The hardest question for a student who wishes to study abroad is,"where do I want to go?" Where have they always wanted to go, can they speak the language, will they fall in love with the people or the places, and is that the place where they can go off into the world alone and know that they will feel the change that study abroad can bring? Pau, France is a place that has engraved its way into my heart. The people I got to meet, the family I got to live with, the places I got to see, and the overall change I got to experience.
The moment that I stepped off the plane, after 24hours worth of traveling because of bad weather, my host mother greeted me with bisous, hugs, and whole hearted welcomes. She took me back to the home where I would be staying for four months, allowed me to settle down and take in the exciting world around me. I would get to meet my family later that night, a family that would become my second home or even my "French Family," they helped me throughout the following months more then words can describe and I can not wait for when I can go back to visit them.
After orientation and visiting the campus the next step would be to go to classes, meet my professors, and figure out how on earth I was going to study in French. The school week would consist of around one class a day that would spread from 5-7 hours, there would be amazingly long lunch breaks between class each day. The routine would be like this; class for two hours, two hour (or one hour) lunch break, and then the final three hours of class. The only reason classes might run up to seven hours is if there is a chance to add an elective, in this case I had a Southern France history class which helped me understand the history of where I was.
After classes there would be so much time to explore the downtown area, you could take the bus (which is very easy to figure out) and it would take you right to Les Halles, which is a giant building for a farmers market, and you would be a small walk away from the main hangout. The main hangout for my group (and groups before that) was known as the fountain, everyone would meet up there and explore it all together. There were small festivals, events that the university would tell you about, and just fun places to go and search for. If you just felt a little too tired and didn't want to wander around you could always go to the most american controlled bar, the galloway! I have an unlimited amount of funny moments at the galloway that I got to experience with my group, it is worth the time to go visit for a pint of beer!
If you decided to eat out there were a variety of places for you to enjoy an amazing meal like Letna for pizzas, the kabob place, and more! The best part for me was being able to come home and have dinner with my family (which was at 9pm!) We would talk, drink wine, have amazing home cooked meals, and just laugh the night away.
My days would consist of this lovely routine for months (unless I was traveling around which I tried to do each weekend), it was hard to leave France just as hard as it was to leave the states. I had to leave a second family, I had to leave a whole new set of friends, and it was scary because I thought I would have to leave this new stringer person that I had become. Truth is I brought all of these changes home with me, still see the people I met back in France, and I still send emails to my host family. I didn't loose anything but gained a whole new experience.
USAC did an amazing job planning out weekend events and places to travel, placing students in the classes appropriate for there knowledge on the language, and being a valuable resource for students to go to. I would suggest this to any and everyone, I actually do suggest it constantly. There would be emails about events happening in town, on campus, and information on why the events were happening. Amazing staff which would talk to you and help you with any small request you had!