Name: Rachel Sattler
Location of Study: Paris, France
Program of Study: the Alliance Française program in Paris
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
I am a sophomore Biochemistry and Supplementary French double major from a small town about 20 minutes south of Detroit, Michigan. Here at Notre Dame, I’ve been able to participate in a variety of activities ranging from playing on an intramural softball team, playing the flute in PEMCo’s last musical production, and knitting hats for infants. I spend my limited free time working in an undergraduate research lab. After graduation, I plan on attending medical school to become a pediatric surgeon. My dream is to one day work with Doctors Without Borders, helping those who desperately need medical aid in French-speaking countries.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant is important to me for two reasons. First, as a double major in Biochemistry and French, studying abroad during a semester becomes very problematic due to scheduling conflicts. The second, and most important, reason is that this grant will allow me to obtain the fluency that will be so helpful to me in my future career. My goal is to become a pediatric surgeon, but my dream is to work with Doctors Without Borders in a French-speaking part of the world. In my lifetime, I have been able to see that people living in third world countries do not receive the medical aid that they so desperately need. I want to be able to help these people, bringing what care and comfort I can. To do this, being able to speak their language is very helpful. As French is one of the major languages of most of the countries aided by Doctors Without Borders, fluency in this language would not only help me career-wise, but also help me in my patient care, allowing me to become a better physician for my patients.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
From this opportunity, I hope to be able to greatly improve my French language skills. At the conclusion of the program, I hope that I will be able to spontaneously converse with native speakers on a variety of meaningful topics, from politics to works of literature or art or science. One of my goals for this trip is to improve my reading skills. I plan to visit several bookstores while in France, attempting to find a suitable novel to complete and fully comprehend. Lastly, as I will be living with a host family, I will be able to get an inside look into the cultural differences Americans and the French, better understanding these differences while coming to incorporate them in my own life.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to hold spontaneous conversations with native speakers on non-trivial topics.
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to read an entire French novel with increased comprehension.
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to speak with increased fluidity.
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to write in French at a higher level than at which I am currently.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan on taking every opportunity offered to me during this experience. Paris itself is filled with diverse opportunities for visitors, from art exhibits to historical monuments. Excursions and assignments offered through the Alliance Francaise program will also offer unique experiences, such as conversing with native speakers, participating in literature readings, and visiting museums. As I will be living with a host family, I will be able to get an inside view on French culture. I also plan on spending every Sunday visiting a different church in Paris, experiencing a variety of different Masses while further immersing myself in the French culture and language. Lastly, I plan to take full advantage of this experience by interacting with the natives, speaking and listening, to further expand my knowledge of the French language and culture.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
It’s still hard for me to believe that I’m finally here in Paris. This trip has been something that I’ve been looking forward to and saving for since I was 12. However, as my departure date drew nearer, I steadily grew more anxious, understandable seeing that this is both my first independent and international trip. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I arrived in Paris on the morning of May 30th.
My host family greeted me with open arms and, after ensuring that I could hold a conversation in French, we began my immersion training with a long walk through Paris. I feel that I have been incredibly blessed with this match-up. As they both used to teach in America, they are fluent in English. They are wonderful about correcting my frequent mistakes as well as helping me find the words I’m trying to say.
Classes began the following Monday, and everything has gone smoothly. I have class every day in the afternoon and another Wednesday/Friday in the morning. I walk to Alliance Francaise, as I have plenty of time, and I enjoy looking around at the beautiful and old architecture. Alliance Francaise has a library for students to use with book selections for each level, and I like to spend my morning before class in there, reading and doing my best to understand. The classes themselves are wonderful, and they include students from all over the world and all walks of life. I find conversing with the other students to be incredibly enjoyable because the only guaranteed language we have in common is French. However, because none of us are fluent, our conversations tend to include a lot of miming.
For lunch, I found a small boulangerie near the school where I can practice my French while getting sandwiches and the like. And that takes me to the subject of the food here. The food in France is absolutely delicious. From the fresh-baked bread to prepared dishes, I find that everything tastes a little bit, or a lot, better. For dinners, my host mother has been making traditional French dishes. I expressed my love of cooking, and she quickly promised to teach me how to make the perfect soufflé. I also hope to be able to take a basic cooking class, offered at a discount though Alliance Francaise, at the Culinary Institute here in Paris.
Thankfully, I have someone to share this all with, Emily Gonzales. We get to see each other every day before class and then explore Paris on the weekends. In our free time, so far we’ve been able to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Luxembourg Gardens, and attended mass at Notre Dame. We also enjoy just walking around, speaking only in French of course, and exploring the streets, both touristy and not, here in Paris. Our plan for this coming weekend is to go to the Louvre and spend two days exploring and getting lost in the art.
I have immensely enjoyed my time here in Paris so far, and I am so thankful for this grant because, without it, none of this would be possible. I’m looking forward to my adventures of this coming week!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Wow! I’m already a little over two weeks into my program! The saying really is true that time flies when you’re having fun. Last Sunday, Emily (another SLA Grant recipient) and I attended mass at Notre Dame. The service was held completely in French, and I was pleased to learn that I could understand the liturgy, aided by the fact we were given a pamphlet with the printed readings so I could follow along. I was a little disappointed that I was unable to follow along with all the responses and prayers, as not everything was in the handout. After mass, we met up with my German cousin, whom I have never met before, and walked around a bit with her. We ended up taking the metro to meet two of her friends in a local park. As French was none of our native languages, we had a lot of fun trying to hold conversations and explain things using our French and a considerable amount of miming. That evening, I was lucky enough to meet my host family’s daughter for dinner. Unlike her parents, who utilize the rhythmic and articulated speech of professors, she spoke much more quickly and tended to slur her words together, as is natural for natives. I was pleased to find that after only one week of immersion, I was able to understand the majority of the conversation. I wasn’t always able to understand the details, but I could understand the progression of topics and I was able to contribute.
Throughout the week I spent devoting myself fully to my classes. I have class every day in the week for four hours, and then another three hour class Wednesday and Friday mornings. As students are able to join into our classes each Monday, we gained several new classmates in both classes. My morning class is consisted of a majority of Americans from the same university in New Jersey. Last Friday, they all left to take a weekend trip to London. That left a total of four people that day in my class for oral French. As much as I enjoy their company, it was nice to have a smaller class, allowing us more time to talk and practice our French.
This past weekend, Emily and I spent our Saturday exploring the Louvre. We saw such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and countless other pieces of priceless art. Although we spend about five hours and walked what felt like fifteen miles, we were only able to explore about a third of the museum. We’re planning to go back and pick up where we left off next weekend. I am very excited to explore my favorite type of art: Impressionism. Sunday we went to mass again at Notre Dame. As before, it was a beautiful service. We then spent our day wandering around the streets of Paris near the Seine. We spent about an hour in a pet shop (“animalerie”) looking at the little puppies and kittens and listening to all different kinds of French terms of endearment. We also explored all of the little vendors set up right on the bank of the Seine. We had several wonderful interactions with native speakers, one of whom learned we were American and then thanked us for “speaking such wonderful French.” We both bought several books in French and I know that I am very excited to reading and understanding them.
As for my French, I feel as if I am already greatly improved. With Emily, I’ve noticed that our conversations are beginning to be much faster. I am gaining the confidence to have longer interactions with vendors and, happily for me, they haven’t started switching to English! My host mother has also been reducing her corrections of my grammar. Although our conversations still aren’t very quick, we are able to hold longer conversations on deeper topics. I’ve also noticed that my French is becoming more natural. When Skyping home to talk to my family this weekend, I had several incidents in which I started a sentence in French before realizing what I was saying.
That sums up my week! I’m looking forward to all of the adventures I’ll have this coming week. Again, I would like to thank Notre Dame and my sponsors for helping me to go on this trip of a lifetime. This wouldn’t be possible without your support and I can’t thank you enough. Until next week!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
My third week in Paris is complete! This week, I think it really started to sink in that I’m in another country and speaking another language. Throughout this week I’ve been having moments in which I’ll be conversing with a native or watching a documentary with my host mother and all of a sudden it hits that I’m listening to French, and understanding. That is one of the best feelings I’ve had so far. I’ve also been noticing that it’s becoming easier for me to think in French than in English. And when I Skyped with my family this past weekend, I noticed that speaking English was a bit harder than speaking French. I even started several phrases in French before I realized what I was doing. I guess I can say that three weeks of intense coursework and immersion is paying off. I honestly am feeling fantastic about my French and my progress with the language is becoming quite evident. I can now speak much more quickly and fluidly than I could three weeks ago.
This week, like all the other weeks so far, I devoted my weekdays to my coursework. After class, Emily and I tend to walk around a bit near the school and explore a few of the shops. I can now understand why artists move to Paris; I find everything here so artistically inspiring, especially in the small boutiques. Friday night, my host mother taught me how to make the perfect and traditional cheese and egg soufflé. This time, she had me watch and record the recipe, but I’m very excited for the next time, in which I’ll get to do it on my own!
Saturday, the night before the “Fête de la Musique” (national music festival) Emily and I “finished” the Louvre. I say “finished” because the Louvre is enormous and nearly impossible to finish. We are about 90% sure that we saw almost everything. We had so much fun wandering around and getting lost in the art. After several hours there, we found a small garage sale-like open air market on a street near my host family’s apartment. It was absolutely fantastic to walk around, looking and everything, and speaking to the vendors. Before coming to Paris, I had heard that many people, upon hearing my American accent, would switch directly to English. I’ve been fortunate enough where this hasn’t really happened to me. At this market, all of the vendors would converse with us, notice our accents, ask where we’re from, and simply continue to speak to us in French. This, of course, means so much to me, as it feels as if all of my hard work is paying off. Saturday night, my host family welcomed another student to our house: an 18 year old from Cyprus. That night, he and I walked around Paris trying to find bands playing for the fête. Much to our surprise, we only saw a few people.
Sunday, the “Fête de la Musique,” Emily and I went again to mass at Notre Dame. Afterwards, we met up with my cousin Anke at Père Lachaise cemetery here in Paris. We took a guided tour that lasted four hours in French. I was pleased to discover that I could understand almost everything our guide said, even though I had to concentrate very hard. On the tour, we say the graves and markers for such famous figures as Eugene Delacroix, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Chopin, and Jim Morrison. After the tour, the three of us walked around Paris, near the Seine and the Louvre, for a bit just enjoying the music.
That pretty much sums up my week! I would just like to thank Notre Dame and my sponsors for supporting me and giving me the gift of this wonderful trip. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t be able to be here without your support and it really means the world to me. So, again, thank you. I’m looking forward to writing about more of my adventures next week!
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway done with this program. These four weeks have flown by and I’m sad to have the last four fly by, but also excited to see what they’ll bring.
This was, in all, a good week. I had class every day, as normal. It was a bit sad to see several of my classmates with whom I had grown close leave, but I was glad to find out that one would still be in Paris for a while. Friday night, Emily, the other student living with in my family, and I all went to a salsa club. It was fantastic! We went early to take the class for beginners and then for intermediaries and stayed after for the dancing. It was an experience unlike I had ever had! I had never done salsa dancing before and was pleasantly surprised with how quickly one can learn it.
Saturday, Emily and I went and visited the “Chapelle de St. Louie” near Notre Dame, in the Palace of Justice. It’s a very old, and very small chapel with walls of stained glass. We were sure to go on a sunny day, of course, and were rewarded for our wait. It was absolutely beautiful. After that, we wandered around Paris, in near the Louvre and Champs-Élysées. Right now, Paris is having their annual sale season. The sales apply to nearly every shop and tend to run at around 50% off many items. This means, of course, that the shopping districts are packed with Parisians and tourists alike. However packed, we had fun doing some window shopping.
Sunday, we went to mass at Sacré-Cœur. I am hard pressed to find words to describe its beauty. The basilica is built at the top of a very high hill. When we were there, there were absolutely no clouds in the sky and the contrast between the blue of the sky and the white of the church was breath-taking. And, after climbing the many flights of stairs to get up to the top of the hill, we turned around to see Paris stretched out in front of us. It was honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been so far. The mass itself was beautiful, of course, and featured more of a community of native Parisians, instead of the mobs of tourists in Notre Dame. I loved it there and I hope we go back another Sunday. After that, we headed over to Emily’s host family’s apartment because her host sister was having her 7th birthday party. I had a lot of fun listening to the children speaking and trying to understand the rapidly-speaking magician.
As for my French so far, as I’ve been saying, I honestly feel as if I am making so much progress. I feel so much more confident in my speaking skills. I love speaking the language and I take advantage every opportunity I have to speak with the natives.
That pretty much sums up last week. Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible. Without your support, I wouldn’t be here, and I greatly appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I have been learning so much, both about the French language and culture and about myself. Thank you again, and until next week!
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
I’m already over the halfway point in this wonderful program! 5 weeks gone! It’s a bit sad to think that I have been looking forward to this experience for months, and it’s already almost over. However, I’ve been savoring every single moment of this trip.
This was, as every week is, a good week. Again, I had class every day. It was a bit sad at the end of the week because we lost a few students who had been there almost as long as I have and with whom I had grown rather close. We also said goodbye to our professor in both my general French class and in my oral workshop. As sad as it is to leave them, I’m looking forward to the new teachers and the new experiences.
This weekend, Emily and I were lucky enough to have two of our wonderful Notre Dame friends, who are also studying in France this summer, come to visit. We met up with Cailin and Christine, who are both studying in Tours, at the metro station outside our salsa club. After being away from home for so long, it was such an amazing feeling to see familiar faces again. We spent the night in the salsa club dancing and sharing stories.
Saturday was the 4th of July! As an American, I was used to the 4th always being a big celebration no matter where I was. Although I knew that it would just be another day in Paris, there was still a small part of me that was slightly disappointed that there were no parades or fireworks as I was used to. Emily and I spent our 4th giving a walking tour of Paris to our guests. We met up at Notre Dame, walked to the Louvre and through Tuileries Garden, did some shopping on Champs-Élysées, then over to the Eiffel Tower. It was a long day, but we had so much fun just being together and seeing each other again. We ended the day in a small cafe for dinner where we got to listen to a small brass band playing on the corner.
Sunday, the four of us met up outside the Musée d’Orsay. Thankfully, the line moved quickly as it was the first Sunday of the month and admission was free. We spent our morning and afternoon exploring the museum and looking famous pieces by all of the great Impressionists. Personally, I was just thrilled to be able to see pieces by Van Gogh and Monet, my favorite artists. I was very disappointed, however, to find that Van Gogh’s Starry Night is on loan right now. After a nice lunch in the museum’s restaurant, we walked back along the Seine towards our friends’ hotel and waiting taxi. It was sad to see them leave, but I was glad we got to see them and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the fall and sharing the rest of our experience. Sunday night, I also found and registered for a cooking class at the world-famous Cordon Bleu! The course will be this coming Saturday morning and I will learn how to make a full three-course, traditional meal. Words cannot describe just how excited I am for this opportunity!!
As I’ve been saying in every blog, I am noticing remarkable differences in my French. I feel as if my vocabulary and fluidity have both greatly improved. I’ve also noticed that there are times when I have to search for a word in English because the only word I can think of is in French. I’ve also been doing some reading while over here, and am proud to say that I am understanding the majority of words but all of the concepts.
And that sums up my week. I would like to finish by thanking everybody who helped to make this trip a reality. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. Without your assistance, I wouldn’t be able to be here in Paris. Thank you so much again, and until next week!
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Wow. 6 weeks in Paris have really flown by. This week was good and went by rather quickly. I spent my week in class as normal. Friday night we went back to the salsa club. Instead of staying as late as we tended to, I left early so I could get to sleep because I had a class at the world famous Cordon Bleu the next morning!!!
Saturday morning, I woke up much earlier than normal for my course. Even though it was much too early in the morning for me to properly function, everything was about ten times better because I had my class the Le Cordon Bleu! I absolutely love cooking, and so I had signed up for a class which was called “Cooking For Friends.” The first half of the morning was spent in a demonstration/tasting of a three course meal with the second half being the hands-on work of preparing the main dish. It was absolutely fantastic! I learned so much and it was just so awesome to be in such a famous place learning from such respected chefs. I would have to say that the only thing that I found disappointing would be that the class tended to be something very touristy. The chef only spoke in French and so there was a translator for English. But, in a way, that was also better because I did not know any of the cooking technical terms and did find the chef to be a little difficult to understand. The class was over around 3 that afternoon and I left with my apron, tea towel, an insulated bag, and, the best part, my food. I am so excited to share everything that I learned with my family when I return home. I spent the rest of my day relaxing with my host family and transcribing my recipes to be much more clear than my quickly scribbled notes.
Sunday I met Emily for Mass again at Notre Dame. We spent the rest of the day just wandering all up and down the Seine. We meant to go see the Hotel of Invalides, but got sidetracked searching for artwork. That night, my host mother helped me to heat up my Cordon Bleu food and we split that among the four of us for our appetizer. I am proud to say that it tasted absolutely delicious!
I’m looking forward to this coming week, as Tuesday is the 14th, Bastille Day. This leads me to one of my cultural immersion tasks. I learned about Bastille Day, which is the equivalent of our 4th of July. I spoke to the cultural center at Alliance Française as well as my host mother about the date. Interestingly, they both had the same story. Bastille Day celebrates the 14th of July in 1789, when a large mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille. Many people tend to believe that it was to free the entire prison, but in reality, there were only about 4 or 5 prisoners at the time. The date is celebrated much like our American Independence Day, with fireworks, large parades, and military flyovers. I am very excited to compare their descriptions of Bastille Day to the actual event.
As I say every time, my French is ever so improved. My host mother no longer frequently corrects my grammar, which is a very good sign. Also, quite interestingly, people no longer immediately ask where in America I’m from. Instead, they ask me if I’m from either England or the States. This is a good sign for me, as that means that my accent isn’t quite as strong anymore. I am very pleased to see my progress and can’t wait to see what the next two weeks bring.
Again, I would like to thank everybody that made this trip possible. This is the voyage of a lifetime and I’m taking every opportunity that comes my way.
Reflective Journal Entry 7:
I absolutely cannot believe that I’m already at the end of my 7th week here in Paris. It honestly feels as if I only arrived in Paris yesterday.
This week was a great week, as it contained Bastille Day! We didn’t have class on Tuesday, as it was a national holiday, and so we got to experience the whole day. Emily and I went to the military parade in the morning at Champs-Élysées. Well, we tried to go. We thought it started later than it actually did and we were running a bit behind. We ended up getting there just to see the last five minutes. The number of people there was a bit overwhelming. People were lining the streets about 10 deep in some areas, it seemed. After the parade, we walked around and saw a large amount of military vehicles, from tanks to convoy trucks. It was very interesting be able to see them up close and personal like that. After that, we decided what better way to celebrate Bastille Day than to go visit the Bastille? So we spent our day walking along the Seine, all the way across Paris, and to the monument of the Bastille. Sadly, the prison is no longer standing. Instead, they have a giant and quite impressive monument in the center of a round about. Later that night, we also met up near the Eiffel Tower to watch the fireworks. Our places weren’t the best. We were on the other side of the Seine, between two tall buildings, but it was still absolutely fantastic. The fireworks were really great and they also played with the colors of the lighting on the Eiffel Tower. After the fireworks we had to run (quite literally) to be able to catch the metro. The other student who lived with my family, Theo, and I were quite lucky as we made it over to the metro just before the police drew a line across saying no one else could cross. The metro was absolutely packed with people and our normal 20 minute commute doubled in time. We got home rather late, but had a fantastic time.
That Friday we went salsa dancing again with a few new friends from our class. It was a bit sad because that was the last time for all of us together. Saturday, Theo left. It was sad to see him leave. After four weeks we had gotten rather close, but I’m glad to know that we’ll still talk on Facebook every now and then. I then met up with Emily and we went to see the Hotel of Invalides and just walk around the Seine. Saturday was our last day alone together, as her mom and sister came out that Sunday.
Sunday, I met Emily’s mom and sister. They were both so great to meet. We went to mass at Notre Dame that morning and then spent the rest of the day showing her family around. We walked along the Seine to the Louvre and then to Tuileries Gardens.
I also completed another two of my cultural immersion tasks. I spoke to a variety of people about the United States. It was interesting, as no matter who I talked to, everybody had a very high opinion about America. Everyone thought that it was a great place and instantly started to talk about the last time they visited New York, Miami, or California. I also thought it was interesting, as one adult pointed out that American presidential elections tend to have an influence on the French presidential elections. She also told me that the French tend to take bets on who will win the election. The only problem that people had with America would be the gun policies. Many people thought it was shocking and wrong that we allow normal citizens to carry weapons, even after training and permits. Overall, I came to the conclusion that the French hold the United States in high esteem and that we are looked well upon.
The other task that I completed was the task about a traditional food in Paris. I learned about the traditional French soufflé, a difficult dish to prepare. Instead of talking to a waiter, I spoke to my host mother, who is very well versed in the arts of French cooking. She taught me exactly how to make the perfect cheese soufflé. She told me when I asked about the difficulty that a good chef understands that “The soufflé doesn’t wait on us, we wait on the soufflé.” She was unaware of the history of the dish, but did make note that it is an essential part of French cuisine. She also taught me that a soufflé can be made in a wide variety of way, making it good for a main dish or a dessert. I was able to learn over two days. The first day she showed me how to make it and I wrote down the recipe. The second day, a few weeks later, she had me make the dish while she watched. I’m very excited to try it again back home!
Although I’ll be sad to leave in one week, I’m looking forward to going back home and sharing all of my experiences. Again, I would like to thank every person who came together to help me afford this experience. I absolutely love Paris and couldn’t ask for anything better. Until next week!
Reflective Journal Entry 8:
Well, here I am writing about my last week in Paris from my couch back home in Michigan. I had such an amazing experience and have memories that will last me for a lifetime. Although I was sad to leave Paris and everything there behind, I was very happy to come home and see my family and friends again.
This week, as my last week, went by both slowly and quickly. Monday night, I met up with Emily and her sister to say goodbye, as they were leaving Tuesday morning. We walked all around the Eiffel Tower at night and enjoyed seeing the beautiful lights and the views of Paris at night. The rest of my week I spent saying goodbye to my favorite sites, the steps outside the Musée d’Orsay, the Seine, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. Friday night was my last dinner with my host family. We ate together and then I had to leave to finish all of my packing. I then left Saturday morning at 6:40 AM and got in to Detroit at 6 PM (local time).
I finished the last of my cultural immersion tasks. I did the task about the slang terms. It was interesting because no matter who I talked to, they all knew and understood the terms of slang. The first term is “cuckoo.” That is slang for hello or hi. Typically, one would say “cuckoo” when they enter into an area with people that they are close to, such as friends or family. The second term is “tomber dans les pommes.” This literally translates to “fall into the apples” but it means to faint. Everybody says this instead of the actually verb “to faint.” The third, and final phrase is “ça casse ma tête.” This literally translates to “that breaks my head,” but it means that something is very, very irritating and that it needs to stop. One could use this when music is too loud, people are shouting, or in similar situations.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone that helped me to afford this trip. I cannot thank you enough for this experience. I can’t express just how much I absolutely loved my experience in Paris. It was absolutely life changing. I learned so much about the French language, French culture, and myself. My French is also so much improved from when I first started. I will admit, however, that it’s nice to be home sweet home in the U.S. One of the best things that I’ve ever heard was the border customs official say “Welcome home” as he handed me back my passport in JFK.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
During my 8 weeks, I had the experience of a lifetime. Not only was I learning so much about myself, but about different cultures all around the world. I personally feel as if the best way to learn a language is through this complete language immersion. I only had moments of English throughout my day, perhaps in listening to my music on my way to school or in communication with friends and family back home. The rest of my time in Paris was spent living 100% in French and I feel that I absorbed and retained all of the language I possibly could. For me, the cultural differences weren’t too difficult to understand. Personally, I greatly enjoyed speaking to my host mother about cultural differences so that I could partake in certain practices as a native. I am also proud to say that I have completed each one of my summer goals. I held many conversations with my host family about non-trivial topics, such as French and American politics. I am currently reading a French novel, and am understanding every word. I am definitely able to speak with increased fluidity and my written French has also greatly improved.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
This summer abroad has genuinely changed my life. I left America, a young woman, absolutely terrified at her first trip to another country and came back a cultured world-traveler, confident and independent. In Paris, I was able to meet so many people from all different corners of the earth, from the Brazilian surgeon in Paris with her military husband, to the Chinese student in Paris to achieve her MBA. I loved speaking to my classmates in our only guaranteed shared language and trying to explain different aspects of our lives. For example, I will never forget the day where the German post-doctoral physicist attempted to explain to me black hole theories in French. For any students considering applying for an SLA Grant, I have two words: do it. This experience was honestly life-changing and I would like as many people as possible to experience that feeling. Of course studying abroad is scary and it’s a huge risk, but the benefits are absolutely worth it. I arrived in Paris speaking the equivalent of a small child but returned 8 weeks later feeling as if I could speak with the best non-native speakers. So take the risk.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
For me, whether or not to continue using my French language skills that I acquired during my time in Paris isn’t even a question. My dream is to use my language skills in my future profession as a doctor, preferably in third world countries with Doctors Without Borders. I will strive to fulfill this dream by continuing in my path to achieve a Supplementary French major and then by attending medical school. I think that one of the main things I’ve learned from this grant that I would be able to apply to my life as I move forward academically, personally and professionally is to not be afraid of taking risks. For me, applying for this grant was a risk, and actually going on the trip was an even larger risk. I think, however, that learning that I can do whatever I set my mind to, be it surviving in total or utter immersion in a country where I communicate like a child or applying for my dream job. I would like to thank the SLA Grant Committee and everyone else involved for helping me to learn this about myself, so that I can better not only my personal life, but the lives of many others.