University in Vendée, France
Voices of Veteran Vendéens
Note: This page was created December 8, 1999. Come back soon for more testimonials as they come in.
From: Valerie Lastinger
Date: 08 Dec 1999
J'aimais bien manger des sardinettes le soir sur le remblai.
Come well rested.
From: Jennifer Jeffries
Date: 08 Dec 1999
The summer in Vendee was full of many wonderful experiences. Forming new friendships is, of course, high on the list. Academically, however, the stay in France was more than beneficial to me. My language skills improved dramatically, as well as my self-confidence in French.
PACK LIGHT!!!! Also, take advantage of every experience possible. There will be many things to experience besides what is on the schedule. It's such a good experience and I would definitely recommend the trip to anyone interested.
From: Mona Iskander
Date: 09 Dec 1999
Memories: France won the world cup! Girls weekend out in Biarritz was much fun.
Impressions: Vendee is beautiful. And all the excursions were very interesting and educational.
Experiences: The food was quite a delicious experience.
By the way, I still have my red fisherman's raincoat that I bought from the port de peche, and I wear it all the time.
Enjoy all the experiences you are offered and take lots of pictures.
From: Kelly McKnight
Date: 21 Dec 1999
Vendée was an experience that went beyond what any textbook or classroom has taught me about the French language and culture. It is a beautiful region with wonderful people. My favorite memory would have to be when we rented a van and went up to Mont St. Michel. I remember looking out and seeing it off in the distance, partially hidden by the fog. It was a sight I will never forget.
1. Take ONE suitcase. You do not need as many things as you thing you do.
2. Cherish your stay while you are there. The trip is over before you know it, and then all you'll have is the memories.
From: Kimberly Dorman
The whole experience was amazing; from walking mile after mile in Paris due to the strikes, to meeting my family for the first time. My host family (as I'm sure all of them were)was extremely inviting and patient with me, explaining what I didn't understand and involving me in their activities and outings. I'd have to say that this was one of the best parts of the trip considering most of our time was spent in Les Sables. (The beach there is great and we were given plenty of free time to sunbathe.) Aside from that, the class excursions allowed us to witness first-hand the history of France, Vendee in particular, and the sights were literally breathtaking. Another aspect I enjoyed were the pre-arranged meals which generally included several courses and of course your fill of wine and good bread. Everything was wonderful, although sometimes tiring, and should be experienced by anyone who likes French and is able to go.
I've noticed that several people have emphasized packing light. Just to expand upon that, this means taking only one suitcase, and making sure you are able to lug it by hand, by yourself up a couple flights of stairs and who knows where else. Other than that, just be flexible. You might have heard stories about the strikes in Paris and the consequent walking that was required, but if you keep an open mind you'll have a good time no matter what happens. Also, be prepared to be tired. The field trips usually last most of the day and you have to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the guides and understand what they are saying. (There will probably be quizzes in class the following day.) Well, that's all. Have fun this summer!
From: Christin Cox
My summer in Vendee was a wonderful experience. Paris was also fabulous. I feel that I really improved my language skills, and my cultural knowledge of France. I stayed with a great family, who was very nice, thoughtful and understanding. I loved the excursions, especially Noirmoutier and the Loire Valley. I also loved being able to go to the beach often. I made many new friends as a result of this trip. I will never forget this trip, and have many fond memories of it. If I could, I would do this again!
Definitely pack light. Make sure you can carry whatever luggage you bring, as there are not always elevators. Also, be open to new people, new foods, and experiences. This will greatly enhance your stay. Above all, have fun and enjoy your experiences in France!
From: Amy Workman
All of my memories and experiences in Vendee were amazing. It was the best experience of my life. One of my favorite excursions was the Chateaux de La Loire. All of the the castles were incredible. The town of Les Sables d'Olonne is beautiful. We had a lot of free time to spend on the beach and the weather was perfect. For the culture project, you can choose any aspect of the French culture you wish to research. It was a great way to meet interesting people and learn about the things which most interest you. Most importantly, your French will dramatically improve.
Pack light, make sure you are able to carry all of your own luggage. Be open minded, many things will be very different from the US. You need to expect that and make the best of it. Don't be afraid to try new things, especially food.
From: Brad Gunnell
There is no better way to improve your knowledge of the language and the culture than to totally immerse yourself into the culture. The program is wonderful. The food and family bonding were the most memorable experiences of my stay in Vendée. I formed friendships that are sure to last a lifetime. The food was the most amazing I have ever tasted. Le pain et le beurre, c'est le repas des Dieux. The coursework was not difficult if you pay attention AND GET THE NAME OF ALL TOUR-GUIDES. The most difficult thing, for me, was beating Marion Crêtaux at "Mille Bornes". Elle est très forte.
Pack light, of course, but make lots of film. I made the decision to take a camcorder which was a wonderful idea in hindsight. I have wonderful footage of my host-family...and Disneyland Paris! :) Make sure you are in some sort of shape. Even without the strikes there is a lot of walking, so be prepared. Also, eat anything that is put in front of you. It shows great respect for your host-family and you may surprise yourself. (If you are fortunate enough to live with the Crêtaux family, this will be NO PROBLEM; Mme. Crêtaux makes Julia Child look like short-order cook at IHOP.) Also, the last bit of advice I have is to spend as much time with your host-family as you can. They can teach you A LOT. Bonne Chance et Bonnes Vacances!!
From: Brian Hibbs
Vendee is a good place for French students because it's a small town, which gives you a taste for what the "real" France is like, and it also gives you a chance, through the cultural project, to get to know members of the community who share your interests. You can go to the beach to spend the afternoon, and you get to live with host families. This program is especially good if you can't afford to study abroad for a full semester.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind. France is a technologically advanced country, so it won't be all that different from the US, but the culture will be somewhat different, so don't be afraid to try new foods or talk to native speakers in your less-than-perfect French. Take advantage of your time in Vendee to experience things you wouldn't be able to see or do back home.
From: Amanda Walker
Some of my favorite memories include disoveries of how good French bread really is, that I can still ride a bike, that my French friends like to play some of the same card games, that dinner really can last over four hours, and that with practice I could finally pronounce the "r" sound correctly. In addition to all of the fun I had, experiences in Vendee clarified for me the future direction of my academic and professional goals.
Although there is some free time to make some small trips on your own during the program, I would advise waiting until after the program is completed to do the majority of your traveling. The time that you spend with your French family and friends is very valuable to what you learn about the language and culture. You will most likely have other opportunities to travel in Europe as a tourist, but it is unlikely that you will again get to see France as a "member" of a family.
One more thing, if you get homesick, go to McDonald's...it helps.
From: Jenn Martin
A propos de la vie en famille, jai passé de très bons moments aux Sables chez M. et Mme Cavan. Nous avons fait du roller, du kayak, et du vélo .. cest une famille sportive et très amusante. En plus, on a très bien mangé chez eux, ça cest sûr!
Si vous pensez à étudier en France, je recommande ce programme. Vous reviendrez aux Etats-Unis culturellement et linguistiquement enrichi (probablement quelques livres plus lourds en raison de la nourriture délicieuse). Le programme est très bien organisé avec un emplois de temps très chargé, en incluant beaucoup dexcursions culturelles, de la très bonne cuisine française, et de bons moments avec votre famille française. En outre, vous aurez le temps de profiter au temps agréable, et dapprécier la ville merveilleuse. Vous ne pouvez que vous bien amuser si vous gardez un esprit ouvert et une attitude positive.
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