Arts & Culture

Dine On in Dijon

Hello King’s! I am writing this article from Dijon, a lovely city in the Burgundy region of France, about two hours east of Paris. I am doing an exchange program through the Dalhousie French Department with the Centre International d’Etudes Francaises (CIEF) at the Université de Bourgogne. This is my first time in France, and so far I am having a wonderful experience.
My host family is absolutely fantastic. From the moment we met at the train station, they have been welcoming and accommodating in every way. I also have two roommates from Indiana with whom I get along very well. From my perspective, living with a host family is certainly the best way to become familiar with the culture and improve language skills. My fluency and comprehension have improved significantly since I arrived; I can now keep up in conversation with my host-siblings. As for culture, my host parents prepare delicious French cuisine every night. In case you were curious, the stereotypes are true: we have wine, cheese and baguette with each meal. I am becoming a real cheese connoisseur! Unfortunately, I cannot bring any cheese through Canadian customs, so I am really making an effort to eat as much as possible while I have the chance.
At the CIEF, I have 21 hours of class per week. I have mandatory courses in Oral Expression and Comprehension, Written Expression and Comprehension, Grammar and Writing Techniques, as well as a class about French Civilisation and a class of Familiar French. So 20 hours per week, I learn to speak properly and for one hour we learn how to speak in slang. Vachement hyperclasse! Additionally, students in my level must take 6 hours of culture courses. My roommates and I have elected to take the Wine and Gastronomy classes as well. We are learning a lot and we are very excited for the upcoming wine-tasting.

(Photo: Rebecca Riordon)

France has an incredible railway system that makes traveling very easy. Three weeks ago I went to Paris for a weekend with a group of friends. I saw most of the main tourist attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, l’Arc de Triomphe, the Jardin de Luxembourg, and the Champs Elysees, among others. My school also puts on excursions for us; we’ve been to Lyon and the Loire Valley, and in April we will tour Provence. I also have trips planned for Nice, Corsica, Switzerland and Germany.
Europe has been much less overwhelming than I had expected. To date, I have not experienced any culture shock. That is not to say that everything is the same as Canada, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and efficient everything has been. Some differences include ambulance sirens, narrow sidewalks, stone buildings, less green space and giant keys. There are literally bakeries on every corner—my goal is to try a pastry from each one in Dijon. I am well on my way to accomplishing this goal.
The one thing that has most surprised me during my time in France is that many people I encounter immediately recognize that I am Canadian. Apparently I speak with a “joli accent canadien” that sets me apart from les Français. This was surprising for me because I didn’t realize I had an accent, as I have only ever spoken French in school. In any case, most people think it’s cute, which is a bonus. And at least nobody mistakes me for an American (no offence intended to Americans).
Au revoir! Bizous de Dijon!

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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