Bienvenue à Pau, France!
I’ve been in Pau for nearly a month now and I’m excited to share with you the biggest surprises this city has offered me and my fellow classmates abroad.
Pau is in the southwestern part of France in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region. It’s known for resting beside the beautiful Pyrenees mountains. It’s a small city but don’t let that discourage you. Plenty of surprises lurk around every corner!
When you arrive in a new city, let alone a country, it’s a huge relief when the people there are actually nice! When I first arrived I was very nervous every time I had a wild encounter with a French person. To my surprise, everyone was very understanding and patient. It’s a good thing most people don’t speak any English because it grants students like us more opportunities to develop our language skills.
However, one cool thing I came to find was that many people in this region of France speak Spanish! I guess it’s no surprise considering how close we are to Spain, but it’s made my transition much easier. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to connect with the local people. If you are like me, then Pau is the perfect place for you to learn French and utilize your Spanish skills! You can use these opportunities to make local friends immediately and that’s always a huge plus when trying to adjust to a new home.
La Ville de Pau
So what’s the city like? Stay tuned for a tour of the city (coming soon), I am still getting acquainted with it in order to show you the best places to go!
For now, what I’ve come to find is that for such a small city, there are many young people around. It’s a great atmosphere to make friends and build connections. In fact, every Thursday night there’s a free concert in the downtown area. Many people come together so it’s a good opportunity to have fun with locals.
The city is also very accessible. It’s great to be able to walk everywhere! I can literally walk from my house which is next to the university to the beautiful Castle of Pau in the downtown area.
The last thing I’d like to mention is the weather! It’s been pretty awesome. I’ve seen the sun every day. This did not happen in Portland. We get a bit of everything here, it can be cloudy some days, a bit rainy others and then the sun makes an appearance once again. From what I’ve heard from the locals, it doesn’t get very cold here. We do have palm trees after all!
Dans la classe
I cannot stress this enough; my time in the classroom is so awesome! I never thought I’d enjoy going to French class this much. My professors are funny and so good at what they do. The classroom feels open and free. Stress? Leave that at home. We do various activities and exercise our French skills in really amusing ways!
Here’s a fun fact: EVERY student in my classroom is from a different country! That’s right, there’s currently 15 of us and we are all from different countries from around the globe. This is actually uncommon for this program but it has been the coolest surprise thus far.
Les étudiants d’USAC
Lastly, I’d like to give other students the opportunity to voice their experiences here in Pau. You’ve read what it’s been like for me but one thing you learn to appreciate while being abroad is how beautiful diversity can be:
“I was surprised at how much I liked the city despite it being so small. There’s a calm atmosphere here with a traditional French feel.” -Yesenia
“I noticed right away the difference between our quality of living. The need for efficiency and not to waste is the main focus in people’s homes. The people here are very conscious about conversation and it’s reflected in their culture.” -Robyn
“What surprised me most about Pau is how many students I’ve met from all over the world. Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Ireland, Iraq etc. It’s amazing to connect with these people and share the same classroom.” -Molly
“Before my program started in Pau, I traveled to Paris by myself. It was great with all the museums and restaurants but I felt alone in a big city. Here in Pau, there’s such a welcoming atmosphere and my host mom made it very easy to be away from home. Pau is one of the hidden gems of France and I am very happy to be here.” -Richelle
Ulises Gonsalez is a digital communications intern for USAC who is studying abroad in Pau, France for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. He attends Portland State University.