Name: Kirstyn Ruiz
Location of Study: Vichy, France
Program of Study: CAVILAM-Alliance française in Vichy
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
My name is Kirstyn, and I am currently a freshman living in Farley Hall. I am pursuing a major in Political Science with a supplementary major in French. I reside in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, and in my free time I enjoy running, traveling, and baking. I began studying French my freshman year in high school and immediately fell in love with the language. I hope to attain fluency in order to pursue a career involving foreign diplomacy.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
I have always been captivated by the culture and language of the French people. For this reason, I want the French language to remain an integral part of my life and plan to continue to study it throughout my four years at Notre Dame. The SLA award provides me with the opportunity to further my language education and help me reach my goal of fluency in French. Through the SLA award I hope to immerse myself into the French culture while attaining fluency in a global language. In considering my future, I desire to attain a career in foreign diplomacy or in an international organization, such as the Red Cross, helping in third world French speaking countries. By studying abroad this summer, I will gain a higher proficiency of the language and a taste of the French life. Through this experience I will be able to advance my French studies and have a glimpse of my possible future career.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
French continues to become an increasingly popular language used in the global world, leading to my interest in combining a Political Science major with a French major. Through the opportunity to live and study in France over the summer, not only do I hope to gain higher proficiency of the language, but I also want to learn more about the life and business world of a country continually growing in national importance.
Along with the academic aspect of studying in France for six weeks, I hope to expand my cultural horizons by embracing as many opportunities as possible. Living with a host family, I hope to learn more about their life and how it differs from the daily activities here in the United States. I hope to visit as many attractions as possible both local and around France while deepening my cultural enrichment and appreciation of the language I have come to love.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to comfortably converse with native French speakers and initiate conversations on a broad spectrum of topics.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to speak, write, and read French with an advanced level of understanding and with few errors.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to stay up-to-date with current French news, literature, and other aspects of the cultural worlds.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to correctly pronounce and grammatically formulate sentences in French while comfortably asking questions when something is unclear.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
Upon my arrival to Vichy, I plan to immediately try out my French speaking skills with the natives and not fear the prospect of incorrectly formulating a sentence. Because I intend on studying at CAVILAM-Alliance française in Vichy, a school for international students to learn French, I hope to meet as many students from different backgrounds as possible. This will allow me to expand my cultural understanding of the world as well as open me to new experiences of people with different customs.
Additionally, I plan to explore the city of Vichy as well as take part in the cultural excursions provided by the school extending learning formal French in the classroom to the slang of the people. I plan on living with a host family so that my learning of French would not cease after leaving class, but continue as an integral part of my daily life. Additionally, living with a family will acquaint me with their culture, tradition, and way of life. In this way, I can deeply immerse myself in French by attaining all aspects of the language through speaking and writing as well as through the people and the rich culture of such a diverse country.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
It has already been one week since I first came to Vichy, and I cannot believe how much I have learned since first arriving. I realized the importance of my French classes in the United States when my flight from Chicago to Charles de Gaulle airport was delayed causing me to miss my connecting flight to Clermont-Ferrand. As a result, I had to explain to the woman at the service desk my situation, and when I succeeded, I felt reassured that I would be able to communicate with the French people despite only studying the language for five years.
When I finally arrived, I learned that my host mother could not speak English very well. At first, I was scared of my ability to communicate with her, but now I find myself glad of this language barrier: it forces me to think of new ways to describe words that I do not know how to say, as well as listen carefully to daily conversation to try to learn new vocabulary. I also live with another girl from Japan who came to Vichy two months earlier without knowing any French. We are around the same level so we can have conversations and help each other when we forget the meaning of a word or the conjugation of a verb.
I live right in the center of Vichy: a convenient location for walking to school and exploring the city. I find myself trying to listen in on the conversations of the natives as they take a walk along the river or rest at a café. I have become so accustomed to hearing French that I don’t even notice the language difference anymore and have even begun to think in it.
One of my favorite parts about studying at an international school is the opportunity to meet different students from different parts of the world such as Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil, South Korea, Ireland, Switzerland and so many more! In class when we speak about different topics such as social events or political issues, it’s interesting to hear the opinions and perspectives of different people coming from various walks of life. Despite our differences in culture, we all share an interest in French, struggling and succeeding in class together, which allows for enjoyable and unforgettable experiences.
For me, one of the most difficult parts as a foreigner in another country is becoming accustomed to their way of life and culture. My biggest culture shocks came when I discovered that the French truly are not wasteful: I learned the hard way that I was allotted a certain amount of hot water for showering. Additionally, it stays light out until around 10 P.M. allowing for more day time activities and resulting in a later dinner around 8 P.M. I was not very happy to hear this after skipping lunch on the plane and finding out that I still had another eight hours until dinner time. Another shock came when my host mother served me half of a flatbread pizza and expected me to finish it because they prefer fresh food to leftovers. One large difference from the United States that I noticed is the preference of living a slow, relaxing life. At school the students receive two hours for lunch and often businesses will close so the owners can take a break. Even their manners are different: unlike the United States where people smile at each other when they pass while walking down the street, the French keep to themselves and usually look down to avoid eye contact. To a stranger like myself, this may seem rude, but they are actually very accepting of others. For example, I went to a café for lunch with other students from school. The owner quickly noticed that we were not natives and began to explain the menu to us slowly in French. She even introduced us to Carottes Vichy – the specialty of the city known for its use of fresh Vichy water and consisting of glazed carrots topped with parsley. She was very friendly and trusting – when she thought one of the girls didn’t have enough euros to pay for her lunch, she told her that she could come back the next day with the correct amount of money.
Despite my advancements in language learning, I find it frustrating when I do not know a specific word in French forcing me to speak in more simple sentences and less complete thoughts. Additionally, I struggle to speak at a normal pace and not lose my French accent which I am determined to perfect after one of my professors called me out in class for speaking too much like an American. After a week, however, I have grown accustomed to my new way of life and become less scared when talking to natives. One of my biggest accomplishments, came at the end of the week: a French college student interning at the school asked my friend who had only taken two years of French to lunch. My friend asked me to come with because I was more experienced, and she was scared of her inability to understand. My confidence was reassured as I was able to interpret and translate for my friend the different questions and responses of the French girl. As my French continues to improve, I look forward to the new experience that the coming weeks will bring.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
This past weekend, is one that I will never forget! I visited Paris with a friend from school – something I had been waiting many years to do. I found myself confident in navigating the different streets as well as the metro to get us to our destinations despite it being my first time in the city. My favorite moment was walking out of the metro station to see the sun shining over the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing to see people from all over the world marveling at such a grand object. I loved exploring the streets and observing the beautiful architecture while visiting well known places such as the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course Notre Dame Cathedral; not to mention a trip to Laudrée where I bought my favorite pastry – macaroons! I even saw other Notre Dame students visiting the city while abroad through various programs. With each day, my confidence grew in my ability to ask for directions and hold conversations with the Parisians, and I found that I received positive responses from them for speaking their native language.
While ordering coffee at an outdoor market on the Champs-Elysée, my friend and I struck up a conversation with a young man from Holland who had recently moved to France for work. He explained how it was difficult at first to assimilate with the culture because he did not speak one word of French. After a few days, however, he began to pick up words and phrases, and now, he is almost fluent. He explained to us that despite being from a different culture, he was accepted by the native French people for his ability to speak their language and adapt to their culture. This gave me confidence that I would be able to do the same in my language learning career.
Returning to my classes on Monday, I realized that I was less hesitant to speak in class and ask questions about grammar and new vocabulary. I have begun taking more of a leadership role during group work and doubt less in my French abilities. At the dinner table, I contribute more frequently to the conversation, and although it still takes me a while to formulate sentences, I have begun to realize and correct my errors more quickly as well as try to use the new vocabulary that we learn in class.
A friend from school arrived this week to begin taking classes, but much to the surprise of many people, we always speak to each other in French. I appreciate this because it pushes me to think and use all my vocabulary to tell stories and discuss ever day topics. We explored Vichy together, going to a bookstore and buying books to read in French to help with our comprehension. After we finished at the bookstore, we attended mass in French where I found myself learning the responses and the prayers that I repeated automatically when attending mass at home. As we were walking to leave the church, an inhabitant of Vichy began talking to us about a wide variety of topics from the architecture of the church to the weather. He spoke very quickly, and I had to listen carefully to pick up different words. Although I could not completely understand what he said, I was able to develop a general idea of the conversation and reply accordingly.
As the week comes to a close, speaking French is beginning to become more natural for me, and the words no longer feel foreign as they leave my mouth. Although I still need improvement, I know that with the coming weeks, I will continue to make advancements in my French speaking ability.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
After the previous weekend, I couldn’t stay away from Paris and decided to visit there again. I felt like a real Parisian, confidently navigating the metro and sitting at cafés sipping coffee and people watching. On the way to Paris, our train was delayed due to a technical difficulty. At first I was confused as to why the train was remaining stopped for so long, but I was able to hear and understand the conversations of the people around me as well as the announcement over the intercom to get an idea of what was wrong and when we would be arriving. Rather than feeling intimidated about speaking French to the natives when asking questions or ordering food, I enjoyed trying to use my French and seeing the surprise on their faces when they realized I was American but still speaking in their native language. Even when they switched to English, I continued to speak to them in French both for practice and so that they would know that I was able to understand them.
My favorite part about attending class here is studying topics that apply to daily life here rather than just concentrating on grammar or vocabulary. For example, in my oral communication class we learned about French slang and its use by adolescents when they speak with their friends. It consists of the rearrangement of letters in a word to create a new word with the same meaning. For example, the word “fou” means “crazy,” yet when speaking, the French say “ouf.” It has the same meaning but appears to be a different word. When I returned home, my host mom told me a story where her daughter used the word “sauce” in a sentence. She assumed it to mean sauce as in cooking sauce yet it really meant to be friendly with someone. It ended up leading to some confusion between her and her daughter as they both began to speak about two different subjects. It reminded me of being at home in the U.S. and using phrases with my parents that they did not understand because it was beyond their years.
My host mom left on Thursday for a vacation in Portugal with her boyfriend, daughter, and her daughter’s fiancée. Like all French workers, she receives one month of vacation time. As a result of her departure, her sister came over to stay with the other student and me. Her sister speaks much faster than she does which makes it difficult to understand at times, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to communicate with her and make clear my ideas when we speak.
On Friday, my friends and I left to go to Paris and visit Versailles. None of them had ever taken the train before or gone to Paris so I had to make sure everyone knew what they were doing. This being my third time there, I felt like an expert leading the way through the streets and leading us to our final destination. When we arrived at our hotel, the owner looked at my last name and tried to speak Spanish to me. When I responded to him in French, he was confused as to why I knew that language and not the language of my origin. We proceeded to have a conversation where I talked to him about my family and explained to him why I never learned Spanish. After we settled in, we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower. It appeared magnificent sparkling over the night sky. The next morning, we left early for Versailles where we were awe-struck by the elegance and grandeur of the château. We enjoyed speaking to each other in French and pretending that we weren’t tourists despite continuously taking photos of each other in front of the castle. After a long day of exploring the grounds, it was nice to relax on a three hour train ride and return home to Vichy.
On Sunday, I attended mass with my friends at a local church. After the service, a man turned and asked us where we were from. He explained that not many young people attended mass so he knew that we were tourists. He then began asking many questions, and I was able to respond to most of them confidently. For lunch we decided to eat at a créperie where I was able to experience authentic galettes – open faced crepes containing different combinations of ingredients such as bacon, spinach, and cheese. Besides being Father’s day in France – as well as the United States – it was also la Fête de la Musique. La Fête de la Musique is a celebration of music in France that takes place each year on June 21, the summer solstice. Many activities take place such as dancing and singers perform live music throughout the streets. I enjoyed it because it was different from the holidays I am familiar with in the U.S.: it takes place throughout all of France and all the French people roam the streets enjoying the music, eating food, and relaxing on the first night of summer.
After another eventful week, I am glad to be able to rest and enjoy the beautiful weather. I can tell that my French has improved this past week as I have begun to speak without hesitation when I want to say something. I am excited to return to school and continue working hard on the language for which I am passionate.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Another busy week in Vichy has passed! It began on Monday when I went to the post office to mail post cards. I completely forgot about one of the biggest cultural differences between France and the United States: many of the businesses and restaurants tend to close for a few hours in the afternoon so the owners and workers can enjoy a break. As a result, I arrived to find the doors locked and realized that I would have to wait to send my cards. After I realized my mistake, I went to meet up with my friends for lunch at an Indian restaurant. Classes on Mondays don’t begin until 2:30 in order to allow time for new students to complete the language assessment that determines their level so we had plenty of time to relax and talk. It was my first time eating Indian food, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This week also marked the beginning of “Les Soldes.” a large sale occurring throughout all of France. Starting on June 24th and lasting until August 4th, all clothing stores put items on sale for up to 70% off. It’ almost like having Black Friday for a month – all the stores keep their doors wide open, and the streets are filled with shoppers searching for the best deals. My friend and I spent two hours roaming the different boutiques, and I even bought an outfit as a souvenir to bring back with me to the United States.
Because students are constantly coming and going each week, classes occasionally change or a different professor is assigned. Many students in my class left last week, and as a result, it was separated and I was put into a new class. Unfortunately, this class was less challenging for me so I decided to change it. When I went to the secretary to ask her where to go to make a class change, I was pleased when she told me that my French was very good because it proved that I was not the only one noticing my improvement. At first, I was nervous about having to request a class change because it meant that I would have to explain my situation and my reasons for wanting to enter a more difficult class all in French, and I doubted in my abilities to do so. Once I was finally able to speak with the lady in charge, however, the words came easily for me, and I was able to enter in a higher level without a problem. My new class concentrated more on speaking in listening which is where I need the most improvement. One day, we discussed the Charlie Hebdo incident which I happened to follow very closely. I was able to explain the situation to the class and found myself switching between the imparfait and the passé compose with ease – something with which I had always struggled. Coincidentally, that same day, a terrorist attack occurred in Lyon, a city two hours away from me. I received a worried message from my mom and many others asking if I was near to the city and had to reassure them that everything was okay.
Friday marked the last day for many of my friends at school so we went to the beach after dinner to spend one last night together before they left. The next day, two friends and I went to the river to watch a national rowing competition held there each year. I had never seen rowing live before, and I found it interesting how people ran along the boardwalk or rode their bikes shouting at the rowers and cheering them on. As I was sitting on a bench watching, a man came up and started having a conversation with me. He realized that I was a tourist and began asking me questions about where I was from and why I was in France. He explained to me that he was an immigrant himself. He was born in Algeria to a French father and Algerian mother but moved to France when he was ten. He explained how at first, it was hard to adjust to living in a new country and not understanding the different customs, but his transition occurred more smoothly than others thanks to his ability to speak French because of his father. It was interesting for me to see the perspective of the country from someone who was not native, and I liked talking to him because I felt as though he understood my situation and the difficulties that come with being a foreigner in another country.
On Saturday, my host mom returned from Portugal. Although I missed her, I was sad to see her sister leave. She loved to talk which meant that our dinners lasted up to two hours, but I enjoyed hearing about her life and the challenge of understanding what she was saying through her fast speech.
I finished the week on Sunday by relaxing and preparing for class on Monday. My friend and I attended mass and proceeded to attend a picnic in the park with what appeared to be the entire community of Vichy. There was music and dancing not to mention the delicious food that we bought at the boulangerie. It was nice to escape the heat of the day and rest under the shade of the trees. We ended our outing by going to the pool at the parents of her host mom’s house. After four hours of swimming and tanning, I returned to my home where I met the new student who would be living with us and had arrived that afternoon from Spain. At dinner, we ate chocolates that she brought with her from home. The front of the box read “The Taste of Spain.” As my host mom read it, she looked up confused and inquired what the word “taste” meant. Because I was the only one who spoke English, I was the only one able to translate it for her into French – “le goût.” Although it was only one word, at that moment I truly felt bilingual, and my confidence was raised in my knowledge and ability to speak another language.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
I can’t believe that I have only one week left here in France! What seemed like an insurmountable amount of time when I first arrived has now quickly wound down to a mere five days. My daily life here has become routine for me. Each day begins with breakfast where I am usually served with coffee, bread with jam, and some kind of pastry which is much different from the cereal and pancakes to which I am accustomed. After breakfast, I go to class for five hours where we review grammar, but also listen to news stories and discuss current events in the world today. This may seem like a lot, but I have a two hour lunch break in between where my friends and I usually go to a bakery to buy baguette sandwiches or try one of the many restaurants around Vichy such as the local crêperie. Once class is finished, I either return home to run around the river before dinner or participate in some type of activity with friends. Dinner always begins with either fruit or some type of vegetable to be dipped in salad dressing. Next is the “plat principal” or the main dish which can be a variety of different foods such as salmon, a quiche, or a tart filled with cheese and spinach. Additionally, a side dish such as noodles or rice is served and of course, bread and cheese! Finally, comes dessert usually consisting of some type of chocolate such as ice cream, cookies, or mousse. The time after dinner is typically reserved for time with family to sit and watch T.V. and to continue the dinner conversation about the events of the day. Sometimes, however, I return to my room to finish homework, call family and friends, or go out to the beach or to see a film at the movie theater.
If I could summarize this week in one word it would “sweltering.” I have had the luck of experiencing France in one of its most rare states: a heatwave (or “le canicule” as the French like to call it). It seemed to be the topic of conversation on all news stations, at all dinners, and in all my classes. Like most of the houses here, my home lacks air conditioning not to mention the prime location of my room on the top floor of the house. The humid, dry summers in the Midwest, however, have prepared me for such an event. While most of the residents seek the cool indoors and places with air conditioning, I enjoy roaming the streets and shopping at all the sales.
This week, many new students came from all over the world. I met a lot of new people and am enjoying being the only American in all my classes for the first time because I get to hear a variety of views on controversial topics from the perspective of different countries. Additionally, some of my friends found out that they passed the DELF – a language exam that tests your knowledge of French both orally and in writing. Passing the DELF for a certain level such as intermediate shows that you are capable of speaking French at that level and allows you to study at any French university as well as have an official certificate for work. One day, when I reach the advanced level of French, I would like to take the DELF to prove my knowledge of the language and have even begun looking into taking French classes when I return home. In order to celebrate, my friend and I went to the store and bought different treats for everyone to share at the park. I always love going to the bakery and picking out something new to try each week because all the desserts here are delicious!
On Wednesday after dinner, my friends and I went to the movie theater to watch “Inside Out” better known as “Vice-Versa” here. The air conditioned theater was a nice way to escape the 102 degree heat, as well as provide entertainment for the evening. Despite the movie being all in French with no subtitles, I was able to follow along and understand it. I loved the movie and even made plans to see more before I leave to return home.
My host mom’s daughter and sister came over for dinner on Friday, and I found myself staring back and forth as they spoke rapidly about the death of their father which had occurred the week before I arrived and how they had to take care of their mom’s affairs. It was perplexing how quickly they spoke and interrupted or talked over each other – something which is common for the French and not seen as rude unlike in the United States. The conversation at dinner, however, was a good preparation for the weekend. Saturday, the fourth of July, was the birthday of my friend’s host mom. As a result, we went kayaking on a river about 30 minutes away from Vichy with her friends. It was her 27th birthday, so like her, all her friends were young, meaning they spoke rapidly and used more slang than to what I was accustomed. Even though I had to ask them to repeat questions occasionally, I was able to understand what they were saying and participate in some of their conversation. They were very kind to us and two of the men bantered with us, continually splashing us with water or trying to overturn our boat while shouting, “Let’s beat the Americans!” or “Vive le France!” As usual with the French, they took many breaks to smoke, drink wine, or eat baguettes and cheese, turning a two hour trip into five hours. It was great, however, to be out in the sun and relaxing on my last weekend here. After we finally finished, we went to the house of one of her friends and swam in the pool, barbequed, played cards, and just talked. It was a great way to spend the 4th of July since I couldn’t be home to celebrate it with my family and friends.
Despite being hot and tired, as this week comes to a close, I am ready to take on the upcoming week. I want to participate in many activities and experience as much French food and culture as possible before I leave. Although I have accomplished many of my goals while here, my one final goal is to not put my packing off to the last minute!
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
With my final days in Vichy running down, I decided to make my motto for the week “Saisis-toi du jour!” better known as “you only live once” in the U.S. Basically, I wanted to try as many new things as possible before leaving such as eating new foods or pastries and participating at events through the school. The first item I accomplished this week, was finishing reading a book in French that I bought at the bookstore. Not only did it help with my comprehension, but I also learned many new vocabulary words and was easily able to understand the plot. Next, I shopped for presents for my family and friends so I would be able to bring a piece of France back home with me. Unfortunately, the heat wave continued into this week so I bought myself one last gelato to eat while strolling down the street and glancing into store windows in search for the perfect gifts.
Later in the week, I visited the crêperie one last time where I decided to celebrate my final days in a country known for its crêpes by ordering a crêpe sucre filled with banana, brownie, and chocolate syrup. Afterwards, to escape the heat, my friend and I went the movie theater to watch “Minions.” I was easily able to follow along and found myself laughing at the American jokes in the movie – some of which the French people did not understand. I was also lucky enough to be able to go to the Opera House with my host family to watch a ballet. It was a performance by the Ballet National de Prague that featured dances to music by Jacques Brel, Vladimir Vysotsky, and Karel Kryl from the years 1960/1970. Although it was difficult to understand because it was in another language (not French), I appreciated the story told through the artistic style of dance. On my second to last night, my friends and I went to a Moroccan restaurant that was rated the best in Vichy. We ordered tajine – a traditional Moroccan dish consisting of chicken, beef, or lamb in a sauce, with vegetables, onions, and tomatoes and served with couscous and bread. There’s no other way I would have wanted to end one of my last nights in France than by eating delicious food.
On my last day at school, I made sure to take pictures with everyone so I would never forget all the different people I met coming from unique and interesting backgrounds. In class we played a game where a person asked a question in their native language and someone else who spoke that language would translate the question in French. Then somebody would respond in their native language and another person would translate. I loved hearing the different sounds and accents as well as seeing the variety of ways in which different cultures communicated with each other. This is something that I will miss the most about school: sitting in class and learning French by hearing people talk about their different life experiences from their country. Each day presented me with a unique lesson and helped me to see the world from new perspectives.
As the week came to a close, I realized that all my first experiences – my first time eating a French baguette sandwich, my first time seeing a movie at the French cinema, my first time walking to school – turned into lasts – my last time eating a pain au chocolat, my last time eating lunch with my new friends, my last night in France. I spent the entire week absorbing every sight, taste, and sound while taking a plethora of photos so I could share my memories with everyone when I returned home. My last night in Vichy, my host mom, knowing by now my love for chocolate, baked a delicious chocolate cake covered in powdered sugar. At that time, I gave my host family the gifts I had bought for them to thank them for their hospitality and all the help they gave me during my stay. I was even lucky enough to have a dream that night in French. This had been one of my goals from the start because they say that you know you’re becoming fluent in a language when you begin to dream in it.
One of the aspects I will miss most about Vichy is the small town feel. When I would go for runs around the river or a walk on the street, I would see other students that I knew from Cavilam and was able to stop and have a nice conversation with them. Additionally, any little event that took place in the town always had people watching – one day there was a funeral at the local church with lots of flags and military people. A crowd gathered outside to watch the procession even though they did not know the person who died. Another time, an old man fell while walking on the sidewalk and seven different people rushed to help and ensure he was ok.
As I prepare to board my flight to return back to the United States, I am sad to leave such a beautiful country because I know that I will not return for a while. I hope to possibly intern here next summer or study abroad here my junior year. Living here for six weeks has helped me grow both in my French-speaking skills and as a person. Never before would I have dared to go alone to a foreign country to study for an extended period of time and lived with somebody whom I had never meant. Now, I can proudly say that I have done all this and much more such as mastering the metro system of Paris as well as easily understanding when people speak to me in French and formulating a correct response. This study abroad opportunity has given me an unforgettable experience and assured me of my choice to study French. I look forward to the opportunities that my future holds and cannot wait to share all the wonderful and funny events that I experienced while here. As flight 416 now boards (after a six hour delay), I can’t help but feel excitement to return home and enjoy the rest of summer before school starts, but I have one last thing to say to France: “Ce n‘est pas au revoir, juste à tout à l’heure” – or as we say in English, “It’s not goodbye, just see you later.”
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
When I first discovered that I would be studying in France for six weeks, I never imagined that I would be able to accomplish so many goals. When I first arrived, I was scared to speak for fear of saying something incorrectly or being wrong. Now, in a mere six weeks, I can easily understand when someone speaks to me and feel comfortable holding a conversation as well as asking questions towards others. Throughout my stay, I learned something new about a culture different from mine each day. Unlike the U.S., where people prefer to accomplish as much as possible in a day, the French prefer to live a relaxed life. Their work days are shorter and many shops are closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. This can prove to be somewhat of an inconvenience if you need something late at night or on the weekend, but like my teacher said, the French think ahead, and if they know that they will need something, they go and buy it while the shops are still open. I also learned that for the French, eating a meal is an activity. Many shops close for lunch, and dinner can last up to three hours – it’s a way for the family to relax and talk after work and school. Even though the French people could seem intimidating, once you began to talk to them or ask a question they were very warm and helpful. Studying in France not only helped me to learn a new language, but it also helped me to learn about and appreciate a new culture. Learning a language is more than just being able to understand and accurately give a response, it’s about appreciating and understanding its history and its people.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
Although I was intimidated to travel to a different country for the first time alone, I could not have asked for a better experience. Each day presented me with the opportunity to meet someone from a different culture or a country other than mine. At first, it was a challenge for me to acclimate myself to new surroundings: understanding the way of life and getting past my initial fear of using my French to communicate with locals. After a while, however, I became accustomed to life here and developed a routine: eating breakfast in the foyer while watching the news, going to class with a two hour break for lunch, and participating in activities after school, going for a run, or exploring Vichy. I enjoyed seeing the different regions of France and appreciating the beautiful scenery that other regions had to offer. Most importantly, I loved immersing myself to learn the language. Ultimately, hearing and speaking French in different situations while abroad lead to a major improvement in my knowledge of it.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
Despite being unsure about my future, as a French and Political Science major, I would like to use my knowledge of French in my career. I plan on searching for internships in Paris next summer as well as applying to study abroad in France my junior year. Additionally, I am open to varying career opportunities such as working in a third world French speaking country or working in a job involving foreign diplomacy. After living in France and developing better understanding of the culture as well as taking an interest in the cultures of other countries I would like to work or volunteer internationally to help people coming from all different walks of life.