Postcards from Abroad: Like Fine Wine, UNO's Glories of France Program Gets Better with Age
As glorious as spending five weeks in the southern province of Montpellier and traveling around the magnificent country of France for summer school may sound, this dream has been a reality for 40 students since July 1.
On the University of New Orleans's Glories of France study abroad program, students and staff are truly immersed in the French culture. They are housed in private apartment studios surrounded by lush lavender and flowery plants, within walking distance to the Montpellier SupAgro, the Languedoc-Roussillon region's prominent university known for its programs in agriculture and engineering.
"I want you to really get to know France," said Marie Kaposchyn, program director for UNO Rome, UNO Costa Rica and the Glories of France, told students as they arrived in Montpelier this summer.
For 21 of the 31 years the program has been in existence, Kaposchyn has ensured just that by planning special excursions and having students attend different events, such as the local festival "Les Estivales de Montpelier," a two-month wine and music festival which includes a night-time market showcasing goods and products of local artists, booksellers, farmers and 180 winegrowers from around the region.
Past program participants have spent a weekend in Paris and celebrated Bastille Day; journeyed to France's Wild West and seen a real working bull ranch -- and travelled to surrounding cities such as Carcasonne, Arles and Nice.
"It gave us a chance to sample some of the local culture and learn that France wasn't all about baguettes and berets," said Nola Garman, a UNO junior and past participant. She is currently majoring in political science with a minor in French.
Yet, for the program's 31st anniversary, Kaposchyn wanted her program to have even more special highlights.
Students studying abroad this summer with the Glories of France program have witnessed the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France and seen its caravan up close, held a scavenger hunt in the city of Avignon during the city's International Theater Festival, spent a weekend in Paris during Bastille Day celebrations and canoed underneath an ancient bridge where legend tells of St. Guilhem defeating the devil himself.
In addition, students have enjoyed opportunities to individually travel; stroll through the vineyards of Chateau Camplazens, Chateau de Pommard and Montpellier's SupAgro; enjoy another weekend in the Rhone and Burgundy wine regions; sample and discuss wines with Montpellier's professor of enology, Alain Razungles; and still find time to spend several afternoons lying on a sandy white beach along the Mediterranean Sea.
"I've had the time of my life on this program," said Nathan Wallo, a first-time participant and UNO computer science major.
Last night, for the first time in GOF history, students and staff celebrated the program's farewell party at an ancient French castle that is now a resort.
The summer fun all took place while students and staff still attended classes and studied for midterms and finals.
The program offers classes in musical studies, history, film and French language and boasts several options particular to the College of Business Administrations' hotel, restaurant and tourism administration students.
The most popular course of the program -- demanding two sections -- was Wines of the World, which allows students an in-depth perspective about wines from France and beyond.
According to Dr. Harsha Chacko, the academic director and instructor for the wine course, France provides the perfect setting for learning about wine, especially since "they do not grow wine-making grapes in ugly places, only beautiful ones."
For HRT student and intern Alan Weiss, sampling the different wines daily and learning about the regions in which they came from was his favorite element of the class. Weiss particularly enjoyed the field trip to Chateau Camplazens, where he tasted various wine samples and bought a bottle of wine that he wants to share with his grandmother when he returns home.
With so many destinations explored, marriages that resulted from first-time meetings between participants, scavenger hunts and vineyard visits completed, one can only wonder what next year the Glories of France program will bring.