As I write this message, I am sitting in the cafeteria of the Institut de Touraine in the beautiful Loire valley city of Tours. Thirteen of our undergraduate students in RCS are attending the last day of class of their Study Abroad summer program—tomorrow we return to the States. It has been a fantastic summer, albeit one of the warmest that Tours has experienced in recent memory. As in years past, the students took a three-week course on French civilization and culture at the beginning of the program. After a week off to travel on their own in Europe, they returned to Tours to begin the second “semester” of study which consisted of grammar and pronunciation courses. In between, we had excursions to several of the famed châteaux (castles) in the area as well as having visited Paris and the ever-impressive Mont St. Michel—an 11th century abbey located on a tidal island half a kilometer off the Norman coast of France.
This has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to take French out of the textbook and into real life. Many of them have commented on how their French has improved in the two months that we have been here through not only classroom learning at the Institute, but mainly as a result of daily interactions with their host families, exchanges in stores and public places, and simply the need to accomplish daily tasks in a French-speaking environment. This surely will be an experience that will have positive effects for the students long after the trip is officially over. Several of the students have noted that this was a trip of a lifetime. To them I have responded, I hope not! I hope that for our students, this trip—this cultural and educational experience—merely whetted their appetites for more travel and adventure.