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Toulouse, France—The Best Place to Study Abroad in France Right Now by Kirra Edelman, Agribusiness Management Major

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Posted: June 12, 2018

As I was close to entering my last semester as an undergraduate at Penn State University, I realized I was missing something; a study abroad experience.
Me—In front of the Capital of Toulouse, France

Me—In front of the Capital of Toulouse, France

As I was close to entering my last semester as an undergraduate at Penn State University, I realized I was missing something; a study abroad experience. The College of Agricultural Sciences provided me with a life-changing experience in Toulouse, France. This was through an embedded course AGBM 470: Comparing Food Systems in the United States & France. Although the trip was only for two weeks, I learned quite a lot.

Upon arrival, we got a tour around the city and learned how to navigate. This was extremely helpful when we had free time. The next day we toured several food markets including Victor Hugo Market. I was surprised to see how different it was compared to the United States’ typical grocery markets. There were several vendors with ridiculous amounts of cheese, vendors with chickens that had their necks and claws still on, and many other varieties of food as well.

We were lucky to attend a macarons workshop. We were able to make strawberry pistachio, chocolate, and caramel flavored macarons. A few days later we made it to Carcassonne and then Port Vendres where we stayed in a hostel and went on several hikes. The scenery was wonderful. Carcassonne was the castle in which we visited. 

On the last day, we helped one of our guest lecturers make dinner at her house. The house was originally built in the 1700s and owned by her husbands family since the 1800s. The house had several historical monuments including the sword of the mayor of Toulouse. Here we helped make a delicious five-course meal.

Throughout my trip, I learned many things. Bread, wine, and cheese is an essential part of meals in France. Also, meals and food are considered much more ‘sacred’. We would often find ourselves rushing ourselves throughout meals to leave, yet we weren’t required to. In the United States, we treat meals as a social event and tend to be in a rush to finish. I learned quite a few self-management skills. At first, I found it extremely stressful ordering food at the markets and communicating with the French. Luckily, I remembered the basics of the French language after taking 5 years in high school. I found myself leading the group in finding our way throughout the city by learning that the buildings stones told us whether we were going North, East, South, or West.

I would describe my trip as life-changing and advantageous to a potential employer. I believe that studying abroad and living in another culture gives me a wider perspective of the world. I chose to specialize in international business, so this class allowed me to compare the United States with an international country. Not only did I get to explore the food systems between both countries, but I got to see the differences in culture and general life.