Highs and Lows of the Tufts Summit in Talloires - My Family Travels

D-day: My first day of classes at the European Center in Talloires, France. I walked miserably behind my host mother and my roommate with my head down, glaring at the cup of tea I carried. I barely had enough time to eat my breakfast so I saved my tea for last and put it into a plastic cup which I took with me. As we walked down the trail toward the bus stop, my roommate whispered to me that it was not very French of me to eat breakfast on the go. It was my first day of what would turn out to be one of the best experiences of my life.

Like most people on a trip to a foreign country, I felt very much like the consummate stranger at first, always on the outside looking in. I knew going to another country meant stepping out of my comfort zone but I still secretly despised that sensation of being on a different cultural wave length than everyone else. My worries subsided as I perceived what a golden stroke of luck this program really was.

I along with about thirty other students would be studying French and International Relations in the heart of Provence with the Tufts University Summit Program, a.k.a the Tufts Summit. There was simply too much to do, too many things to learn, and mysterious flowers to sniff to work myself into an existential funk. Every morning I woke up and had warm pastries at the boulangerie, strolled by the Chateau Menthond and then took my courses at the European Center which overlooked the crystalline Lac d’Annecy. And this was the every day routine. We switched it up Wednesdays and went on hikes that had spectacular views; thus a fortnight after I arrived I found myself skipping up the Alps and frolicking with the cows that lived there. If I had had a mind to, I could have joined the ranks of parasailors I could see from my window hovering over the hills. I had no such inclination. However, I did visit the cheese making factory which turned out to be fascinating. It opened up my eyes to the world of cheese that existed beyond safe neon-orange cheddar. After visiting the factory, French cheese, which to me had always resembled a science experiment gone wrong, suddenly seemed like an art form. More than that, braving the smell to go inside the factory takes as much guts as sailing off a mountain.

The quality of life and the idyllic beauty of just about everything put me in obscenely high spirits but I worried still about being far from all things familiar which was why the home-stay stands out as having made the trip truly comfortable. For the entire month, I got to live with a French family as one of their own. At first, I was very self-conscious, worried that I would accidently commit the faux pas that would have us all being chased from town by an angry mob armed with baguettes; but almost instantly it seemed like we were playing and laughing together and acting like a real family. By laughing they showed me it was okay to make mistakes. Once I learned to laugh at myself for not having a clue how to work the shower or saying that I was ‘pregnant’ instead of ‘aware’ (oops), then all the butterflies flew away.

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