April 29, 2022 | LIFE | By Katie Rowley | Photo Provided by Alondra Reyes Diaz
For Block Seven, myself and 15 other Colorado College students found ourselves in Toulouse, a fairly large city in the South of France. The class we were taking was Contemporary French Society, taught by Professor Gail Murphy-Geiss.
Our first Monday started with a class-wide trek to our classroom. Class was held about an hour’s walk away from the apartments we were staying at, so, instead of making that walk through an unfamiliar city, we elected to take the metro. Well, not collectively. We had all coincidentally left our apartments around the same time, and, while walking to the nearest metro station found ourselves forming a huge mass of very-obvious-looking American tourists.
We made it to class, sat through an orientation I’m not sure any of us paid attention to, and then embarked on our journey to look the most touristy by walking into the city center without backpacks on and maps out for a group lunch.
This meal was a home-style, historic French meal, complete with pâté and lots of freshly baked bread. It was pretty good, but nothing compared to the amazing meals I would devour over the next three and a half weeks.
After lunch, we were tasked with a scavenger hunt to familiarize ourselves with Toulouse. So we spent the afternoon split off into groups exploring Toulouse, and, although the scavenger hunt was not a competition, my group was trying to win (and, if anyone asks, we did).
Throughout the block, the synchronicity of this first day dissipated. As people choose to sleep in or find a local bakery to stop in and grab a chocolatine (aka a chocolate croissant) on the way to the metro, I found myself commuting alone a lot; but, at 10 a.m., we would all find our way into class.
During class, arguably the most boring part of the block (I mean, who wants to spend 2 hours a day sitting in a classroom when they’re literally in France? Not me!), we learned about French history, colonialism, the education system, gender roles in France, and much, much more.
Occasionally, our normal lectures with Murphy-Geiss were substituted by guest lecturers. These ranged from a professor at a university in Toulouse who taught us about the political and education systems to an immigrant from Morocco who taught us about the immigration system in France.
Some afternoons, instead of having time to explore on our own, we participated in cultural activities. Petanque, a popular game in France sort of like Bocce Ball, was a class favorite. We also found ourselves in a hip-hop workshop, visiting an immigrant neighborhood and different markets, as well as visiting an elementary school.
All these activities, including our lectures, culminated in a relatively easy oral exam. It took place at Murphy-Geiss’ apartments, where she gave us snacks and wine, and we were able to reflect on all of our experiences being a part of contemporary French society.
These experiences didn’t all take place in a class setting. As we had the weekends and most afternoons and evenings free, groups of the 16 of us, and sometimes all of us, found ourselves partaking in other Toulousian experiences.
Some of these included a randonnée (aka a hike) and a wine tasting at a small town just outside of Toulouse, a weekend trip to Carcassonne to visit a medieval city and a kitschy torture museum, another weekend trip to Bordeaux, nights spent at Game Clubs, bars with board games, or dinners at different Toulousian restaurants. The experiences were endless and bonding.
Throughout these three and a half weeks, I was able to make friends with my classmates. This is something I had never experienced during a block.
For me, traveling 5000 miles away from campus meant traveling away from my support system, the group of friends I had met over the last two years, as well as leaving the comfort of a known environment, which was a very scary endeavor. But whether it was the fact that these 15 other people were the only people I knew who spoke the same language as me and were experiencing the same things as me, or the fact that these 15 other people were just wonderful, I was able to create a quasi-support system –– a community.
As Block Eight begins, and we’ve all made our way back to campus and off to our respective classes, the bonds have loosened. But there are now more people to wave at or stop and have lunch with. My community on campus has grown too.