A Month Abroad in Lyon, France

By Alice Guan, Lyon Summer School

Hi there, I’m Alice. I’m a Biomedical Sciences student. At the time of writing this, I am going to enter my second year of my degree programme. For the summer, I wanted to go abroad, expand my horizons, and challenge myself. As such, I decided to take a one-month French intensive course at Lyon Catholic University. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In this post, I will share my experience in Lyon, France.

Before arriving in France, I was very nervous about how I would get around, especially by myself. This was the first time I was travelling alone. I felt paralysed by the fear of the unknown, especially when I didn’t know French very well. But that’s the benefit of being abroad – you’re forced to adapt to a totally new environment and grow as a result. Over time, I gained confidence in interacting with the locals using French. It also helped that they were all friendly and accommodating despite my proficiency (or lack thereof) of their language.

The main factor that improved my French was obviously the summer classes held at the university. On my first day, I didn’t understand much of whatever my teacher said. But the more time I spent in class learning the language, the more I could understand her. As a result of immersion, I left the course feeling more confident in French. I also left with a greater appreciation of the culture since the course covered that too.

For me, the most significant aspect of French culture is the politeness. Every interaction begins with ‘bonjour’. Even strangers sitting near you in a park or in a hotel restaurant will say ‘bonjour’ to you. As a British person, I was especially shocked by that. If you want to make a good impression on the locals, make sure to use ‘bonjour’, ‘au revoir’, and ‘merci’ appropriately! The French do appreciate it.

Another major part of French culture is the food. The French place high priority on food, and it is quite evident in everyday life. As you walk down the streets of Lyon, you’ll often see people eating together and socialising, regardless of the day. You may come across outdoor markets which sell excellent fresh produce. Supermarkets and even bigger hypermarkets are not as common as those in the UK. Plus, there are many boulangeries (bakeries) in France – people buy their bread from here daily. I have tried baguettes here, and I think that was the first time I’ve ever had good bread. It was a simple yet profound experience. My overall food experience in France was deeply satisfying, and it’s opened my eyes to the food culture in the UK.

Lyonnaise specialty – brioche aux pralines

Sightseeing has also made me observe a new part of the world enriched in culture and aesthetics. I have seen breath-taking exhibitions in Musée des Beaux Arts. Here, my favourite piece is the Charing Cross Bridge by Claude Monet. The architecture in Lyon is incredible to take in as well. I highly recommend visiting the cathedrals! Overall, I liked touring around Lyon on my own so I could go at my own pace, undistracted.

Studying abroad has made me appreciate a new culture, gain new insights, and become more confident. Through studying abroad, I have also I particularly enjoyed France for its cuisine and art. I have made many great memories during my time there. If I could go abroad and immerse myself in a new culture again, I would! Now, I feel less afraid about travelling somewhere new.

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