October 1, 2013
Three of our Semester in France students in Albi: Emily Wolpiuk, Taylor Kyle and Alix Hochard.
Message from Fall Semester in France faculty member, Mr. Bob Low…
We are just beginning our third week here at Ambialet and the experience has been more than expected. Over the past two weeks the students have obviously been busy getting acclimated to their new environment. They have all managed that process quite well and are now settled into their classes and weekly adventures. All of the students are engaged in the French, Art History and Pilgrimage classes. Some are taking economics, management, labor relations and a variety of on-line classes as well. So it is truly "study abroad". They are academically engaged in so many ways.
But there have been a number of really special events as well. On our first day the students took a hike into Ambialet to get a sense of the town and to meet some of the local residents. Two of the most popular residents are Peter and Margaret. They are a transplanted British retired couple who have taken on the role of part time grandparents for the students. Their first visit included tea and cookies. Peter and Margaret are regular visitors to the Priory and have been student favorites whenever they have the opportunity to visit with them.
On Friday of our first week we visited the village of Corde sur Ciel. It is one of the finest examples of a medieval village in all of Europe. It is simply breath-taking and the students were impressed. They learned a great deal about medieval life and architecture as a result. We continued our trip and visited the Franciscan Monastery at Notre Dame de Decher. The Friars there gave us a in-depth tour which included a 100 step climb into the bell tower. We donned some ear protection and they played the bells for us--even allowing one student the opportunity to play the bells. We finished our first day of adventures by spending sometime in the city of Albi. What an incredibly vibrant community of 53,000 people (a little bigger than Altoona). We toured the Cathedral (which just happens to be the largest brick building in the world) and learned a great deal about its rich history.
Saturday night was a night for celebration. It seems that in Ambialet they play bocce ball (I just don't remember the French name for the game). And they have a league ---and the league has an awards ceremony at which virtually everyone from the town attends. So did we, and it was a lovely evening of good food, good wine, and dancing to a DJ. The students (and I must say the professor and his wife) had a wonderful evening engaged with the local citizens.
In between all of this the student are hiking and biking and they had even gone kayaking one day. On Sunday a number of us just went into Albi to see more of the city. Most businesses are closed on Sunday. However, on our visit there was a very large "flea market" in progress throughout the city. It was amazing.
During our second week we visited the city of Toulouse and its Basilica. We also visited a museum to study more about the roman influence in Toulouse. The two gentlemen who teach the art history and pilgrimage classes are wonderful communicators. The students are appreciating their expertise and are learning a great deal about history, art, religion and architecture. They are also getting many opportunities to practice the French they are learning from our resident french professor. The nice thing is that my wife and I are benefitting from this as well.
On Thursday we are traveling to another medieval village and;on Friday evening, (the feast of St. Francis) 150 invited guests are anticipated for a special program that features original poetry and artwork. I will fill you in on both of those events in my next update.
So for now,