saumur (Friday)

On Friday after school we had a brief visit to Saumur’s library. We were greeting by a librarian who was very courteous (she spoke French slowly for the students and offered water to students who were thirsty after the walk). She showed us around the library, told students about how they could go about getting a library card through their host family’s address, and about the services the library offered.

 

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Saumur Multimedia Library
Just outside the Library of Saumur
Just outside the Library of Saumur
We tour through the library with the very nice library pointing out what might be useful to students!
We tour through the library with the very nice librarian pointing out what might be useful to students!
After our tour students had the chance to explore the library themselves!
After our tour students had the chance to explore the library themselves!

Visit to Bowling de Saumur (Saturday)

On Saturday we had an optional excursion to ‘Bowling de Saumur’, the local bowling alley:

Bowling
Bowling
Bowling
Bowling
Scoreboard
Scoreboard
Bowling
Bowling
Bowling
Bowling
Bowling
Bowling

This brings to a close the update about our second week in Saumur—it’s a pleasure to be able to share the wonderful experiences that France has to offer to students! I look forward to bringing you more posts (perhaps even a midweek post for next week if I can find an afternoon free period to do so!) Thanks for reading and enjoying hopefully!