Name: Hao Li
Location of Study: Tours, France
Program of Study: Institut de Touraine
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
I am currently a freshman from Beijing, China. I have always loved languages and after spending ten years on English, I started my journey to be trilingual. I chose French because I love fashion, arts and museums. I am planning to major in Finance and French.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
After speaking with the French faculty advisor, I learned that past students improved so much in their language proficiency because of this program’s holistic training in speaking, writing, listening and reading. Also professor Martin told me that Tours is one of the regions where people speak the most standard French, which I aim to achieve when I speak French. Students who have been there also assure me that there will be plenty of opportunities to communicate in French with host families and fellow students. She specifically mentioned the kind granny and her delicious home-cooked food in her host family, which makes her experience so great. Students there come from all over the world with a common interest in French so we can know more about each other’s countries while exploring a new one together. I will tell them my experiences in China and the U.S. while developing a more international worldview.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
At Notre Dame, I am planning to major in French and art history, in order to develop expertise in French language and culture along with the theory and the practice of artworks. This summer opportunity will help me speak French with better accuracy and confidence, which I will bring back on campus in future French and other classes. I will also be able to research French art and literature in its original text. With the acquisition of French culture and language, I can expand my analytical proficiency in objectively critiquing French works of art and interpreting them, examine how art connects cultures, societies and media in France and even connect with my Chinese and English background. After graduation, I’m interested in working in art industry, like managing collections, caring and preserving artifacts, exhibition programing. The knowledge I gained this summer will be a valuable asset for my future career. I believe my expertise in three languages would be fundamental for my dream to improve the global collaboration among museums.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
To further improve my language, especially spoken French, and my knowledge about French art and museums, I decide to go to France this summer. During my time there, I will try to speak French as much as possible and immerse myself in French culture. By the end of my stay, I will be capable of discussing a variety of topics in French, from everyday life to literature. I also plan to write journals in French about my trips to visit Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and many more world-renowned museums. At the end of this program, I will write a report comparing the museums in China, the U.S. and France in their different ways of communicating with audiences.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
What also excited me is that Tours is a historical city with cultural heritages and is only one hour away from the best museum city in the world – Paris! I am planning to fully take advantage of the historical sites near Tours during weekends and learn as much as I can. I will also take the cultural class offered at Institut de Touraine and go to the weekend excursions to great places like Mont Saint-Michel. So that’s why Institut de Touraine satisfies my needs- while immersing in French environment where I receive professional training in language, I get to learn about art, history and culture first hand.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Week 1 in Paris
I can’t believe I have been in Paris -the city of my dream- for a week! The transition is easier than I thought and I’m getting used to my new life in Paris!
Before I came here, I thought I would hang out with Chinese or English-speaking people because I started French last year and I just finished my intermediate class. I was not very confident about my level of French but I promised myself to speak French as much as possible. This wasn’t very too easy on the first two days! Whenever I tried to speak French with the shop assistants, waiters or other people, they would detect the foreignness of my broken French in a second and respond in English. And despite the rumor that French people don’t speak English, their English is really good! At least better than my French. But I will try yo stick to French in the next three weeks because this is why I came to France!
Besides, I met several new friends in my class. They are from Switzerland and Japan. Since they speak French better than English, we speak French all the time. At first it was a little difficult to keep the French conversation going because we’re all in the B2 level class. We just talked about the basic information of ourselves and it was like going over the first chapter of French 101. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” etc. But I find communication doesn’t solely rely on language, we use all we can to get ourselves across, facial expressions, gestures, pictures etc etc. If we really tried, language is not such a huge barrier of communication!
I spent my afternoons in museums in Paris and they blew me away. I spent six hours in the Louvre and it was really exciting to see all the works we discussed in my art history class. There are so many museums to visit and I am excited to see them all.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Week 2 in Paris
This week is full of French food exploration and the experience is truly eye-opening! I met a new friend in class and she is such a foodie. After class, we would have lunch at a café on the renowned Rue de Saint-Germain-des-Près and then go to the best chocolatier/patisserie/glacier for the best chocolate/pastry/ice cream I’ve had in my life. There are so many awesome desserts here and now I’m worried that four weeks won’t be enough to try them all! My favorite patisserie is Pierre Hermé, the shop with the best macarons and millefeuilles in the world. The shop is really small and I have to wait for twenty minutes each time. The pastries there are HEAVEN. I tried tartare, escargots, moules&frites, foie gras, kir royale, rosé wine, ritz au lait etc etc for the first time. Some of them became my new favorite food and others are interesting experiments. I come from China and I had always thought there’s nothing can even compare with Chinese cuisine. But now French food totally has my heart. Even the plain baguette tastes so good!
I’m also amazed at how fast my language skills improved with constant practice. I spoke French all the time, which made me exhausted, and I learned so many new expressions from my friends! I couldn’t even greet people on my first day but now I can elaborate on my frosh-o experience in Notre Dame for 30 minutes in French, probably because I often speak without conjugations and in the wrong tense. But the primary purpose of language is to communicate, I wouldn’t worry about the grammar now. It makes me feel so happy to finally use such a beautiful language!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Week 3 in Paris
This week I found a lot about cultural differences. I asked my European friends about their opinions on China and the U.S.. They think Americans are loud, overweight, add sugar to every food, love rap music and smoke weed. (They have only been to California.) Chinese people eat every animal, are quiet, hardworking and smart (Actually I add “smart” myself). And I’m surprised to learn that Swiss college students don’t live in dorms but apartments or parents’ home. In Japan, on valentine’s day girls offer chocolates to boys they like and if the boy is interested, he would send chocolates to the girl a month later, on March 14th. How interesting! My friends are very interested in my college life in the States and how I adapted to the cultural differences and we shared so many funny stories!
We also met some French people and they are kind enough to help us with our French though they laughed so hard at my mistakes. We also learned a lot idioms and slangs like how the gangs speak the words backwards and how people abbreviate everything while speaking. They also introduced us to the French lifestyle: we drank wine sitting besides the Seine; had picnics in the beautiful gardens like Tuileries and Luxembourg; went to the trendy local clubs and cafés; bought freshly made baguettes for breakfast. I frequented the boulangerie next to my dorm so much that the boulanger knows my name and my preferences on the bread. I’m really enjoying my life in Paris! It’s definitely a life dream come true. I feel grateful to have met these open-minded an interesting people in Paris and open my eyes to not only French culture but many more cultures I knew little about. I’m also happy to share my experience in China and Notre Dame.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Week 4 in Paris
This week went by really fast by checking all my favorite restaurants one last time before I leave. I can’t believe time flies so fast and it’s already my last week in Paris! For the whole week I was thinking about what is the most important thing I learned in Paris. The language skills are important and my new friends are great but the most important lesson I learned is to always keep an open mind and welcome new things in my life. I’ve met friends who has been to 34 countries, who speak four languages fluently, who would spend $10,000 for her cat to travel with her, and so many more. After overcoming the culture shock and living in a foreign country myself, I become more confident and independent. I used to be very insecure about myself, always fearing that I am not good enough. Now after spending a lot of quality with cool friends and myself, I am happy with who I am. With school starting next week, I am ready for more challenges in the new semester! And I can’t wait to show off my new language skills in my new French class.
I would like thank once again for the donors who made my trip to Paris come true. I’ve made great progress in French and I will continue to develop my interests in French language and culture in Notre Dame.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
The primary goal of this summer abroad in Paris to improve my speaking French. When I first arrived here, I basically forgot every single word I learnt the last two semester. Whenever I asked for something in the shop, the shop assistant would reply in English immediately. However, when I started classes and met my fellow French learners, I started to remember everything and spoke more confidently. I found it amazing that people with not so perfect language skills are able to communicate. Though our French is not perfect and we come from all over the world, we tried together and had a really good time. Now I can actively use the limited words I know to get myself understood. I’m amazed to see that everyone’s French improved so fast while constantly practicing.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
I absolutely love this summer in Paris! I love the people I met here, people who spoke French patiently with me, who struggled to “parler français” together, who told me their life stories… They showed me a lot of lifestyles that I didn’t know before and gave me more insights on how I want to live my life. The advise I would give is to try to get the most of your experience, step out of your comfort zone, meet people and speak the language you’re learning as much as possible. You’ll be surprised about how fast you can adjust into a new culture and how well you can speak your target language.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I will continue to learn French in the next few years until I can be fluent. In school, I would take my passion for French into other disciplines. My experience in learning French has taught me to never stop practicing and applying what you have learnt in real life. In France I met people with very different priorities in life and worldview. Talking to them made me more open-minded and more confident to continue my way of living because everyone has the right to be themselves. After being exposed to a completely differently culture and adjusted to it all by myself, I became more confident in my abilities and ready for more challenges in the future!