By: Kirsten Klompmaker, Nicole Katerberg
This semester, four of us third year French students — Cassy Dyck, Amelia Keesman, Nicole Katerberg and Kirsten Klompmaker — are currently studying abroad in the beautiful south of France! Coming here, we were all very excited and nervous for this next step in our studies. On August 26th, after a long day travelling, we landed in the town of Montpellier and were greeted by our host families with three kisses — “trois bises.” Nope, not a hand shake or a hug— three kisses! This was just the beginning of leaving our old comfortable culture behind and openly stepping into the life of the French. Every day since then, we have been experiencing what it is like to be immersed in a foreign country, speaking a different language and eating very different food.
As much as France is known for its wine, bread and cheese, we’d like to add lentils and vegetables to that list. Dinners here start around 7:00pm or 8:00pm, and it is not rare to still be eating at 10:30pm. A typical French meal begins with an alcoholic beverage and salty snacks. Then, you move on to fruit (normally melon, in our experience), followed by a salad, and then your main course — usually consisting of a lot of unrecognizable vegetables and lentils. After you have completely cleared your plate, out comes a course solely dedicated to rich cheese and baguettes. But wait, there’s more! After you think you cannot eat anymore, they bring out the most delicious desserts. Even though you are completely stuffed by the end and the dinners are longer than what you’re used to, meals here are where the best conversations and language improvements happen.
In order to graduate Redeemer with a French degree, studying at a B2 level during a semester abroad is required. So, during our first week here, we completed an obligatory placement test. Thanks to the fabulous teaching of Dr. Curnew, we all obtained this level with ease! Now, four days a week we take the tram to the local university where all our French language courses take place. Along with our language courses, we volunteer one afternoon a week in a local Christian café called Chez Théo as part of our service learning option.
Coming here from a tight Christian community like Redeemer, it is challenging to be immersed in a very secular country. Thankfully, during our first week here we attended a Protestant church recommended to us by Dr. Curnew, where we by chance sat beside the women who runs Agape, a ministry of Power to Change, here in Montpellier. From there we were invited to their first meeting of the semester that just so happened to take place at Chez Théo! During this meeting, we were reminded that we are not only here to improve our French and to have fun studying abroad but that God has us here for a reason. We were challenged to consciously bring God into conversations with our fellow students who come from everywhere around the world.
Sometimes, we question why we even bother learning a complicated language that is exhausting and has taken us away from the comforts of home. But the Lord is working in our lives and has brought us to places (like Chez Théo) where we have experienced peace and encouragement over our semester here in Montpellier. Even though homesickness is a thing, we are very grateful for this incredible opportunity to study in this beautiful part of the world and experience such a unique culture. Ten out of ten would recommend.
Bisous mes amis!
Nicole et Kirsten