Hayden – France

February 12, 2024

Hello, blog people or readers or whatever I decided to call y’all. Now, I know it’s been a little since I wrote a blog that’s on me. I came home and got excited to see my loved ones, and then Christmas started, so I was a little stressed, as many do. This blog isn’t about that, though this is about how it’s been transitioning back to ECU.

It is crazy to think a few weeks ago (a few months in reality, but just play along), I was in France, eating a fresh croissant, hanging out with friends at a random pub, or learning French in one of the metros and having all the French people silently judge my pronunciation. It is a fun time, and I recommend anyone and everyone to study abroad. Enjoy the world outside of the US; you will learn so much about yourself and others. You don’t have to be perfect at French to go to Tours you will learn a lot and refine your French skills.

Coming back to the US has been a lot harder than I initially expected. There were a lot of unexpected hardships I faced. First was readjusting to classes by fluent English speakers. In France, the pace of the class is a little slower for many reasons, One is because it matches the more relaxed culture. Secondly, if the class is in English, it is the second language for all students and professors, except for a few in Tours, who are from the UK, Australia, and the US. So, the classes are naturally slower because they are not as confident in speaking English, even though they are good at it. Getting back to a medium or fast-paced class took a little bit longer to get used to. A second challenge was reentering the US, specifically with language. Not about speaking, but it was more about being in an environment where everyone around me was speaking English, and I could understand everything. When I was in France, I didn’t understand the majority of the conversations around me, so I was able to revert to a primarily internal dialogue. However, when I returned to the US, and everyone around me was speaking English again, I realized that I could understand all of the side conversations. It was distracting and overwhelming to process all of these conversations again. I had to get out of my internal headspace and start engaging with the stimuli around me.

I know I am missing a lot of stuff that was a challenge to return, but I am forgetting a lot of them cause I forgot to write this sooner. I recommend Tours to anyone it will be a blast, and you will learn so much. There will be challenges, and the study abroad office at ECU and Tours can help you with any challenge. I truly loved and adored my experience in France, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Go to Tours, and you will not regret it.

–Hayden Clark

November 27

“Hello again, blog readers. I need to remember if I gave you all a nickname, but c’est la vie. It has been a crazy few weeks here on tour. First, we had a nice week-long break from classes, so I found a cheap flight and hotels and toured around Italy. I saw Milan and Rome and went to Switzerland for a day. I highly recommend going to Italy. I had a blast going there; a week felt like the perfect time. Then I got back to Tours at a weird time. It was the in-between time of being cold and sunny and cold and raining 24/7. So everyone was outside and enjoying the weather out. It was crazy to me because it was like 42 degrees outside, and back home, everyone would be freaking out. Then, the rain came every day for about two weeks; it rained like it does in Greenville, and it was cold. Many people have started to get sick or get the flu. Classes began to get emptier and emptier or canceled for a week. It caused much stress for me because classes only meet once a week, and with classes getting canceled, we only have one more class before the final. We are back to all the classes this week, and more students than ever have shown up.

I have noticed in France that many professors don’t take attendance, so only a few students come; they show up for the exams. If students come to class, they come about 15-20 minutes late, and professors usually don’t care. The French laid-back culture is fascinating to compare to the US. Where we have professors who lock the doors right as class starts. But I want this blog to be about something else. I want it to be about two things: group presentations and finals.

So far, I have 2 group presentations and have a few more to go. All my presentations have been in English, so it is okay for me, but my partners usually have to put more work into it. They hold a script and read off it to remember what to say and how to say it. I would do the same thing if I had to present in French, what I find funny now that I look back at it. During the first few classes, the students were very friendly with me when I found out I was from America, and my friend from Australia had the same experience. All the French students were familiar and wanted to exchange information. Now, that seems like a normal thing to do with exchange students in your class. That is not a normal French behavior I have noticed, however. Typically, the French are very guarded and shy at first, but once they get out of their shell, they are some of the nicest people I have ever met; back to the story, as soon as the first project was announced and my Australian friend with swarmed with texts to join peoples groups, packed with people asking us to help them with the project. Now, don’t get me wrong, a majority of the student’s English is fantastic, and they have an extensive vocab.

The slang and some of the more significant words found in research papers are where they get confused. So they wanted fluent speakers to help them. The presentations are a lot more laid back than they are at ECU. Teachers are more focused on the ideas you’re presenting than on how you speak or your grammar. It is super helpful for someone like me who sucks at grammar, but I like to introduce new ideas and explain them instead of having a grammatically perfect slide that misses the point.

Now, finals have started here in France for some classes, while others are still being taught. It is very different from ECU, where we have a whole exam period of two weeks, and all classes end simultaneously. That is different from how it works in France. Once a professor feels the class is complete, the course is entire, and the following week, the final will be given. I have only had two finals as of writing this, but they are different than in the US. They are all short answers or long answers, and you only have the length of a typical class period. It can be intense at times.
Most of the time, professors don’t give you a study guide or a heads up on what will be on the exam, what to study, and how many questions. I have had one professor who gave us a heads-up but meant the exam was more challenging. So far, the professors have wanted a minimum of around 6-7 sentences to present your thoughts or arguments. It is a fun challenge where, typically, at ECU, I have about 1 or 2 questions like that. There are about 3-4 questions, and that’s the whole exam. So, if you are not a good writer, be warned and study as hard as possible. The professors I have had are very good at helping out. If you need help, email them, and they will answer. OH, I haven’t have yet to mention this; office hours aren’t a thing I have seen here. Professors don’t want students in their offices well; they usually share the office with 3-4 other faculty members. So, the primary way to get help is by email. Use the vous form when emailing them, or they won’t respond. Hierarchy is a big thing here in France, so show respect to the people above you.

That was a scatterbrained blog. Sorry, sorry, all; I hope you enjoyed it or could understand it. Come to Tours. Its fun and an outstanding school, but it has some differences you need to get used to. You don’t need to know French to come here, but knowing some is helpful, and you will learn a lot while you’re here.”

–Hayden Clark

Flying over Italy

October 2nd

Hello, blog or readers, or however I need to address people who read this,

I know it’s been a few weeks, but it has been busy. Firstly, I arrived at Tours a week before classes. If you come here, you will do the same because that week I spent exploring tours and figuring out how to live in France without the pressure of classes. That first week, the study abroad office hosted an orientation for all exchange students. You must show up because it teaches you how to schedule classes and offers many opportunities for different activities. If you are like me and speak very little French (even while I am getting better) the meeting is intimidating because it is entirely in French. So do what I did and meet someone who speaks fluent French and sit next to them so they can tell you if something is essential or not. Mr. Rotariu (the man in charge of exchange students) will be around after to answer questions or concerns. Side note: his English is fantastic, and he can help you with any problem you face; if you are nervous about not having anyone to help you in English, don’t be worried a lot of people can. I will include some photos of tours and how beautiful of a place it is.

A lot changed for me the next week, and was a little stressful. Well, it’s very stressful. Most of the classes I planned on taking turned out weren’t being offered, or they overlapped with a different class. It was very stressful at first because I thought I was screwed for finding new classes, but the study abroad office will help you find who to talk to. They helped me find more exciting classes that work. Almost all classes that would be taught in English happen in Tanneurs, which is on the river and in the more high-end shopping district of tours. I also got my university email at this meeting. Unlike at ECU with Canvas, your classes aren’t automatically put on the learning tool. They use a tool called Celene, but you cannot access it until you have a university email. Then you must find the classes on Celene, and that’s how you “register.” I have classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So I have way more time to travel.

My classes only meet once a week for about 2 hours a class. It seems like a lot, but the professors do an excellent job of giving breaks, making it engaging so it’s not just 2 hours of them lecturing. Also, be careful with the classes you take; there are a few different types, lectures which are big major lecture halls (100+ students), classes that are about 40-50, but professors expect conversation and questions, and finally, classes around 15-20 where there are many projects, professors want the students to do some of the teachings in the class based off the reading, and they are very collaborative.

That is enough talk about how classes are set up; for now, let me talk about Tours and France. There are a few major differences, but Tours feels very similar to Greenville in how it is around farmland, has everything a city needs, and has a rich local history. Now, there are differences, and there’s a lot. During orientation, they cover many of them, but I want to talk about the ones I noticed the most.

  1. Grocery stores are very different. First, bring your own bag, your own bag, and your own bag. They sell bags, but it’s a little costly compared to just bringing your bag. Every store has different offerings; most are smaller stores with the bare necessities: bread, pastries, cheese, wine, and some frozen stuff. Then there are significant stores which are still small compared to American shops but have much more to offer, fresher food and a large variety of fruits and veg. It is a lot cheaper to go to the larger stores I found. Side note: they take grocery store security very seriously. every store I go to has a guard, and you have to scan a QR code on your receipt to be able to exit.
  2. Public transport is so good compared to the states. I live over 1 hour away, walking from most of my classes. For reference, I live next to the law and economics campus. The tram takes me right next to Tanners and takes about 30 minutes. Now the people on tours will complain about the public transport because it is 1 or 2 minutes late or the tram comes every 25 minutes on the weekends. Compared to American transport, it is incredible to me. Also, you need to buy a ticket. They sell ten trips for about 10 euros and have student discounts. I still need to figure that out, but I am working on it. If you don’t have a ticket, you could pay a fine or other things I must be aware of. They have “tram police,” as my friends call them, that scan tickets on the tram randomly to ensure you are not on there for free. They are very intense until they can see you paid.
  3. Finally, everyone is much more relaxed here. The term c’est la vie is a perfect description. Everyone lets life come to them, and they enjoy their lives. I immensely enjoy the change of pace from America. After most of my classes, I swim in the river, relax, and go to a cafe to get some coffee and a croissant. Enjoying life is very easy in France if you enjoy the outdoors and great weather. I have heard it gets pretty cold here, and I can’t wait to see how beautiful the city gets with the cool temperature.

I hope you enjoyed reading I will have more blogs faster this time, but I hope you can understand I prioritized getting my classes in order. Enjoy your day after reading this I hope you enjoyed it if you didn’t enjoy it, well, sorry.


–Hayden Clark


September 8, 2023

I don’t really know how to start a blog so I guess I will say hi. My name is Hayden I’m in my 4th year at ECU studying political science and security studies, and I will be going to study at the University of Tours in Tours, France. I chose Tours because of their political science program which has many great class options. I also appreciated that while it is not a major town, it has all the same benefits. Now I have not left for Tours yet and all these are assumptions, but I am so excited to get there.

It is very important to know that I do not speak any french, zero, zilch, nada, zéro (i hope you get the point). I talked to Rose in the study abroad office and she told me she is excited to see me excel in Tours and learn French as I go. I will say the language barrier has been difficult. From the first day I got accepted, I had to put contracts into Google Translate to understand that I got accepted. I have to translate every email I write into French so the Tours office will understand better. Google Translate has quickly become my best friend.

From the beginning, I knew that the transition process would be a challenge. I just didn’t think it would be as much of a challenge as it became. The easiest part of the process was getting a list of classes approved by my advisor that would be able to be transferred back to ECU. The next challenging task to complete was obtaining a VISA; that process was awful.

The VISA application is very detailed and asks for a lot of different vital information, including the address of where I will be staying, the address of the study abroad office, the director’s name and phone number, source of funds, proof of funds, name of family members and their address, etc., etc. There was just a lot of information needed from the Tours study abroad office. An issue that I faced early on was communication with the Tours office, firstly because of the time zone difference. They are 6 hours ahead, so if they send an email that needs to be responded to urgently, it has to be sent back before 11 a.m. or it will take a day for them to respond. The main issue I faced with that was having time-sensitive questions about my visa, but having to wait a day or two for a response due to the time difference.

The second issue I faced was with the apartment. To apply to stay on campus with Tours, they have a separate application that requires different basic information, but also a guarantor. The guarantor has to be someone in France, but they made it easy with a website that can get you a French guarantor if you are a study abroad student. The issue I faced was to get the guarantor, I needed to provide proof of my visa, but at the time, my visa was not yet completed. For the visa, I needed to give proof of accommodation, but could not get proof of accommodation without the guarantor. So I emailed the apartment company. It took a little time, but they helped me fix the situation by giving me a letter of acceptance which was enough to get my VISA.

Getting my VISA became another great adventure. I elected to go in person to the visa office instead of having the information and materials mailed to me and then ultimately mailed to the French embassy. I made an appointment in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the closest office to Greenville. I put the address in the GPS and got there 20 minutes early. I walk in and tell the security guard I am here for my visa appointment. He gives me a weird look and informs me I am at the wrong office for a visa. Panic started to set in. I asked where I needed to get my visa, and he said about 20 minutes across town and gave me the correct address. I race across town, and if you know anything about Atlanta, there’s one thing that is always true: traffic. I was stuck in traffic for 15 minutes, making me about 10 minutes late to my appointment. I park in between two buildings that weirdly have the same address and start spinning in circles, attempting to figure out where the entrance is. It takes me another 5 minutes until I find a back entrance and find my way to the elevators. I got to the office and explained my case to the security guard, and she informed me she was in a good mood so I could go ahead and go to the waiting room. I made it, and I was able to get my visa. As I worked through the process to get my photo and fingerprints, I started to cool off and de-stress. Then the rep informed me, “This could take around 3 months on average!” The panic, the stress, and the anxiety all set back in. I was leaving in a month, so that would not work, but I just had to wait it out and hope. Less than 2 days later, my passport came back with my visa inside. Insane turnaround, so all the stress, worry, and anxiety left my body again.

As I have been writing this blog I have been packing, practicing the little French I know, and spending time with my family and friends before I leave for the semester. I am feeling nervous about what will come that I don’t know about, what I will learn while over there, what I will miss at ECU, and what if ECU has a winning football season, but I know in the end, this will all be worth it. All the late-night stress, early mornings emailing Tours, and random language apps I downloaded to learn French will pay off for a great semester. I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a blog, I know when I am in Tours I will have a lot more to write about and many more photos to share, so please come back and read the next one, or don’t, up to you. Thanks, I don’t know how to end a blog. Do I give a formal sign-off? Do I need to come up with a catchphrase I end them each with? All important questions I will find out soon. Okay bye.

–Hayden Clark