Last year, I packed my bags in the middle of July and headed across the globe for five months to explore continental Europe and improve my French. I can whole-heartedly say that living in Pau was one of my favorite, most cherished times of my life, and here's why:
1. I lived with a French family who welcomed me into their home and city with unparalleled hospitality. I had two host sisters who would invite me to go get dinner or coffee, watch movies, or take walks around the neighborhood, and my host parents would teach me to cook traditional French recipes and help me with my language homework. Dinners with my host family were accompanied by hours and hours of French conversation. I learned so much about French culture through these dialogues (not to mention vocabulary!).
2. My French professors were incredibly helpful. Spending hours in a classroom reading, writing, and speaking French can get tiresome, but my professors were passionate about helping us improve. We often discussed French culture versus our home countries, and since my classmates were from all over the world (Angola, Columbia, South Korea, China, etc.), I learned so much about so many different cultures. I made amazing friendships with both French and international students, and it was helpful to practice my French with peers while learning about them and their home countries in the process.
3. Pau is a city unlike any other. Nestled near the Pyrénées mountain along the western coast of France, it takes less than two hours to reach either the mountains or the beach. Pau has a small-town vibe, but if you look for a night-life, you can find it. The centre-ville is quaint and filled with rich history, but it is also a technologically-advanced city, not to mention absolutely beautiful. There are always events taking place, plus tons of restaurants and shops. Anything you're looking for, you can find it in Pau!
I always knew I wanted to study in France, but was unsure how to choose the city. What I wanted most was an authentic French experience with an opportunity to speak French 24/7. Pau went above and beyond my expectations. By the end of the semester, I was able to have complete conversations with total strangers in French; my playlists were filled with French music that I had picked up from the radio, my host sisters, and other friends; I could walk all around the city without a map and know exactly where I was. Pau is the perfect town for a study abroad experience, and USAC's connections with host families and the university were second to none.
As for myself, Pau truly became a home away from home and I cannot wait to visit again.