jeudi 25 juillet 2013

Excursion 4: Paris

Hello again, everyone,

As I did not have a moment to write a post for each day, I will give you a brief rundown of what we were up to while in Paris.


Day 1

On Sunday morning, families, stagiaires, and professors gathered at Place Robien - the exact place where we arrived in Saint-Brieuc about six weeks ago - to say our goodbyes to families and friends. As is to be expected, many tears were shed as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed off on our last excursion.

Although our first stop on the Paris excursion has traditionally been the Palace of Versailles, due to an inability to get a reservation, we decided to explore another well-known palace - Fontainebleau.

After our visit, we jumped back in the bus and headed off to our hostel, located in southeast Paris. Once all of our belongings were safely in our rooms and dinner was eaten, we headed off to see what can be considered one of the most well-known attractions in Europe: the Eiffel Tower. Although it was not possible to go up the tower (getting reservations = impossible!), all of the stagiaires appreciated the view and took many photos.

Following our viewing of the tower, we took a stroll beside the river Seine as we headed off to the Bateaux Mouches - an hour-long river tour that travels up and down the Seine, giving a brief description of the important sights that sit along the riverbank.

After our tour, it was back to the hostel to get a good-night's rest in order to prepare ourselves for the long day ahead.


Day 2

On Monday morning, we headed out early and took a quick tour of some of the other well-known sights of the city. Some of the things that we saw include:

Palais Garnier
La Madeleine
Place de la Concorde

As we finished learning about the history of the Luxor Obelisk, we headed into the Tuileries to make our way toward the first major attraction of the day: the Louvre.

Once the palace of the king of France, the Louvre is now one of the world's largest museums, containing both prehistoric and more contemporary artwork. Although it would take days to see all everything that is housed in the Louvre, the stagiaires were given about two hours to explore - enough time to see the necessities, such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory.

After our time in the Louvre, we stopped by the Luxembourg Gardens for a spell and then headed off to the Latin Quarter to grab a bite to eat.

Following our dinner, our next stop was the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get a nighttime view of Paris. Unfortunately, is France is unpredictable at best, the Arc was exceptionally closed that night, so we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hostel to recuperate for our third day in Paris.


Day 3

Heading out bright and early, our first stop was Sainte-Chapelle. A sight to behold, this church actually houses the largest on-site collection of 13th century stained glass in the world.

After spending a moment at Sainte-Chapelle, we headed off to our next destination that just happened to be celebrating its 850th anniversary.

Notre Dame de Paris
Built in 1163, this cathedral is considered one of the prime examples of French Gothic architecture. In order to commemorate its 850th birthday, the city erected an memorial that covers nearly the entire square, which allows for a better view of the cathedral's features than one might get from ground-level. 

Although the cathedral is undeniably impressive, there is another important monument that sits right at the base of the cathedral: le point zéro des routes de France. Acting as the 'zero kilometer' mark for all roads leaving Paris, it is said that, if you set foot on point zéro, you will come back to Paris someday. Needless to say, I made sure that my excursion group all took advantage of the opportunity.

Shortly after arriving at Notre Dame, we split in to four groups and had several hours to explore parts of Paris that were not on the official schedule. Some of the sights that were seen were the Pont des Arts, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Catacombs.

After our individual explorations, we met back up together to head to Montmartre to visit not only the Sacré-Cœur basilica, but also to see the Place des Artistes and the Moulin Rouge.

After our visit of Montmartre, we headed off to our final dinner together, which, to the surprise of the stagiaires, happened to be at a karaoke restaurant! Needless to say, we all sang our hearts out and had a blast doing so. Unfortunately, the majority of the pictures did not turn out and I didn't get a chance to take any videos, but we can thank Larry for taking this picture when all of us ran up on stage together. :)

Having sufficiently eaten and sung, we headed back to our hostel to get everyone's bags packed so that we would all be ready for the return to the States in the morning.


Day 4 - Goodbyes

As we headed to the airport on the fourth day, there was a mix of emotions in the air. Everyone was, of course, happy to be returning to the States to see family and friends, but also sad to see the end of the program, to leave France, and to say goodbye to new friends.

After check-ins were complete and bags were checked, it was off to security and, ultimately, back home. Before that, however, it was first time to say goodbye to Larry, Amber, and myself. Without going into too much detail, goodbyes were said, tears were shed, and hugs were given.


Well, this concludes the final blog post for the Stage Indiana 2013.

I speak for my entire team when I say that working with the stagiaires this summer has been an amazing experience. I'm always surprised by the changes I see in the stagiaires from beginning to end, not only in terms of their French, but also in themselves. It really makes the entire program worthwhile.

As a closing remark, I'd just like to say thank you all for an amazing and memorable experience. I have no doubt that you will all go on to do great things and I hope that you keep in touch and let us know how things are going from time to time.


Merci bien,

samedi 20 juillet 2013

La fête des familles and our last birthday

Bonjour à tous,

I'd like to start this blog entry by drawing your attention to our final birthday of the program. Happy birthday, Kaitlyn!!


In other news, this past week saw the culmination of all of the stagiaires' hard work in what has come to be known as la fête des familles. As a quick reminder, la fête des familles is essentially a way for the stagiaires to thank their host family for all that they've done by putting on a farewell show. During the show, the stagiaires perform the various acts that they work on throughout the summer, in addition to any additional acts that they wish to perform.

To give you a better idea of what our farewell show looked like this summer, check out the program:

With the help of Ryan, I was able to record every act of the show, except for the various jokes that the stagiaires came up with as transitions between the acts. For your viewing pleasure, each of the videos has been uploaded to the team's YouTube page. Check out the links below!


Act I:

"Corde à sauter"

"Pense à moi"

L'affaire Laferre by Luc Boulanger (*)


Act II:

"Moonlight Sonata, First Movement"

"Amazing Grace"

La chorale (coming soon!)


In the link below, you will find some additional photos from both the night of the fête, as well as a couple taken during rehearsal (unfortunately, due to the lighting, they're quite blurry..).

More pics!


Well, that about sums up the fête!

As you know, we only have a little more than a day left in Saint-Brieuc and then it's off to Paris! I will do my best to update the blog while in Paris, but given our full schedule, I can't guarantee on how frequently I will be able to. So, stay tuned!

A bientôt,

lundi 15 juillet 2013

Excursion 3: Dinan, Dinard, and Saint-Malo & a birthday!

Hello everyone!

This past Wednesday, we took a break from classes and activities to see a bit more of Brittany. You can read a summary of our excursion below.

Before discussing that however, I would like to mention that we celebrated another birthday today! Happy Birthday, Emily! :)



Our first stop, Dinan is a prime example of a medieval town, complete with cobbled roads, half-timbered houses, and impressive ramparts. While at Dinan, the stagiaires have the chance to several historical sights, including the Saint-Sauveur basilica, which houses the heart of Bernard du Guesclin, a Breton knight who played an important role in the Hundred Years' War. In order to ensure that the stagiaires take full advantage of their time in Dinan, each group is given a scavenger hunt, which lists the most important sights to see.

Group photo in front of the statue of du Guesclin



Our next stop was the nearby town of Dinard. While the town is something in itself, what really sets Dinard apart are its beaches, which make it a popular resort. Some of the things to see in Dinard include the statue of Alfred Hitchcock, the villas that line the coast, and the birds that have no fear whatsoever.

While in Dinard, after enjoying lunch beside the beach, we had a bit of time to enjoy the lovely weather, stroll around the beach, and get our feet wet.

Group photo on the beach
The required group jumping photo
Alfred Hitchcock!



Our final destination for this excursion, Saint-Malo, is a popular tourist destination with an interesting history. Once an important port city for the region, Saint-Malo was not only the home to Jacques Cartier, discoverer of Canada, but also to many privateers (=legal pirates!!). Some popular things to do in Saint-Malo include walking the ramparts, enjoying the beach complete with a swimming pool designed to retain water during low-tide, and eating delicious ice cream at a place called Sanchez.

Gate into the city
The aforementioned swimming pool


Well, that about sums up our third excursion!

As this is our last week, things are simultaneously winding down and becoming hectic. Not only will this week be devoted to practicing, preparing for Paris, and getting ready to leave Saint-Brieuc, but this Thursday is actually our fête des familles, where the stagiaires will be able to show off their hard work this summer. You can expect an update detailing the fête by the end of this week.

A bientôt,

dimanche 14 juillet 2013

Quick update: Student blog and a birthday

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to post a quick update to inform you of a two things.


Student blog

As some of you may or may not know, each summer, a student is selected from each site to act as the student blogger, posting a brief update now and then in the target language. For Saint-Brieuc, our student blogger is Isaiah Seibert, and you can follow his blog here.


Birthday nº3

This past week, on Friday, July 12th, we celebrated Linda's 17th birthday by giving her both a homemade card and a baggy of delicious caramels!


Well, that's all for now. It's hard to believe that the program is nearly over! It seems as if we only just arrived.

The new post about our third excursion to Dinan, Dinard, and Saint-Malo will be coming shortly, so keep an eye out! :)

A bientôt,

lundi 8 juillet 2013

A couple birthdays, a reception at city hall, a fashion show, and a little dancing

Hello, everyone!

This past week was full of events, so I'll just go ahead and get started right away.



The first thing I would like to mention about last week was the fact that we had two birthdays that just happened to fall on the same day (July 3rd!). Aside from the gifts received by their fellow stagiaires, Kevin and Jessie also received a card (drawn by me!) and a bag of delicious salted butter caramels from the profs!


Reception at City Hall

Every year, we are all invited to city hall for a night of speeches, thanks, and fancy clothes. Not only does this reception give us a chance to thank our on-site coordinator and all of the host families, but it also gives us a chance to enjoy a nice evening together.

The night opened with a speech by our on-site coordinator, Brigitte Blévin, who, as the Mayor's assistant, welcomed us in his stead, followed by one by me, and then one by our stagiaire, Dane Fetterer, in which he briefly discussed the history of the program, its importance, the need to take advantage of the time we have left, and finally thanked the families for all that they've done. After this, we sang La Marseillaise (the French national anthem), Bro Gozh ma Zadoù (the anthem of Brittany), and, as it was the fourth of July (and much to the surprise of the stagiaires!), The Star-Spangled Banner.

Getting ready to give our speeches
I would include a photo/video of the group singing, but, unfortunately, the woman I gave my camera to misunderstood me and just took very unflattering photos of me during the songs... Here's a photo of the group practicing though:


Fashion show

As part of Amber's culture course, we hold a fashion show every summer, during which the stagiaires must adopt an (often curious) outfit and explain what they're wearing. It never fails to be amusing. We even set up a mini-catwalk for the occasion.

Although I did take pictures of the event, I will include those in the "extra photos", the link to which I will provide at the end. For your amusement, I did also take a video of each group (we divided up by support group) as they did their final pass on the catwalk.


Soirée danse Bretonne

On Friday night (the night of the fashion show), everyone returned to the Igloo for a night full of dancing and culture. Upon entering the gym, the stagiaires were surprised to see a group of dancers dressed in traditional Breton garb.

After a brief introduction, the dancers demonstrated several of the traditional dances, before taking a moment to describe their outfits. It was then the stagiaires turn to learn a couple of the dances themselves.

Overall, the night was really fun. What better way to experience a culture than to get up and dance?

(A couple videos of the night will hopefully be coming soon. The files are large and are taking forever to upload to YouTube.)


Well, that's it for now. On Wednesday, we'll be visiting Dinan, Dinard, and Saint-Malo, so stay tuned! :)

A bientôt,

p.s. Check out the extra pics!

mercredi 3 juillet 2013


Hello again, everyone!

Aside from classes and the occasional excursion, we also spend quite a bit of our time here in St-Brieuc doing various activities. While the goal of some of our activities is to prepare for the fête des familles, others are just for sheer amusement. To give you an idea of what we've done up to this point, I've written up a little summary of each activity with photos to accompany, all of which you'll find below.



Although we have set activities Monday through Thursday, we always try to offer at least a couple extra optional activities. One such activity actually took place at the end of our second week. Having attempted, in vain, to get to the pool earlier that week (our usual stomping ground is closed until August!), we decided to offer bowling, which was met with much enthusiasm. Given that none of us are proclaimed professional bowlers, you can imagine that our scores didn't turn out all that great, but we definitely had fun nonetheless.



In an earlier post, I mentioned that we sometimes have the opportunity to go down to the nearby valley to run, walk, and just enjoy nature in general. As we are in Brittany, however, the rain (or the dreary weather in general) sometimes prevents us from going. When this happens, we do our best to propose different activities.

Volleyball & Yoga

During our second week, we originally planned on having all of the stagiaires try their hand at volleyball, but, to the relief of many, Amber remembered that she actually had a French-language yoga video, which gave them the choice. Needless to say, those who didn't want to play volleyball were very content and vice versa.


Yes, your read that correctly. Although some might not consider dancing a sport, after doing the Charleston for an hour, I would beg to differ. Justifications aside, I really just absolutely love swing dancing and wanted to share that with the stagiaires. I was overjoyed to see how well they responded to it. Everyone seemed to be having fun and many stagiaires have even requested another swing day.

The activity pretty much followed the model of a beginner Charleston lesson. With Amber as my co-instructor, we first taught them the basic footwork and then three variations: stomping, a kick to the left (what I like to call a "Woo!!"), and a counterclockwise turn. Once everyone had a grasp of this, we got into two lines facing each other (= a Charleston line) (see picture below), and began dancing along to Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" (it's entirely instrumental, so, no English!). Every once in a while, I would signal a move and then we'd all have to do it in unison. I really can't express how happy I was to see everyone doing the Charleston.

After the Charleston line, we split up into partners and learned basic side-by-side Charleston, as well as a variation known as hand-to-hand Charleston. We, unfortunately, ran out of time before we could do cross-hand Charleston, but I think we'll be okay. :)


Just today, as the weather was quite nice, we headed back down to the valley for a nice game of soccer and a nice stroll through the woods, for those who weren't feeling too sporty.



As part of Amber's course, each stagiaire is asked to prepare a dessert with their family for a group tasting. Before the eating commences, however, each stagiaire must briefly present their dessert, mentioning its name, its history (if known), the ingredients, and how it is prepared. As having 33 desserts at once might be a bit of an overkill, we actually have three dessert days, one for each group.

Dessert Monday nº1 - Les Bleus

Dessert Monday nº2 - Les Blancs

Dessert Monday nº3 - Les Rouges

Coming soon next Monday!


Theatre and Choir

At the beginning of the program, we ask the stagiaires to choose between Theatre and Choir, depending on their specific interests. Since then, every Tuesday and Thursday has been dedicated to working on the different pieces for the fête.


Each year at the fête des familles, one of our main acts is always a play of some sort. This year, as a change of pace, Ryan and I selected a mystery play. The really fun part about this play is that the ending had not yet been written when we arrived. As a group, we brainstormed possible endings, exploring the various motives of each character, etc., until we finally came up with a solid idea. Now that the end has been written, all that's left to do is rehearse, rehearse, and then rehearse some more!


With the help of the very kind, if eccentric, choir director, Marilyne, Amber and Larry are working with the stagiaires to put together a variety of songs for the fête. Marilyne has a knack for picking interesting pieces, so I'm sure it'll be memorable!

pictures of the choir to come soon!


Corde à sauter

Aside from Theatre/Choir, we also encourage students to think of additional acts for the fête des familles. One such act that has been added to the program involves the song "Corde à sauter" by Moussier Tombola. Released in 2011, this song is actually still quite popular and is usually accompanied by a dance. Given its popularity, and the fact that dancing is just fun, we've been working on our moves and I'm confident that this will be a really neat act.


Well, I think that's all for now. Tomorrow is our réception à la mairie, followed by our Breton dance night on Friday, so I will definitely be updating again soon!

A bientôt,

p.s. I will upload the additional photos soon. (There are quite a few!)