Je ne sais pas, meaning "I don’t know," was one of the few phrases I had retained from my French classes in high school. A phrase I would come to use a lot as I embarked on my study abroad journey in Tours, France. Unfortunately, there was no amount of preparation or planning I could have done to completely be ready for all that France had to offer me. But fortunately, this meant I could stumble upon pleasant surprises at any moment.
I arrived at the airport early, packed, and ready for the long flights ahead. Three delayed flights later I made it to Paris, CDG airport nine hours later than expected. By the time I arrived I was tired and more than irritated, but now I look back and laugh at the poor job I was doing attempting to ask in French how much it was for a chocolate croissant in the middle of the bustling airport. This is to say that few times do things actually go according to plan, but stopping to experience the little things along the stressful journey almost, kind-of makes up for it. Anytime you enter a unfamiliar environment there will be things that shake you up, that you just won’t see coming. My best advice is to be prepared to be unprepared, don’t stress every detail and go with the flow.
There’s a train that runs from Paris to get to Tours, where I was finally able to relax and get my first sights of the less tourist-y parts of France. The fast-moving train windows framed a picture of red-roofed cottages, fields of soft grass, and small farmlands that rushed past my view. Eventually this led me to Tours, a medium-sized city encapsulated by architecture older than American independence. During my first week the exchange students went on a tour of the city and learned a bit about the interesting history and how that shaped Tours into the city it is today. This not-so-quaint town that would have a lot to offer me during these five months ahead. I became excited and content walking down the cobble stone streets, bundled up in my winter gear. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a few more chances to practice my French, and can now confidently ask for a chocolate croissant en français.