The last day in Paris!

Hello everyone! 

The last full day has arrived, and we’re all making the most of it.  Each group has been really, really busy.  Last night we all met up at the Trocadero before heading back to our hostel to get pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and today we are all going to the Musée d’Orsay together this afternoon.  I haven’t received a picture of one of the groups, but I’ll post one later if I can. 

I think it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re going home.  I’m expecting an emotional dinner tonight and departure tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,


Paris at last.

Bonjour friends and families! I hope that you all recieved a message from the office about the internet situation in Paris. If you haven’t heard, the internet in our hostel is turned off before we get back in the evening, but I’m going to be on the lookout for Wi-Fi over the next few days and I’ll do my best to post. 

I have a bunch of pictures of the farewell show, but given the internet issues I’m going to focus on Paris. We got in last night, after spending the afternoon at Versailles, and took a boat tour on the Seine.  Today we were in small groups, and then we all met up to climb the Montparnasse Tower, where we are right now! Each teacher gave me a group picture from today:

 I took a few group pictures in front of a statue of Henry the fourth before getting on the boat tour last night. 

I got this beauty of a view of the Eiffel Tower on the boat tour. We enjoyed a lovely sunset during the tour! It was quite breathtaking.

Our Paris stay has been absolutely lovely so far, with beautiful weather and no problems to speak of, and everyone is having a blast! I’ll post again soon, but in the meantime thanks for reading!


Dancing, swimming, and having a blast !

Hello again friends and families !  I can’t believe how quickly the program is flying by.  The students are really busy preparing for the farewell show and planning for Paris, but we’re still having lots of fun in the meantime.  Monday night this week we organized a dance party for the students at school, which was a big hit!  We asked them to bring snacks and drinks, and we prepared the room and put together a playlist.  All of the students danced, sang, and had a really great time.

The first arrivals.
Practicing the bises while waiting on the others.


They had all these dances I had never seen before!


It was hard to get good photos with the lighting and the dancing, but I just had to include this one. Emily did the worm!


Some host siblings joined in the fun too!
Alexis had some pretty awesome moves.


They’re learning the dance to Alexandrie Alexandra for the farewell show.



Serious faces!


George getting his hair braided.


Another strange dance I was not familiar with: Les Sardines.
A host family taught the group a line dance.


On Tuesday we didn’t have class because the Tour de France was beginning in Saumur and everything was shut down.  I went out to see it and ran into a few students!  Most of them did go out with their families, and they described it as “fast, but cool.”  We were really lucky this year to get to see it.

The sponsors for the Tour de France get to have cars that come by before the cyclists.
The students found it very funny that one car was throwing sausages into the crowd.
A lady in a fry suit!
A madeleine-mobile!
They bought crêpes and shirts while waiting.
We got a great spot on the wall to watch!
Here they come!

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At this point in the program we also get some dinner invitations from host families.  We really enjoy getting to know the families better, and getting a glimpse into the students’ personal experiences.  I only wish we could spend time with all of the families!  On Tuesday after the Tour de France we had the pleasure of seeing Nadia’s family’s beautiful home, enjoying some music by Nadia and her host father, and trying pigs’ feet for dinner!


On Wednesday we had our annual reception at the town hall.  The Mayor’s attaché hosted us and said a few words.  She also asked some of the students about their experiences, and they responded beautifully!  They all sang the Marseillaise and then had drinks and snacks. A few host families also joined us.  It’s quite an honor, and we were all very grateful for the invitation.

Group photo in front of the town hall.
The Mayor from another town gave them a little tour.


I happened to run into the same group we saw at the Tour de France after class on Thursday and got a couple pictures of Alexis and Ashlyn riding the carousel.  It’s nice to see them having fun when they’re out and about after class!  I may not have pictures of other students’ outings, but from what I’ve been told they all feel very at home in Saumur.  They say they’ve found all the best spots for ice cream, crêpes, and pastries, and they enjoy exploring and shopping.


On Friday we had an excursion to the beach at Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.  It was a great choice for the excursion because the beach itself is very wide, so even though there were a lot of people we had plenty of space and weren’t crowded.  The water there is clear and beautiful, and it was sunny and warm with a cool breeze coming in off the water.  The boardwalk is also full of cafés and shops. We got there at about noon, so we started with sack lunches on the beach, and then we hit the water!  We all had a lot of fun splashing around in the waves.  The students also played Frisbee and volleyball, and lots of them went to the boardwalk for crêpes, ice cream, and other treats.


We were so grateful that the weather finally got really summery just in time for this excursion.
Lunch on the beach.


Testing the water.



Soaking up the sun!





There were lots of these tiny crabs buried in the sand.


Collecting shells and rocks on the beach.



Getting snacks on the boardwalk.


Ice cream!


We had one sand castle…
… and one sand twin!  Jeremy was very proud of his twin, which he named Ludo.
The resemblance is uncanny!


Everyone was very upset when the tide came in and washed away Ludo’s head.
Playing games during our stop on the bus ride home.
We brought some snacks.


It was really wonderful to have one day of nothing but relaxing and enjoying the weather before getting into our last week in Saumur.  It’s going to be a really busy week, between exams, Paris planning, the farewell show on Wednesday and Bastille day on Thursday!  We’re leaving for Paris early Saturday morning, and I know it will be an emotional moment for everyone.

In just a short time you’ll be able to hear all about the program first hand and see all of the student’s pictures, but in the meantime I thank you all for reading and I hope you have enjoyed this week’s post.  Until next time!


Normandy, and more!

Hello again friends and family!  We’ve had yet another jam-packed week on this side of the pond.  The main attraction today is certainly our trip to Normandy, but that wasn’t all we did!  To start, I have some really fun pictures from playing soccer on Wednesday.  The students all seemed to have a lot of fun and were such great sports.

Getting pumped up in teams.
Renata going over the rules.


Jeremy’s battle cry.


Taking a water break.


Lucy had a grand time picking flowers.


And dancing with Rai…
But also playing! Go Lucy!

We left bright and early Thursday morning for our Normandy trip.  Our wonderful driver Thierry met us at Saint-Louis at 7:20am, and we had four hours in the morning before our first visit.  There was a lot of napping on the bus that day!


We have a lot of knitters in this group!
One way to pass the time: braiding your hair together!

We stopped in the walled city of Saint-Malo for our picnic lunch, and then the students had a little over an hour to explore this picturesque medieval town.  The families always send very copious amounts of food for their sack lunches, and the students all found the seagulls very entertaining.  It was a fun stop.


The view from on top of the wall.


We led the students to a patisserie to try some Kouing Amann, an extremely buttery and flakey regional pastry.  It was a big hit!


Olivia tried hers with nutella! Delicious.

Next up was Mont-Saint-Michel, a very famous French site with an Abbey perched on top of a hill which is an island at high tide but connected to the mainland at low tide.  You have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top, but the views are absolutely worth it.


Waiting patiently at the bottom.
And more stairs… (and a lot more stairs I didn’t take pictures of!)
Taking pictures and catching our breath.


The boys being silly.


Inside the chapel.


The cloister.


At the end of this long day we made our way to the hostel in Lion-sur-Mer, where we had a lovely dinner of chicken and pasta and got the students settled into their rooms.  We were the only people there that night!  Once everyone was settled in we headed over to the beach, which was only about a block away.  A surprising amount of students braved the chilly waters!


But it didn’t last very long!  Hopefully when we go to the beach this week we’ll have some warmer weather, but the students seemed to have a great time anyways.  They were just excited to get to swim in the ocean in France.


Photobombing the teachers!

After the beach we had some time to relax back at the hostel.  It started raining right after we left, but that didn’t stop some students (and Renata) from playing volleyball!


Friday was a much more solemn day, as we were visiting several WWII sites.  They had spent most of last week discussing WWII in their culture class with Renata, so it was all very fresh in their minds.  We were very impressed with the level of maturity the class showed. They were very respectful of these sites, and many of them were visibly moved (there were even some tears, and not just from me!).  We first went to the pointe du Hoc.  This cliff top location in between Omaha beach and Utah beach was heavily fortified by the Germans with bunkers and turrets, and taking it out on D-Day was absolutely imperative.


You can still see craters from D-Day.
There’s also barbed wire at the top of the cliff.


It was very moving for everyone.
The monument.


The German bunkers are still there.  It’s very surreal.


The second stop on our WWII day, and in my opinion the most moving, was the American cemetery.  Seeing the seemingly endless rows of graves really makes the tragedy of D-Day sink it, and many of the students just walked among the tombstones in silent contemplation.  We had a bit of light rain at that point, which seemed fitting.  Unfortunately, the beaches were closed for security reasons, but the students still seemed to appreciate the visit and it went very well.

The memorial.


People will rub sand in the engravings and leave flowers.


Alexis noticed that someone had put a piece of nature (a rock, flower, or pine-cone) on every star of David.
Serious faces contemplating the beaches.


The view of the beach from the cemetery.

Our final destination for the trip was the memorial of Caen.  This city was the site of very heavy fighting during the Battle of Normandy and was mostly destroyed.  It is now home to a wonderful memorial and museum.  We had a wonderful surprise when we got there!  Michael walked in to pick up our lunches and thought he saw our student Carlee, but then realized it was her twin sister!  The group from Saint-Brieuc was also at the memorial!  Two of their instructors came over to our tent, and we decided our group would surprise theirs after we finished eating.  A lot of our students have friends at Saint-Brieuc, so they were ecstatic to get to see them!


The twins reunited!


We then proceeded to have a lovely visit of the memorial.


The city of Caen after the battle of Normandy.

Today we had our family picnic, which was simply wonderful.  The students sang the Marseillaise for the families, and then the Star Spangled Banner!  I didn’t tell them ahead of time that they were going to sing it, since it is in English, so their reactions were pretty hilarious. When I sang the first line to give them the key they all gasped.

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After eating there was soccer…


Soccer in the sand…


And volleyball!


Alex made some wonderful peanut butter cookies for everyone!


The families waiting to hear our beautiful voices!


There was also a spirited game of ninja.
Lucy going in for the winning blow!


That’s it for this week’s post!  We will be having our dance party tomorrow night, the Tour de France on Tuesday, a visit to the Mayor’s office on Wednesday, and a full day at the beach on Friday, so I’ll be back with lots of pictures next week!  In the meantime, thanks again for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s post.



Birthdays, bowling, and Fontevraud.

Bonjour everyone !

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here over two weeks.  This program is really flying by !  We had a fun, busy week, which started with two birthday celebrations.  I already mentioned last week that Richie and Carlee both had birthdays, but the official class celebration was last Monday.  We left some time at the end of the school day and brought in an assortment of treats for everyone.

The birthday boy and girl each got their own treat, a Paris-Brest.
Carlee’s birthday card.
Richie’s birthday card.


Enjoying the treats!


The students also continue having lots of fun outside of class time.  There is still a lot of card playing !


More recently, they’ve taken to drawing on the white boards.  It makes me happy to see them joking around in French.


We have some pretty talented students !


There’s a running joke going about Jill being in love with Justin Bieber.  They write it on the board whenever we’re not looking.

Tuesday night was the annual music festival.  The streets are filled with people and there are stages set up all around the city center.  The team of instructors went out to walk around and ran into a few students with their families.  The next day I heard a lot of good things from them about it. Several said it seems like there is always some kind of festival or holiday going on in France, which is kind of true ! It is indeed a particularly fun time to be here.


On Wednesday we had an optional bowling excursion with really awesome turnout.  They switched to black lights a few minutes after we started playing, so some of the pictures are not the best, but you can still see their smiling faces !



There was quite of bit of celebrating !


On Friday we had an excursion in the afternoon to Fontevraud, right outside of Saumur.  It is a very picturesque little town, with an incredible amount of flowers.


We first went to the retirement home there for some volunteering.  They graciously offered to provide lunch for us.  For many of the students it was the first time they had tried mussels and fries.  Some were skeptical at first, but it was actually quite a hit!  Most of the students really enjoyed this dish, which is very typical of the region.


I had a fun time passing my love of mussels along to my students, and teaching them the typical French method of using an empty shell like tongs to extract the mussels.


There were so many shells at the end !


After lunch, we played a French and American culture trivia game with the residents.  Our choir also sang the Marseillaise and La Volonté du Peuple, and then the residents sang two songs for us.


After the music and the game, the students had a chance to interact with the residents in small groups.  We had had them prepare questions that morning, and we were very pleased with how it went.  There were some really great conversations going, and you could tell that the residents really enjoyed the visit.


After visiting the retirement home, we walked over to the Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud, a very important abbey founded in 1101.  The King of England, Henry II, his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and son, King Richard the Lionheart, were buried here at the end of the 12th century.  The students got to explore the grounds in groups, and it was a really fun way to end the day.

Silly group photo.
Regular group photo.


Extremely old graffiti.


That is all I have for this post !  Thank you again for reading.  This week we will going on our Normandy excursion, so I’ll have plenty of photos of that for you all in the next post.  I hope you have all enjoyed this peek into our adventures.  Until next time !


Getting settled.

Hello again friends and families!  I am happy to report that our first full week in Saumur went wonderfully.  The students are now well settled in with their host families, and they really hit the ground running in classes this week and blew us all away!  Monday morning we had testing, with short classes in the afternoon.  On Tuesday we had our first regular class day. They all have such positive attitudes, and really give it their all.  Taking these classes all in French can be daunting, but the students are very easy-going and participate fully.


On Wednesday afternoon we took to the basketball courts for sports.  There was a real basketball game on one side of the court and a spirited game of horse on the other so they could decide what they wanted to do.  They were really happy to spend some time playing around outside after a long morning of classes!

On the way to the courts!
Getting excited!
A suspenseful moment.
Playing horse.
The fun doesn’t end once you’re out!


Jeremy’s favorite picture of himself, doing the thriller dance away from the ball.


Even on the days when we don’t have sports, the students have lots of fun together in between classes playing cards, Frisbee, and ninja, among other things.

Playing ninja.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the students have a choice between theater and choir.  I was so busy teaching my choir group the Marseillaise that I forgot to take pictures, but we had a lot of fun picking out songs for the farewell show.  Jill sat in on Michael’s theater group and got some wonderful shots.  They spent most of the time reading through some of the materials Michael put together and brainstorming ideas for the farewell show.  At the end they played freeze, an improvisational game in which two people act out a scene until someone else yells freeze, takes the place of one of the players, and then takes the scene in a new direction.  Things got a bit ridiculous!  The sequence of pictures below shows one of the funniest moments.

Reading and brainstorming.
Ross proposing to George during the game.
George responding that he just isn’t ready…
Jeremy jumped in and said yes!
Everyone had a good laugh.

On Friday we had our first excursion to three châteaux in the region: the Clos Lucé, Chenonceau, and Chambord.  The Clos Lucé is the manor where Leonardo da Vinci lived before his death.  We accompanied the students through the house and then sent them out into the grounds in groups where they could see and play with many of his inventions.

Walking through Amboise on our way to the Clos Lucé.
It was Richie’s birthday on Friday!
Carlee’s birthday is today!
Having so much fun at the Clos Lucé!


Luckily, we had plenty of sun in the morning while they were exploring the grounds.  It started raining shortly before we left, but the students were not bothered in the slightest!  They pulled out their umbrellas and raincoats and kept going up until the last minute.


Next we went to Chenonceau, a lovely castle built right across a river which is one of my personal favorites.  The students had a great time exploring the castle and the gardens!


The gallery extends over the river.


We ended the day at Chambord, an enormous castle built by François 1er for hunting.  The most unique parts of Chambord are the double helix staircase and the roof.

Chambord is a very impressive castle!
Looking up the center of the staircase.
Enjoying the roof.


It was a very long day, from 8am to 8pm, but the students were all so excited that it didn’t faze them in the slightest.  It was a really great day, despite the rain, and it was our pleasure to accompany the students on this excursion.  I’m including the links to the websites for the castles in case you want to take a look.

That brings this weeks update post to an end.  It is such a pleasure sharing these photos and experiences with you all, and I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the program.  Thanks for reading!

The adventure begins!

Hello to all the parents, guardians, friends and families who are following the Saumur blog this summer!  The last few days have been a whirlwind, between the long journey to Saumur and the busy first full day on site, but it was all positive attitudes and smiles with this group.  I think the excitement of being in France triumphs over fatigue!  Now the students have the entire weekend to get settled, get to know their host families, and rest before classes start next week.  I have lots of pictures to share with you, so I’ll just jump right in!

Day 1 : The flight.

Jill and Renata accompanied the students on the flight while Michael and I waited patiently in France.  The kids were all very excited and talking up a storm!  The flight went smoothly.  No bags were lost, and the flight actually got into Paris a little early.

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Lots of smiles at the airport!


Day 2 : Bus ride to Saumur, visit of Le Mans, meeting the families. 

We had all of day 2 to make our way to Saumur, since we weren’t meeting the host families until 6pm.  We made a mid-day stop in Le Mans for lunch, and then had a little tour around the city center with Bruno, our on-site coordinator’s brother who lives there.  It’s a picturesque, medieval city, and the students were so excited to finally be in France, get to walk around, and take it all in.

In France at last!
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The skinny buildings and winding streets of Le Mans.
Listening intently to Bruno.

Le Mans has a lovely cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows.  The students seemed quite taken aback by the beauty and enormity of it.  The choir was rehearsing for a concert while we were there, which made the whole experience that much more surreal and breathtaking.



There was a lot of picture taking!


Before heading back to the bus, we found a nice green space by the Sarthe river to sit for a bit.  It was nice to rest after walking around and just enjoy the sunshine. We were lucky to have such wonderful weather!


There were lots of flower crowns and bracelets.
Even Michael and I tried on the flower crowns!


Our secret plan to wear them out was a success!

We made it to Saumur right on schedule, and the families were already there waiting patiently.  As we pulled up in the bus and pointed out the crowd gathered for them, you could see the excitement on their faces.  It was the moment they had been waiting for!

The crowd of families.
The students waiting with anticipation.
Meeting families.
Going in for the bises (cheek kisses).


Day 3 : Ice-breaker activities and orientation at L’Institution Saint-Louis, and photo-excursion of Saumur.

Friday was another big day for the students.  We began at 9:10am, which is when classes will start during the week.  They seemed to be doing very well with the jet-lag, and were already speaking more readily in French, both with us and among themselves.

We started the day off with a few ice-breaker activities to wake them up and help them get more acquainted with each other.  They also voted on the class slogan for the trip.  There were a lot of great suggestions, but they picked “intégrité, fraternité, français,” integrity, fraternity, French.  It is a clever play on the French national motto “liberté, egalité, fraternité,” freedom, equality, fraternity.  The slogan is entirely up to the students, but we were very happy with it as it reflects the core values of our program and is very positive (and very French!).

Playing the Human Knot.


Our wonderful slogan.

Before lunch, we took the students on a little tour of L’Institution Saint-Louis, where we have classes, and the city center of Saumur.  L’Institution Saint-Louis has a beautiful campus with gardens and a chapel.  It is quite different from what they are used to!

Michael leading the tour of the campus.
A lovely patch of the gardens.
L’Institution Saint-Louis
The chapel.
The Loire.

By then we were all getting hungry!  You can all rest assured that Chef Fred at the L’Habitat Jeunes du Saumurois will feed them (very!) well.  On Friday they had the choice of pork, chicken, or fish as a main course.  They also choose three items from a variety of salads, patés, cheeses, fruit, and desserts, such as blackcurrant applesauce, yogurt, or chocolate mousse.


After lunch we walked up to the castle, and then back to school to finish orientation with some useful information, tips and tricks for communicating with the host family, etc.  We showed them briefly how to get to the shopping center down the street, and then waited with them for the host families.

What a view!
The castle and the Loire.

It was a busy couple of days, but this entire group has such a fantastic attitude that it just flew by.  They were always ready to go and didn’t let jet-lag hold them back.  I personally can’t wait to get them in the classroom on Monday, but I’m sure they’re just enjoying the weekend and are happy to be catching up on their sleep and spending time with their host families.



Hello parents, guardians, friends and family! Welcome to the IUHPFL blog for Saumur 2016. The big day has finally arrived, and our stagiaires  are on their way! I am already waiting for them in Paris, enjoying the views and counting down the hours.
My name is Liz Myers and I am the Public Relations Coordinator and Linguistics instructor for the program.  I will be running this blog throughout the duration of the program, posting pictures and stories weekly, so as to give you a glimpse into the adventures we experience together! I know it is difficult to be away from your son or daughter, but I hope that this blog will help connect you to them and keep you up to date on all the excitement! I will do my best to post as many pictures as possible of all our students so you can see their smiling faces and know we’re having a wonderful time.

Feel free to leave comments and let me know if you have any questions about what we’re doing or how the blog will be run.