Students in France: A Summer of Cultural Enrichment

by Thomas More College on August 3, 2012

Two Thomas More College students are attending the Institut Catholique in Toulouse, France as part of an intensive French immersion program. Joining students from all over the world, seniors Marielle Gage and Andrew Strain are taking sure steps towards achieving their post graduation plans.

“Andrew is hoping to attend graduate school in France for philosophy and I want to pursue Medieval Studies,” said Marielle. “Dr. Blum highly encouraged us to pick up some French in preparation, so here we are in Toulouse!”

The French instruction Marielle and Andrew are now receiving is in addition to two years of Latin and or Greek required by Thomas More College.  The study of ancient languages enriches the students’ understanding of the classical works, originally written in Latin or Greek, which they read in the Humanities.

Marielle and Andrew also have the opportunity to chant Latin during the Divine Office at the College, experiencing firsthand the Church’s great liturgical tradition of Latin prayer.  Such knowledge of foreign and ancient languages opens the students’ eyes to the role of language as a bridge between different cultures and between history and our own time.

Marielle and Andrew’s time at the Institute Catholique de Toulouse, the heir of a medieval university founded in 1229, is an important extension of their linguistic knowledge. Taught by a dynamic team of specialists in the French language, courses cover modules of grammar, written comprehension and composition, oral expression, and enrichment of vocabulary. Each week consists of 20 hours in the classroom where students of all ages from around the world gather together to improve their French.

Andrew praised the Institut for its service to the Church, “Faithful and devout Catholics in France are making similar efforts to fight against the problems of secularism as Thomas More College.  It is certainly sad to see secularism rampant, especially in light of France’s rich Catholic heritage, but the work of the Institut is heartening.”

In addition to expanding their knowledge of the French language, Marielle and Andrew are getting to know the city of Toulouse, the fourth largest city in all of France, and the third college town. Called the Pink City, Toulouse is the capital of Aerospace and is known for its quality of life and its gastronomy. Its location is a strategic crossroads of southern Europe and it is in a key area between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, while also close to the Pyrenees.

Marielle and Andrew also made it a point to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes to see the shrine where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858—a site of numerous miracles of healing and spiritual conversions.

“Oh my goodness that was wonderful,” said Marielle. “We were there with a large pilgrimage group, including dozens in wheelchairs, and it was heartwarming to see the care and love given to those poor souls. The shrine was full of people, and yet somehow peaceful at the same time.”

Marielle and Andrew are taking every advantage of opportunities to experience the incredible religious and cultural patrimony of “The Eldest Daughter of the Church.”

The time Marielle and Andrew have spent at Thomas More College has allowed them each to pursue a path of learning that is not geared towards a specific career, but rather towards a formation of the whole person. They, along with their peers, learn to articulate their thoughts in conversation, and attain critical thinking and writing skills through studying the liberal arts. More importantly, students grow in knowledge of themselves and God. Along the way, many, like Marielle and Andrew, discover what they are interested in pursuing long term, whether academia, a business career, or even a religious vocation and furthermore, they are properly equipped with the skills to then serve in those areas.

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