Name: Catherine Wagner
Location of Study: Vichy, France
Program of Study: Centre d’Approches Vivantes des Langues et des Medias (CAVILAM) – Alliance Francaise
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
I am a sophomore Biology major from St. Louis, Missouri. After completing an SSLP last summer, I decided to add a Poverty Studies minor to my course of study. I really enjoy being involved in Campus Ministry and am a member of the Anchor Leadership Program. Last year, I walked on to the Women’s Varsity Rowing team. When I’m not rowing or studying, I enjoy reading, listening to country music, and spending time with my friends.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
This SLA Grant is important to me because it gives me the chance to study abroad during the summer since I don’t have the option to go during the year due to rowing. I can finally experience French culture at its finest—in France. I took French for four years in high school and have taken it for three semesters here at ND. With a full immersion experience like the SLA, I can gain a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation for the French language and the people of France than simply American classes can provide. In the future, I would like to do a service teaching program. After learning about the importance of education in my poverty studies class, I have a desire to share my love of learning with others in a positively impactful way. Experiencing the French education system can help broaden my understanding of the differing styles of education so that I can bring the best of both American and French styles into my own future classroom. I can gain an understanding of how to relate to people of different cultures which will benefit all my future students.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
This summer I hope to make personal connections with the French people as well as further understand and appreciate their language and culture. The program at the Centre d’Approches Vivantes des Langues et des Médias (CAVILAM) in Vichy will improve my written and spoken French. It hosts around 4000 foreign students from over 110 nationalities each year, so in addition to learning about the French way of life by living with a host family, I hope to also meet other students with diverse backgrounds. At CAVILAM, I will be taking 19.5 credit hours through the combination of 26 language lessons per week, 18 group lessons, and eight theme language workshops. At the end, I hope to earn a certificate of proficiency. Since Vichy is a provincial, medium-sized town, I am excited to have many opportunities to engage with the French people and explore this rich culture that, until now, I have only been able to study in the classroom.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to confidently converse in French with native speakers on academic topics, reaching a level in my spoken French that matches my writing ability.
- After these six weeks, I will have read at least three pieces of well-known French literature—at least one modern work and one classical—without constantly needing to reference a French-English dictionary.
- After my SLA, I will have a greater understanding and appreciation for all education systems, noticing particularly the benefits of different learning styles and teaching approaches, especially when it comes to learning a language.
- At the close of the summer, I will have a new perspective on the sport of rowing because of my interactions with French rowers.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
In addition to studying the French language and culture in the classroom, I plan to take part in the athletics of the area. Vichy is on the banks of the Allier River, on which sits the Club d’Aviron de Vichy. This is home to several international rowing competitions each year. During my six weeks in France, there will be two larger competitions, so I am excited to observe one of my passions in the US in another part of the world. I also plan to join the club for the summer and take part in some practices after classes. This would be a fun way to interact and learn from the French people apart from the scholarly setting. I also plan to observe differences in the educational system between France and the US, as I am interested in education. I will attend mass and partake in other various religious activities in France. I am excited to take part in the festivities for Bastille Day, an important jour férié that takes place when I am abroad.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Bonjour! My first week in Vichy has officially ended! Without a doubt, the first few days were full of uncertainty, nerves, and excitement, but I have finally begun to settle in to my role in my host family and at Cavilam, my school. The dynamic at Cavilam is quite interesting. There is a range of students, from those in their late teens to those in the mid-sixties. Some people have been here for months, whereas others are here for only a couple weeks. It is exciting to think of the new students coming next Monday morning, and I hope to remember the things students did to welcome me during the first chaotic days.
One of my favorite parts here thus far (besides the chance to become completely immersed in the French language and culture) has been the people. My classmates and friends include those from Italy, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Iraq, and Liberia. We all have at least one thing in common—our love of French. During lunch, we sit in the park, eat sandwiches made with delicious French baguettes, and talk in French about anything that comes to mind. We discuss what we learned in class that morning and, my favorite part, share stories from our respective countries, learning about different traditions. Never before have I been surrounded by so many people from such diverse religions, cultures, countries, and backgrounds.
Even though I am taking classes here, I have time outside of class to soak up the scenery and interact with all sorts of people. I am constantly learning new things. Whenever I am out and about exploring Vichy with my new friends, we work on our French and help one another in the process. The other day, when I was exploring Old Vichy, I had the opportunity to sit down next to an elderly woman on a bench outside of a church and simply chat for a bit. She reminded me of the many people I encountered last summer at the Little Sisters of the Poor, and I hope to visit her again during my stay here. To further enhance my studies, I have begun to read a few news articles in French every morning. Meeting people from several different countries has encouraged me to make a conscious effort to be even more aware of current events around the world. I also found a bookstore and bought three books in French that I hope to read while I’m here. The first one that I have started is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, one that I read a couple years ago in English. I hope that this background will help me fully understand it in French as well.
It is one thing to be able to converse with my classmates at school, but quite another to understand the conversations when I’m with my host family. I live with a young woman who is 26 years old, and a few times we have gone out to eat with her friends. Though I try to keep up with the conversations, it can be challenging. I’m hoping that I will continue to comprehend more and be able to contribute more fully to these conversations.
As I look forward to this next week, I am excited to begin rowing with the Club d’Aviron de Vichy. Just this morning, I registered with the club for the summer. I will start tomorrow afternoon! I’m a little nervous but mostly excited to have this chance to both interact with French rowers and continue this sport during the summer. À bientôt!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
It’s hard to believe that another week has come and gone. New students have arrived at school, and old friends have left. This week started off on a high note when a friend and I found a café after school. We sat and talked (in French, bien sûr!) for two hours, while sharing a crêpe. Our server came by several times to ask us various questions ranging in topic from our studies at Cavilam to what we hope for our future. It was wonderful to be able to converse naturally with a native Frenchman.
I felt like I really belonged here as I sat in that café, casually conversing but also at times just absent-mindedly watching the people pass by on the street. One thing I have noticed here is that the pace of life is very different from my norm in the US. There seems to be more time for reflection and rest, although perhaps this is mainly due to my different schedule here. The French take a long break for déjeuner, and most stores are closed Sunday and some even Monday. I noticed this past Sunday as I was running in the park and then later reading my book that many people were outside enjoying the nice weather. There were countless people out and about—families, elderly couples, and all sorts in between.
This week was the first time I was able to row at the Rowing Club here in Vichy. I was very nervous because the club only has sculling at the time when I go, which is two oars per rower, as opposed to sweep rowing which has one oar per rower. I have sculled a few times but am not nearly as comfortable as compared to sweep rowing. Luckily, it went pretty smoothly, but I will have to brush up on my French rowing vocabulary before I go again this week!
This weekend, I was able to visit Paris and Versailles. It was truly incredible to see the Palace of Versailles. I could not have even tried to imagine the extravagant details in each room—from the murals covering practically every ceiling to the intricately carved doors. I was able to walk in the garden as well, getting lost in the many twists and turns. Seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night in Paris was also quite a sight to behold! I had seen it only one other time outside my window in the plane when I first arrived in France. That initial sighting could not compare with standing underneath and looking up at the Eiffel Towers completely lit up against the night sky.
This past Sunday, the first day of summer, was the Fête de la Musique, which is a music festival that occurs in towns all over the world. Some friends and I were able to meander through the streets of Vichy and stop at various musical groups performing in front of restaurants, in the park, and in the city square. The atmosphere was similar to a carnival, with vendors selling different food, balloons, and cotton candy (in French, barbe à papa). A town of around 25,000 people, Vichy is normally not very crowded, so it was a nice change to see so many people in the streets.
This entire experience has been so rewarding thus far, and it has been only two weeks! I am so grateful for this opportunity to completely immerse in the French culture. I have learned so much already—and not just in the classroom, although I am learning quite a lot there too. As the days progress, my confidence with speaking increases. I am excited for the days and weeks to come!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
This week marks the halfway point of my time here in Vichy. I’m determined to remain optimistic about the time I have left. So much can happen in three weeks, as I have discovered already! I feel so much more comfortable with speaking French. As much as I would love to be able to speak French rather quickly, I have made a conscious effort to speak somewhat slowly and deliberately to ensure that my grammar as well as vocabulary is correct. This is one piece of advice my teacher gave to the class, and I have taken it to heart. I don’t want to get ahead of myself; the speed will come later as the verb tenses and other pieces become more natural.
My comprehension is also improving, as I noticed this morning at mass. While there are times when I don’t fully understand what the priest is saying, in part because of the acoustics and in part because of the content, I had a much clearer understanding of the homily this morning than a few weeks ago. I also see improvement in my reading comprehension from reading the news each morning in French at breakfast. It is a perfect opportunity to learn practical vocabulary words as well as stay up to date on current events in France, in the US, and in other areas of the world. Just this week, there were a couple large events in France: demonstrations in Paris and a terrorist attack near Lyon. Living in France has made me more conscious of the global community and the effect of one country’s actions on another.
On a lighter note, at the beginning of this week, I went to the movies with some friends to see Vice-Versa, the French version of Disney’s new movie Inside Out. I was excited to see this movie, especially since it was entirely in French without subtitles. I left the theater very content to have understood the entire plot. I’m still trying to determine if that was because emotions are easy to read on animations or because I actually understood almost every phrase.
This weekend began on a somewhat somber note as a few of my close friends left Cavilam to return to their respective countries. I feel so lucky to have friends now all over the world, but it is hard now to imagine classes without them. Cavilam will gain hundreds more students tomorrow, so I can look forward to that!
The weekend ended on a peaceful note with the “Grand Pique-Nique” in the park near where I live. There were long tables and many chairs set up in the park, as well as live music and a dance floor. At times, Vichy seems like a very small and quiet town, but other times such as this afternoon, it is bustling with activity! A friend and I enjoyed the sunny afternoon sitting under a shady tree, enjoying our picnic, listening to the music, and observing the joyful atmosphere. It is interesting to note that Vichy is home to many older couples as well as families with young children, but it can be challenging to find teenagers and young adults. However, those that were in attendance today seemed quite content to simply enjoy the company of family, friends, good food, and music. When I think about the pace and style of life here in Vichy, I see many lessons that I can try to incorporate back home. Some of these include appreciating nature by taking the time to amble through the park and respecting the environment by opening windows instead of using AC, taking showers that use less water, and even growing vegetables in one’s own backyard. That’s just about all my thoughts worth sharing for now, à bientôt!
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
This week, I was able to share part of American culture with my host family. We made pancakes for brunch on Sunday morning! My host explained that there is not a French word for “brunch” because it is completely counter-cultural. Nevertheless, I felt proud to be able to share the American joy of sleeping in and eating a late brunch on Sunday morning. The pancakes turned out to be thinner than the ones I normally make, so for me they seemed similar to crepes. However, my host assured me that they tasted distinctly different from crepes—and that wasn’t a bad thing! She explained that crepes have much more milk and no added sugar or butter. While we were eating, she also explained the different between crepes and galettes, the not-as-sweet version of crepes. Galettes are similar to crepes, but they usually have cheese, eggs, vegetables, and some type of meat. Instead of normal wheat flour, galettes contain “farine sarrasin,” or buckwheat flour, which contributes to the darker brown color and slightly heavier texture. During the lunch break at school, some friends and I visited a creperie, and I ordered a galette. To me, it is a mixture between a crepe and an omelet, but that explanation cannot do it justice!
This past Saturday was my host’s birthday, so a friend from school and I joined some of her friends canoeing on a river about a half hour drive from Vichy. Since this was also the Fourth of July, I was very excited to celebrate by doing something fun outdoors. One of my host’s friends had a 12-year-old daughter, and I found it very helpful to talk with her. I was able to understand just about everything she said when we spoke, as I asked her about her favorite music (heavy metal!) and also about her school and hobbies. The older friends were slightly harder to understand since they talked fairly quickly, but we had a nice conversation about stereotypes of France and the United States. Also, during lunch, my host and I had an interesting discussion about the death penalty. It was a somber topic during such an exciting, eventful day, but it wasn’t the first time this topic has come up. We have also discussed it in class at Cavilam. While France abolished the death penalty in 1981, many other countries, like the US, still have some form of capital punishment. I was surprised, however, by the somewhat large number of students in my class who came from countries that, like France, have abolished the death penalty.
This week in class we also discussed the broad topic of work, and with that, unemployment. One of my classmates from Thailand mentioned that the unemployment rate in Thailand is less than one-percent. I looked it up after class, and it is 0.93%! In the US, the rate is 5.5% as of May 2015, and in France it is 10.3%. It was very interesting to hear about “Pôle Emploi,” the government organization that provides resources for those seeking jobs. Initially, this seemed like an amazing resource that has no parallel in the US, but as we delved further into the logistics, we learned that only 12% of people who use “Pôle Emploi” end up successfully finding jobs. I found it very rewarding to examine the social problem of unemployment from the French perspective, especially after spending time in my poverty studies class this past semester on similar topics.
Apart from academic discussions, this week was also filled with various athletic activities. I ran alongside the Allier River a few days this week—even on Wednesday, the day when Vichy was the hottest city in all of Europe! I also played volleyball with other Cavilam students again this past Friday as well as continued to row on Tuesday and Thursday with the Club de l’Aviron de Vichy. I really enjoy the fact that despite the many different languages and cultures, I am able to participate in these sports with other students and “Vichyssoises” (natives of Vichy). It makes me realize once again that people are not all that different from one another. We have a competitive side (some more than others); we enjoy being a part of a team, even if sometimes our lack of quick communication causes the volleyball to drop; and we enjoy being active.
Just yesterday, I played mini-golf with my host, her parents, and her grandparents. My host had been trying for a few weeks to convince her parents to play, and finally, because of her birthday, she was able to convince them! I had played mini-golf a few times with my family on vacation, and I found this experience to be enlightening in many ways. First, I realized that my family in the US is quite a bit more competitive than my host family here, for better or for worse. Second, I was able to witness the strong bond of my host family, observing as my host gently helped her grandma hold the club properly and joining in on the cheers for her grandpa. I feel so grateful to have the chance to meet so many members of this family, and to think that this is just one French family of many! Before I came here, I had learned of the stereotype of the French to be slightly cold and not as open as Americans. However, I have found my host family to be nothing but welcoming and thoughtful. At the rowing club, it took a little time to become comfortable around the other rowers since I was the only non-French rower there, but now I feel welcome and accepted. Well, that’s about all for now. I’m excited to make the most of this next-to-last week here in Vichy!
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
More so than the others, this week really flew by! I had the chance to visit my cousin in Florence, Italy, so I was only in Vichy during the week. While in Vichy, I went to the National Ballet of Prague at the Opera with my host, a friend from school, and her host family. The Opera house reminded me of the Fox Theater in St. Louis (minus the lack of air conditioning). It was such a beautiful building but not quite as beautiful as the ballet dancers themselves! I danced up until high school, so I really could appreciate their graceful, strong, and deliberate movements. It wasn’t the classical ballet that I was expecting, but I enjoyed the slightly modern twist. The set included songs in Czech as well as French, including a few famous French songs by artist Jacques Brel. The following night, my host introduced me to some of his other songs. I felt very cultured after watching this ballet and learning about French songs!
One day after lunch this week, some friends and I read poems from my third book, a collection of poems by Jacques Prevert. I performed a couple of his poems for a French class at Notre Dame, so that is how this afternoon started. We sat in the park, listened to some classical music, and recited one after another, because “pourquoi pas”? (Why not?) Prevert generally wrote poems with short phrases and simple words, so it was a perfect pronunciation and comprehension practice for us students. This week with Cavilam, I also visited the Gour de Tazenat, which is a lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. It was a beautiful place to hike as well as swim, and I enjoyed exploring this natural site in France.
During class this week, we discussed the topic “patrimoine” or heritage ranging from the culture, language, music, and more of a city, country, and the world. We also discussed UNESCO, the Seven Wonders of the World, and other world heritage sites. Then, we created questions about the “patrimoine” of Vichy to ask the locals. My group found a man and woman in the Laundromat—a perfect place to interview as people wait for their clean clothes! It was very interesting hearing their ideas about what is important to the history of Vichy as well as the places they think are most valuable in Vichy, such as the Opera, the influence of Napoleon III, and the Source of the Celestins (a water source nearby Cavilam). The man especially seemed very knowledgeable about UNESCO sites all over the world. I found this activity very engaging and also gratifying because we were able to have an intelligent, interesting conversation entirely in French.
It was quite an experience visiting my cousin in Florence! I could go on and on about the beautiful architecture, perfectly-sculptured statues, and marvelous paintings I saw, but that is not the purpose of this blog. This trip helped me to appreciate even more the long history of Europe. In terms of age, nothing man-made can really compare in the US. All of the plazas in Florence are centered around a church and not just any church—almost always an ornately decorated masterpiece. My cousin and I shared our different experiences abroad, and I realized how much it helps to know the language before one travels abroad. My background of French has enabled me to make progress with the language, especially with speaking French. In Italy, I found myself thinking (and sometimes even speaking by accident) in French!
When traveling back to Vichy, I was able to interact with many locals due to a few problems with the trains. I missed the first train to take me from the airport to the next train station, so I waited for the next. However, it never came! I must have had the wrong time, so I called a taxi which also took longer than expected. I ended up finding a different taxi and had a pleasant conversation with the driver. He is familiar with Cavilam as well as other study abroad opportunities that I was unaware of in Clermont-Ferrand, a city about 45 minutes from Vichy. We also talked about Bastille Day, a national holiday in France on July 14. When I got to the train station, it was too late to have a person at the desk, so I had to ask a man for help purchasing a ticket. (My credit card is foreign so it will not work in the automatic machines.) I was able to pay him and his wife in cash for my ticket, and I was so grateful for their help. This entire traveling experience has made me feel so much more confident in my ability to speak in French. Five weeks ago, I’m not sure I would have been comfortable enough to approach a complete stranger and ask for help in French. After this experience, I also have such an appreciation for the considerate people who helped me get where I needed to be. I had never been more relieved or excited to see Vichy as when I arrived later that night after 11 hours of traveling.
Looking ahead to my last week, I am very content to remain here in Vichy and soak up as much of this city as I can before I leave!
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
This week really flew by, which is a bit odd because as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. As the last week filled with many goodbyes, fun isn’t quite the word I would choose, but the week flew by nonetheless. Tuesday was Bastille Day, a national holiday in France that marks the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and thus the beginning of the French Revolution. The 14th of July is a family day, and as I took a walk in the park, I noticed many people having picnics with friends and family. A friend and I decided to have a spontaneous picnic of veggies and humus, pesto, and a baguette. Cavilam hosted a beach volleyball tournament, which we both promptly joined. It lasted for several hours! By the time the tournament came to a close, teams were short players, so my friend and I joined another team that won the whole tournament! The mug and t-shirt I received will be perfect mementos from my time at Cavilam.
That night, my host returned from a trip with her friends (and I had just returned also the night before from visiting my cousin). As we each shared stories from our trips, I could not help but think of how different this conversation was from our very first one when she picked me up from the airport. Not only was I more at ease, but I could much more easily understand and even better articulate what I wished to say without much trouble. It was exciting to realize how much my French had improved over the course of the six weeks. I also realized how close we had gotten after living together for this long. I knew that saying goodbye later this week would be tough, but luckily we had a few more days together.
On Wednesday, I went to the grocery store with my host, something we had planned to do together but hadn’t gotten around to it until this last week. Coincidentally, we ran into one of the workers at Cavilam while we were there. It was a brief exchange but one of the highlights of my week for sure. Seeing a familiar face at the grocery store made me feel like a true vichyssoise!
After shopping, we went to my host parents’ house for one final dinner together. It was delicious as always. I asked them their thoughts and opinions towards the US and received three relatively different answers. Her mom does not think of the US often; however, most of her impressions she admitted come from television and the media—subjects including the arms debate, reality series, obese Americans. She thinks it is very paradoxical that there are a lot of believers but also Americans in general favor the possession of arms. I was surprised that this issue came up as often as it did. It reminded me of an earlier conversation a few weeks ago about the right to bear arms in the US. I realize now that this idea is linked to their ideas of Americans because it comes up fairly often in their news.
My host’s father was very passionate about the subject of gun control and possession. He believes that the explanation of having arms to defend oneself is illogical. When I think about this issue, I recall back to reading about the American Revolution in my history books and realize that as Americans we have a long history of using arms to defend ourselves. Even though the French also have a somewhat similar history with the storming of the Bastille, this does not translate into a common thought of the need for weapons to defend oneself, at least in the case of my host’s dad. He also talked about the American ideal of liberty, and he doubts if Americans really have any more liberties than the French or if we just talk about them more. (After hearing about five weeks paid vacation for everyone in France, I could not help but begin to think that he may have a point.)
My host had the most favorable opinion of the US of the three. She acknowledged that there are many different parts of the US with differing opinions, just as there are many regions in France. Even when there are news stories about opinions on gun control or homicides, she realizes these do not reflect every city in the US. She is much more open than her parents. I wonder if that is because she is part of a younger generation or because an American—me!—spent six weeks with her.
It was much sadder that I imagined saying goodbye to her parents when we left that night. After hearing about their opinions on the US and Americans, I hope that I left a good impression to represent my country and the ideals by which we try to live. The next day, I had a café with one of my close friends from Cavilam, and we reminisced on our time together. I had met her the very first morning at school. It was hard to believe the six weeks had already come and gone, but I would not trade them for the world!
My last night with my host we had a picnic in the park and then met up with some of my Cavilam friends across from her apartment for our final goodbye. I’m not sure if I will ever see any of them again, but it gives me hope to think that maybe one day if I ever get the chance to travel outside the US or if they come visit, we can be reunited. Now I have friends in several different countries, and we are all connected by our love and our desire to speak French!
Saying goodbye to my host “mom” was pretty hard but that was expected after living with her for six weeks. She taught me so much about French language, music, food, and so many more aspects of French culture. We had so many fun memories together, and even since I’ve returned home we’ve stayed in touch. Maybe one day she’ll come to the US and then I can help her get to know the American culture!
I am so grateful for this opportunity through the SLA grant to immerse myself in the French culture. I have a newfound respect for the French people and other cultures in general. The lessons I learned abroad made me more independent and have definitely widened my worldview. Merci beaucoup to everyone who made this possible!
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
After my study abroad experience, I feel so much more confident in my ability to speak French. My accent and fluidity improved by living with my host and hearing her speak with her friends and parents. Also, by surrounding myself with friends who were mostly at a slightly higher level of spoken French than my own, I pushed myself to increase my spoken French even outside of class. Living with a host family also helped me to learn small phrases and expressions that the French use in everyday life. I gained an appreciation for the French culture by becoming a part of it during the six weeks in Vichy. I have a larger worldview as a result of the friendships I formed between people of all nationalities.
In terms of my goals, I completed two novels over the course of my SLA and also read the majority of poems in my third book. I felt confident enough in my ability to speak in French on all sorts of academic topics in the classroom and also in the street. For one exercise for class, we discussed the topic of heritage with a Vichyssoise. I really enjoyed this experience to engage with the locals in talking about the history of France and Vichy especially. I also attended mass several times during my stay in Vichy. Looking back, I can clearly notice an increase in my comprehension from the first mass I went to and the last. For the latter, I understood the entire homily and most every other part of the Mass as well, which is a large contrast from the first week where I was merely going through the motions. There was definitely a comfort during that first week, however, when even as I couldn’t understand everything, the Catholic traditions were the same even on the other side of the world.
I also took up the sport of rowing at the Vichy Rowing Club. My interactions with French rowers, mostly older men and women, gave me an appreciation for the recreational side of the French as well as the competitive side. It was a little nerve-wracking to walk to the Rowing Club for the first time, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel somewhat nervous every time I went. However, I learned so much about the French culture here, as strangers greeted me with the traditional “bisous” greeting of a kiss on each cheek. As the weeks progressed, I became more comfortable and was able to start conversations and interject (the hardest part!) into others with these Vichyssoise. I learned more about sculling (which involves two oars instead of sweep rowing with only one) here in Vichy, and I continue to receive emails from the Rowing Club outlining various upcoming events. I don’t have the heart to ask to be taken off the list, because it is one of the links I have to France even now as I’m back at Notre Dame.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
This summer tested my limits and independence. There were some stressful times as I managed maneuvering through various public transportations. However, as a result, I feel much more confident in my ability to live, study, and travel in France, let alone ask questions in French when I am stuck. I have so much respect for the people who open up their homes and their lives to host an international student. My host had spent several months in Australia to learn English, where she also lived with a host family. She in turn decided to become the host, and perhaps in the future I would also accept this challenge as a way of paying forward her wonderful welcome to me in Vichy. This SLA afforded me the chance to become open to another way of life, in some ways a more simple life. I think much more about water conservation even with the different shower heads in the US, and I also am aware of the snack foods that I may buy unnecessarily. I am also more appreciative of the natural world around me. Spending so much time in the park across the street from my host’s apartment and the park behind Cavilam made me much more grateful for beautiful natural spaces.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I am still planning to pursue a service teaching program in the future. While abroad, I was almost always the only American in the classroom. This gave me the chance to appreciate people from all different cultures with differing opinions. I had never been in a more diverse classroom, nor will I probably ever be. The classroom dynamic was one of curiosity, acceptance, and respect. Each student felt important as the teachers would ask about policies or habits of each of our home countries. Every student was valued for what they could bring to the discussion. I can bring this mindset to a future classroom as each student’s perspective and opinion is brought to the forefront and valued. Cavilam gave me the opportunity to be more aware of the global world. With students from countries far and near, it offered a chance to make the word seem smaller, manageable, and reachable. I remember one time after class, I was discussing the intriguing dynamic at Cavilam with a friend. It brought me hope to see how so many students and teachers from numerous countries are able to unite together to reach a common goal of learning French. I will bring this perspective of hope with me as I continue to apply what I learned from this summer to my daily live here in the US.