Invited by French students at the Université de Strasbourg taking English classes, a couple of Syracuse Strasbourg students layered up to venture into the snowy, beautiful, freezing mountains of the Vosges just outside the city.
The French students had prepared a day-long excursion of snowshoeing at Mount Donon with explanations of major sites, such as a WWI battlefield and a fake ancient Greek temple, in English. It was to be a chance for both groups of students to practice their foreign languages. And to play in the snow, of course.
We geared up (with a lot of borrowed clothing and equipment, since none of us thought about trekking through a foot of snow when we packed our bags in August), strapped on our snowshoes, and set off. Well, not quite. It was a slow start, since none of us had ever snowshoed before, and one student had a dire case of numb, frozen toes. After a while of warming up toes and switching boots, we actually got going and lumbered uncoordinatedly, but successfully up the mountain.
We climbed in a single-file line, with American students strategically dispersed among the French and chatted a bit, mostly in English, filling in with French as necessary. Speaking in foreign languages is always a bit awkward and we sometimes chatted among ourselves in our own languages. But culture and language exchange happen in unexpected and bizarre ways, like when one American student quoted French soccer player Nicolas Anelka’s foul language during the World Cup (the French students were pretty impressed) or when a couple of the French students started singing I Know You Want Me, by Pitbull.
And of course, the view was stellar, to say the least. The first snowfall of the season had left a layer of fresh, clean snow. With everything in sight covered in white, it felt like walking through the wintery scenes of Narnia. The view from the top was absolutely magnificent and it was a breath of fresh air (though a bitterly cold one) to get out of the city and immerse oneself into the beauty of the Vosges.
Submitted by: Allison Yee, Duke U. Strasbourg