The Way of the French

When I arrived in France I spoke absolutely no French. Now, approximately a month later, I still speak no French. Well that is an exaggeration, but my comprehension and conversational skills are still very very very low. Unfortunately, the language class offered at Sciences Po Lyon does not contain a beginner’s level. Students with similar levels of French are bunched up in one class. Since everyone speaks mountains more French than me, the lowest level class is still 100 times passed my comprehension level. However, as the French say, c’est la vie.

This brings me to our French language instructor Professor Christophe. A curly haired friendly French man who largely refuses to speak English in class, Professor Christophe has a tendency to call on me to answer questions when he very well understands that my French skills are impoverished. I found the class initially very boring as I understood little to nothing that was going on. However, as time went on, Professor Christophe and I developed a friendly relationship filled with lively incoherent conversations that involved him partially understanding my English and me not understanding his French at all. Even though there is a huge language gap and a steep learning curve, I am having a great time in this class. Professor Christophe is a very nice teacher and takes the time to individually teach me the pronunciations and make sure that I’m not completely clueless as to what is going on. A soft spoken yet firm teacher, Professor Christophe is a lot of fun and has a good sense of humor. I am very glad that he takes my jokes well and enjoys my random comments in English (at least I hope he does). I could not be happier that I am learning French from him, and I really respect and appreciate the effort he puts in both in and out of class to ensure that he is able to help and advance every student regardless of the their French levels.

Yvan celebrating his birthday!


I have seen a lot of French students in the streets of Lyon, but none have been as inappropriately funny as my French home-stay brother Paul-Eliot. A 15 year old boy of many not so politically correct and PG jokes, Paul- Eliot constantly shows me French memes and translates them into English for me. I thoroughly enjoy helping him with his English homework and giving him a hard time whenever his teacher gives him a bad mark (all in good fun of course).

For a 15 year old, Paul-Eliot stays pretty busy. On Thursdays he has almost 9 hours of class and every Wednesday he does not get home from his “Fireman” activity until 8:30PM. Apparently, in France, the Firehouse holds activities where students can go to learn the duties of a fireman and engage in some exercise and workouts. The Firehouse also puts on a “Fireman Ball” where members of the community and participants of the Fireman class are invited to a soiree filled with small eats and dancing. My host family regularly attends; sadly I was not able to join this time because of my trip of Avignon.

Paul-Eliot is just one of the many great characters in my French family. Stay tuned for next week when I introduce my French sister Lison.


If one follows the Rhone river towards the Southern region of France, past Lyon, one arrives in a region known as Provence. While extremely beautiful during the summer, the sights during the winter are not so shabby either. A region that produces some great wines and picturesque postcards, Provence has been one of mine and my girlfriend’s favorite regions. In addition to being very beautiful, the region is also very cheap to get to via Flixbus, Ouibus, or Ouigo. For around 9-12 euros, you can make your way to some beautiful French towns and get away from the humdrum of the cities.

This weekend we visited Nimes, which is only about an hour away from Avignon (our choice of travel for last week). The city is very small, but has some amazing Roman architecture scattered throughout the town. In addition to a small pantheon, there is a very big Colosseum as well as beautiful statues. 20 kilometers outside the city is Pont du Gard. Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts and listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance. The aqueduct was built as part of a 50 kilometer water system that carried water from a spring at Uzes to the Roman colony of Nimes. At almost 50 meters tall, Pont Du Gard is an amazing architectural feat. It is hard to believe that people were able to build something of this caliber in the first century AD without heavy machinery or tools. That is Roman ingenuity I guess.

In addition to Pont du Gard, Nimes is just incredibly quaint and cozy. The buildings are extremely close together and the streets very narrow. With only 140,000 inhabitants, the city is sparsely populated despite its small size and there are few crowds like the ones one would see in Lyon or Paris. The public transit in the town should not be disregarded simply due to the city’s size. At only 160 square kilometers, Nimes has arguably a better public transport system than some of the biggest metropolises in the United States. The buses run every 7 minutes and only costs 1.5 euros for a ticket. One can easily get all around town on the bus, and there is little need to own a car. There is even a more extensive transport system that will take you to near by towns such as Uzes, Ales, and Poet du Gard for the same 1.5 euros. Overall, Nimes is a beautiful city and definitely worthy of at least a day trip.

I got the opportunity to fly my drone and make a video of the small city; the video can be found here:

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017: