About Tianyi

I am a sophomore majoring in History and Political Science. Originally an international student from Shanghai, China, I now live in P-Dub with the beautiful Ugly Bush. Having taken up French only since I came to Notre Dame, I feel extremely fortunate to have this chance to fully immerse in the French culture overseas. Outside of classroom, I enjoy reading and doing Chinese crosswords. Thanks to the two gorgeous lakes at Notre Dame, I am also on my way to become an extremely amateur photographer, with a particular obsession for the sunset scene.

SLA Post-Program Reflection

1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA Grant experience.

What insights did you gain into the language acquisition process? How did you engage and understand cultural differences. Did you meet your goals for language learning that you articulated on the blog before you started your program? Why or why not?

The language acquisition experience I have gained from this past summer is indeed quite different from my coursework at Notre Dame. Studying French where it is spoken made my learning more continuous through the entire six-week period, for there existed a much less obvious division between in-class and after-class time. More importantly, however, I have benefited from the advanced B2-level course for various linguistic nuances that I could not have picked up before this program. To make it short, therefore, the one-piece language acquisition takeaway from this summer experience is to be immersed into the language as often and continuous as I can.

Six weeks in Paris may still seem too brief for me to truly gain a deep understanding of cultural differences. However, the seemingly trivial details in everyday life such as late dinner time and Sunday store closures also reflect interesting French culture. Yet I have benefited most in cultural awareness by living with my host family, who not only provided me with delicious home dishes but also engaged me in interesting cross-cultural dialogues.

Looking back on the learning goals that I have set up before departure, I believe I have made progress in all of them. While it is hard to determine if I have truly “accomplished” these goals, especially without a systematic evaluation, I have during my stay corresponding experiences that give me confidence to assume my progress for all the four goals listed in my first post.

2. Reflect on your SLA Grant experience overall.

What insights have you brought back as a result of this experience? How has your summer language study abroad changed you and/or your worldview? What advice would you give to someone who was considering applying for an SLA Grant or preparing to start their own summer language study?

Before all I consider the diversity of Francophiles that I have observed as the most impressive and important insight I gained from this experience. As I have already mentioned in my previous blog entries, my class at CCFS shows an extremely interesting mix of people. We have a senior lady, foreign embassy employees, undergraduate and graduate students, a guitarist, housewives, etc. Ridiculous as it may sound, I have never had a full awareness of the huge world of Francophiles before this summer by insulating myself with the undergraduate class setting at Notre Dame.

Moreover, this perception of a fascinating diversity in people who continue their studies at various stages of life is more than encouraging. While cliché has it that studying is a lifelong thing, this SLA experience is indeed what allow me to put a human face onto these words; and thus I obtain a renewed confidence and passion to continue learning and thinking beyond my undergraduate years and even beyond my formal academic life.

As for advices for future SLA applicants or who are simply planning a summer language study, the most important thing I would say is “Do not hesitate to go abroad!” There are numerous ways that one can spend a summer, but language learning in a foreign country would be no doubt among the most rewarding ones.

Where do you go from here? How will you maintain, grow and/or apply what you have learned? How might you use your SLA Grant experience during the rest of your academic career and post-graduation. How will your SLA Grant experience inform you as you move forward academically, personally and professionally?

In the nearest future, I hope to continue my pursuit of proficiency in both written and spoken French. Hence this semester I am taking a French writing course to compensate for the relatively less training on this side during the summer. I also plan to have at least one French course for each of the semester remaining till graduation.

This improvement in French is crucial also for my academic pursuit, most visibly in that I hope to conduct research on the period around the French Revolution, a project which will very likely evolve into a senior thesis. Being able to access original versions of primary and secondary sources would thus be invaluable for me.

Apart from the more pragmatic plan for improving my French, however, I think this experience indeed builds up my confidence both in speaking the language and exploring in-depth a foreign culture. As an international student, I have had similar experience when coming to Notre Dame for the first time; however, this summer I had a more conscious observation of myself going into a new cultural environment. Thus I would hesitate even less in the future why my studies or work would require me to move into a whole new environment. In addition, I have always aspired to work for international organizations such as the United Nations, where the knowledge of French and English would both be crucial to expand my professional boundaries.


Le Finale: Adieu et A bientôt

“Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure”

– Guillaume APOLLINAIRE, Alcools

My days in Paris could not have passed more quickly. Like all wondrous summer nights, the first morning breeze always comes early to dispel the remaining dreams. As I was writing before my departure to school, I still felt as if I was on my first day of arrival, with a huge unfamiliar city awaiting in front of me. Now recalling once more Hemingway’s famous quote, that “… Paris is a moveable feast,” I cannot help feeling bittersweet precisely because I have started to understand his words better. With my previous journal entries, I hope I have done an acceptable job sharing with you a five-course French feast. Yet for myself, I am certain that my taste buds would trap for a long time the taste of Paris.

The Entire Class in Jardin du Luxembourg for a "Farewell" Picnic

The Entire Class in Jardin du Luxembourg for a “Farewell” Picnic

For my last two weeks in Paris, I have finished my studies at CCFS and waved goodbye to my amazing classmates. An extra surprise on the last day of class was that our professor took us out to a picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg! Even thought the elegant garden is only five-minute on foot from our classroom, it is indeed the first time I spent a fair amount of time there. One of our classmate happened to be a great classical guitarist. Thus amid the pleasant August sunshine and shades, we sat along, shared foods and listened to wonderful music. The scene was indeed like one of those lovely movies, and I could certainly say my six weeks at CCFS ended in perfect joy and company. Looking back on the six weeks, no doubt I have picked up numerous nuanced language points. Yet more importantly, in daily action with my classmates I became used to speak French more at ease. As I have repetitively noted in my previous entries, French came alive during my time in Paris from what was once only learned in classroom.

Me in the Twilight of Le Mont Saint-Michel

Me in the Twilight of Le Mont Saint-Michel

After the classes ended, however, I also continued to travel a little bit in and from Paris. Compared with my arrival, I found broadcasts on transportations much more accessible either from familiarly with its content or (I hope) my improvement in French. While not learning any more French deliberately, knowing the language made my travels so much more memorable as I could make sense of most signs and conversations around me. Rather than an isolated passer-by in completely foreign surroundings, France now seems to be more welcoming than when I visited it years ago.

Monet's Dreamlike Garden Slightly after Peak Blossom Period

Monet’s Dreamlike Garden Slightly after Peak Blossom Period

Coming back, I cannot wait to continue the study of French with another course. On the other hand, it is certain that this brief stay in France would be an irreplaceable experience of learning and living in a francophone environment. Now each time I unwittingly say short expressions such as “J’sais pas,” inevitably I am reminded of my time in Paris. Thus it is after returning that I felt a renewed gratitude for the funding that make this trip possible, and I am sure that it would remain a truly special memory.

Le Fromage et le dessert : A Trio-Museum Visit

My last week studying at CCFS is catching up fast, and before long it would be time to bid Paris a goodbye. On Saturday morning my lovely roommate has already left for United States, leaving the entire apartment and Coquine the cat to me. Yes, my host mother has parted for vacation in Sicily as well! Indeed we were discussing some time before that nowhere in France does this tradition of summer vacation seem that evident. Stores and news stands are closed; department stores are filled with beach outfits and Panama hats; even several professors at CCFS are leaving for vacation in the middle of the programs. Not that the school acts irresponsibly at all – CCFS ensures smooth transitions between professors – but indeed it is surprising at first to find out how vacation is an absolutely uncompromisable priority in French life.

Sculptures in Louvre at Dusk

Sculptures in Louvre at Dusk

I, on the other hand, hoped to take advantage of the slight space left by Parisians on vacation to visit all around more easily. A bit naive, I admit. Yet all the same I organized a trio-museum trip this weekend: Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Orangerie, and Musée d’Orsay. Merely mentioning these three names suffices to predict a grand project, for I still remember how the 11-year-old me was almost dragged around Louvre to finish a classical route around it. Louvre remains immense even after almost ten years since my first visit. However, the Friday night when I entered Louvre turned out to be an incredibly beautiful one. Slowly sinking sun projected the enlarged shadows of sculptures against the walls of the Richelieu Wing. Sunlight bathed the grand marble sculptures with a sense of grandeur and vicissitudes in this spacious hall. I came to realize that the architecture layout of Louvre itself is perhaps a priceless precious when placed into interactions with its awe-striking collection.

Sunset clouds behind Tour Eiffel and Roue de Paris - From Jardin des Tuileries

Sunset clouds behind Tour Eiffel and Roue de Paris – From Jardin des Tuileries

Musée de l’Orangerie showed a completely different image. Undoubtedly the eight huge pieces of Monet’s waterlilies set the tone of this delicate museum located in Jardin des Tuileries. Its official guides says that Monet designed this collection of works to provide Parisians with a space where they could catch a breath. The natural light pouring in from the half-transparent domes is incredibly tender and soothing. Visitors would be embraced by waterlilies displayed all around the two oval halls. It is particularly intriguing to think, in retrospect, how it is only possible to detect the subtle fluid changes of light and shadow in the paintings by standing away from them. Distance facilitates us to “see the bigger picture.” I am not certain whether my whimsical idea would become any more philosophical, but indeed this “boutique” museum proves to be truly thought-provoking.

A Random Zoom-in of Monet's Waterlilies

A Random Zoom-in of Monet’s Waterlilies

Finally came Musée d’Orsay. It would be redundant for me to describe how Orsay is a huge feast for Impressionism lovers; and I happen to be one. Despite it being a Sunday when even public transport slowed down to some extent, Orsay was extremely popular all the same. What I found most fascinating from this visit in particular, however, is the numerous works here that bring me a sense of summer. Green fields, afternoon gardens, or even roses in the corner of delicate portraits show a pleasant and tranquil summer atmosphere. Crowded as it was, Orsay still calmed me down from the glaring sunlight outside.

Le ballon (The Ball) by Félix Vallotton at Musée d'Orsay

Le ballon (The Ball) by Félix Vallotton at Musée d’Orsay

With the few days left for my Paris stay, I would continue to try to soak every fascinating detail of the city. Looking back to my first post, it now seems almost naive not to hurry in Paris, for there are always so many things to see, however long one stays here.

La Salade : A Month Has Passed

One month has passed since I arrived in Paris – a fact still incredible even when I typed down these words. When I went to the metro station this morning, about to use my Navigo pass as usual, the machine told me it was no longer valid. Suddenly I recalled that August has come, whereas my July Navigo pass has already expired. I find this particularly intriguing, for before all it was this extremely trivial detail that reminded me of the month passed. Once this notion has been activated, however, my entire surroundings came alive. The huge posters alongside the corridor at the station all essentially read, “Jusqu’à la fin du juillet !” I could still recall how excited I was when I passed them the first day here. Spoiled by the rich cultural activities Paris, I supposed. Now these once enchanting opportunities has become obsolete. A bit sad yet also amazing how time flies.

Coquine the Cat at my Homestay

Coquine the Cat at my Homestay

Another student at my homestay will leave on August 6, roughly a week before I move out as well. Last week we sat down together at the table, sharing the wonderful dinner our host mother has prepared, and all of a sudden the idea of leaving soon struck both of us. For her it was perhaps even more pressing given only a week left. As a will-be photographer, my roommate has long found Paris her paradise. Yet up till then, she told me she has never done much “tourist” visiting. Nameless roads and cute boutiques has “distracted” her way too much. “Absolutely the same,” I nodded (except that I am nowhere near a photographer).

Strangely we both got this feeling that to visit as many scenic spots as possible, a month seems too long in that it spoils us with the luxury of time. Grateful all the same for not having to hurry, I did feel less incentives to spend entire days out traveling around the city. Yet when the stay comes to its end, my tourist impulse revives and agitates me with every minute passing. Dragging out the travel guide stuffed at the bottom of my suitcase, I realized there are yet so many spots that I have not checked out. Tour Eiffel and Musée du Louvre as two most representative must-go places remain intact for this trip. Even though I has twice visited Paris before, I am certain at my current age they would be renewed and enhanced surprises for me. If for the past month I was busying myself with French and “exploring the real everyday Paris,” I suddenly realized they have now turned in to literally must-go places.

Tour Eiffel from the South Bottom

Tour Eiffel from the South Bottom

Thus today after class I hurried to Tour Eiffel. One crucial mission is to send out postcards for my family and friends from the post office supposedly located at the south entrance of the tower. Only in this particular post office was a special post stamp featuring “Tour Eiffel” available, and I had hoped to make my postcards slightly more unique. Unfortunately, I was there only to find out that the post office has been closed for several months. Even the yellow mailbox has been wrapped with tapes and a paper notice saying, “This mailbox is out of service for security concerns.” I tried my best not to overstretch the potential dark implication behind “security,” for my friends traveling in Pars roughly a year ago told me the post office was well open then. Looking around one can easily spot several police officers in their heavy black uniforms, and of course with their cars nearby. Somehow in the warm afternoon sun, I felt like a shadow has never truly quitted Paris since last November. At that moment I was extra grateful for being able to lead on a relatively carefree life here, for there must have been numerous people standing up to the lurking threats and protecting our everyday life from them.

L’Entrée : A Short “Flee” to Provence

As I typed down these words, my train left Avignon TGV Station in tender twilight. The broadcast repeated that this would be a direct journey to Paris, “sans cesse.” I have always known that two days would fly by, but not until I finally parted did I realize how I would miss this trip. Yes, I “fled” to Provence for a weekend from the grand city of Paris and from the slightly routine everyday life. Though not at all am I bored about Paris, a wholly different scenery in Southern France would naturally be refreshing.

Before all, it is purely the regret that I had once missed the blossom period of lavender that brought me to Provence. When I arrived in Avignon four years ago, a strong fragrance of lavender still lingered on in the air despite the complete absence of its purple flowers. Exactly as Tagore has written in a poem:”I leave no trace of wings in the air, but I am glad I have had my flight.” On the other hand, however, I also planned this solo trip to test if I could live up to one of my pre-departure objectives: to navigate without difficulties around the country. Someone must have heard my second wish, for the trip started out with a little mess that forced me to truly communicate with others – rather than finish an absolutely smooth trip without talking much.

As I reached Gare de Lyon in Paris approximately half an hour in advance, my “worst” trouble began. Since the rest of my trip could hardly have been better, this tiny issue stood out. I had to pick up my train tickets at the station, and the automatic machine could not read my card. When I turned to the service center for help, more than a dozen of people were queuing ahead of me. In her sweet voice a lady explained to me that it was a Friday and the entire world would leave for vacation. Minute by minute, I finally missed my original train and had to make a change in booking. I hope I did not sound like complaining, for looking back I did not feel bothered at all. Quite the contrary, I found this experience truly encouraging as I managed to sort everything out in French when I could easily slip back into English at such a large train station. Furthermore, I sensed a strange confidence knowing that I could rely on my language ability – though nothing near full proficiency.

The City Walls of Avignon at Night

The City Walls of Avignon at Night

Provence was, then, a perfect dream. I luckily arrived in Avignon during its annual Festival d’Avignon that consists of countless theatrical performances. Warm, fresh evening breeze embraced me with mixed scents of lavender, honey and lemon verbena. The ancient city wall showed beautiful contrast with the sky, perfect in blue and gold. Strolling through the cobblestone alleys, the medieval town of Avignon was indeed so different from Paris that one could easily have a sense of vacation. The next day I departed for lavender with slight worries, for the weather report predicted rain and overcast in the region. For one of the few times, it was right. I did not see the typical postcard scene that consists of brilliant sunshine and endless violet field in extremely high saturation. What I encountered was instead a grey sky and dark purple field. Though beautiful all the same, I would admit that I was a bit disappointed mainly because of the break of my fixed stereotypes.

Lavender Field in front of Sénanque Abbey

A second highlight of my trip was a visit to Arles the next day, where Van Gogh has stayed once and painted his famous The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. Sadly I did not visit the town at night, but another great wonder awaited in the bright sunshine. At the hospital where Van Gogh stayed after cutting his ear, a court filled with radiant flowers stood. I was so amazed that I could barely find words to describe its visual power. Then reflecting back on the intense, colorful paintings of Van Gogh, I came to feel a bittersweet sentiment. So many have called his life a shooting star. So I would also quote Tagore again, “LET life be beautiful like the summer flowers…” Not at all an art expert, the beauty of merely one place where Van Gogh has stayed struck me all the same.

Blossoming Garden at Espace Van Gogh in Arles

Blossoming Garden at Espace Van Gogh in Arles

Southern France was indeed a treasure with strong artistic atmosphere. I have one final thing to share with you – the quaint town of Roussillon built out of red clay. The entire town was really vibrant with its unique color of the architecture and its numerous artworks. Traveling solo finally showed its drawback when I could hardly take a full-length photo. Thus again an opportunity to practice my French as well as my “courage” arose. I started to ask locals to help take photos of me. It was a process full of surprises in which I could never have pictured myself even a year ago. I have always been a typical introvert and tend to avoid much contact with strangers. Yet here I submitted to my earnest desire of capturing every beautiful image I came across.

Me with An Artistic Gate at Roussillon, the City of Red Clay

Me with An Artistic Gate at Roussillon, the City of Red Clay

Leaving in the gradually darkening sunshine made this departure a hard one. As rosy clouds sank into the thick blue sky, I cannot help but have my eyes lingering on the hasty lavender or sunflower fields passing by. In just two days, Provence showed me a picture of all the best of summer. Coming back from this trip, I became more confident in my ability to use French in various occasions. Even if there may not be much substantial progress yet, I feel more at ease speaking French no longer as if in a conversation practice, but truly as a communication medium not much different from English.

L’Hors d’œuvres : A Noisy Summer

The lasting heat in Paris has rendered the city slightly unfamiliar to me, as well as most local Parisians. As we unanimously complain about the sweltering weather in class, our teacher further confirmed that “…we Parisians are not built for such weather.” Sunlight feels almost tangible. Street noises sound more irritating than ever. Even the once pleasant leaves turn glaring with an oversaturated green shade. Loud that is, the late coming summer in Paris.

As the sunlight grows increasingly intense, however, summer does not consist of endless carnivals or parties. A subject that I had always tried to avoid in my blog posts appeared ever so close to my daily life – the terrorist attacks. In fact, my rector once asked me before parting for summer, “You are going to Paris! Are you afraid, considering the November attack and everything?” Half thoughtless half self-encouraging, I gave her a No. Terrorist attacks however horrible seemed distant enough from me that I held but way-too-superficial sorrow and indignation for the victims. Not until the Nice attack took place did I come to full awareness that France has been in a state of emergency for months, and it would continue henceforth perhaps for a long time.

Feu d'artifice au 14 juillet 2016

Feu d’artifice au 14 juillet 2016 (Wikimedia)

I was amid a large number of people celebrating the Bastille Day near Eiffel Tower. In retrospective, a slight and hazy fear bubbled indeed at the bottom of my heart. The powerful undercurrent of a huge crowd is always intimidating. Yet tracing back to the “No” I said to my rector, I went along anyway. The scene was doubtlessly wonderful. Shooting out from the Eiffel Tower itself, fireworks of various shapes made a grand feast of stars. People were exclaiming all around. In that extraordinarily joyous atmosphere, was absolutely hard to imagine that at the same time a truck was driving into the crowd in Nice.

La Flamme de la Liberté - From Where I Watched the Firework

La Flamme de la Liberté – From Where I Watched the Firework

A few days later, as I walked by a news stall near my school, a poster caught my attention with a caption “Comment vivre avec peur (How to Live with Fear).” Other than this, however, I sensed no great changes in everyday life because of the latest Nice attack. Our teacher mentioned but a little in class about the attacks. So did my classmates. If the whole Atlantic ocean seemed to be too great a distance, Paris is not close enough to make certain degree of “insulation” impossible. I find this state of calmness simultaneously baffling and soothing. I could still recall that after the Paris attack, a victim husband said, “Vous n’aurez pas ma haine (You will not have my hate).” People live on as usual and after all one could only comment, C’est la vie.

As for my French, it is hard to consciously detect much progress myself, but I begin to feel more confident going around and casually talking with someone. For the past week I have been to post office inquiring about a lost delivery, talked with customer service personnel and chatted with locals at cafés. Rather than an application that needs to be activated and takes time to warm up, French has become more casual and prompt to arrive for me.

L’Apéritif : A First Taste of Parisian Life

It was raining heavily in Paris as I typed down these words. Roughly two weeks here has taught me before all a lesson about its weather, that it rarely pours even with the gloomiest sky. Yet this time it seems that the Parisian sky has finally made up its mind. The familiar nine-o’clock sunshine at dusk entirely disappeared. So had the French aspiration for the European Championship 2016. Aside from my refreshing French courses at CCFS, the most impressive thing that I have witnessed so far is the evident passion for soccer more or less unique to Europeans. I remember the amazement when I found bars and cafés that are usually closed for Sundays were mostly open for the UEFA final. Nowhere near a soccer fan, I was still able to learn each tiny progression of the match by just listening to the shouts outside my window.

Champagne by the Seine

Champagne by the Seine – On Pont Alexandre III

My first week of courses has been truly inspiring. Instead of making huge progress in my French, however, the most salient lesson that I have received so far is about “assumption.” On the very first day, I came to realize how many of my classmates are not “students” – more specifically undergraduate students as myself. Instead, I have as my classmates a really interesting group of people. From graduate students to housewives and even to an elegant senior lady, our class was much more diverse in composition than I could have imagined. A strange feeling arose that I have finally stepped into the real society. As I wrote in my application that I hope to broaden my horizon on this trip, this class itself has been indeed a precious opportunity. Through my classmates I gradually perceive how French language could have such a great variety of meanings for different individuals. In addition to the relatively ordinary functions as a tool for work or studies, several of my classmates have also chosen French out of pure fondness or to further their communication with their French family.

While assuming beforehand that all my classmates would be students as I am make rather trivial impact on my class life, another assumption that I share with my classmates seems to be much more influential. Except for one or two of my classmates, the entire class could be seen as largely anglophones. Most of us are either native English speakers or have considerable proficiency as international students and employees. Thus the problem emerges. Even our instructor tends to directly give English translation of certain new vocabulary from time to time, not to mention ourselves, who are always trying to find equivalents between French and English. Yet I still sense some uncomfortableness in using such a convenient learning method. As we make acquiring French vocabulary into some sort of matching game with English, we subconsciously deny at least part of the independence of the French language. As we struggles to pair the nuances between “soul/spirit” and “âme/esprit” over almost half an hour, we cannot avoid forcing nonexistent relationships into the two languages while also slightly wasting time. One of the best habit that all my French professors at Notre Dame have tried to establish in students is to use French-French dictionaries. I could not fully appreciate that requirement until now. While none of my classmates nor me would willfully force English into French, I finally came to understand how learning French by French is not only beneficial for our progress but also renders the language even more dignity and integrity.

Roue de Paris - From Jardin des Tuileries at Dusk

Roue de Paris – From Jardin des Tuileries at Dusk

As my French listening has started to progress little by little, I discovered with amazement how I could roughly comprehend people chatting on the metro or in the restaurants. More than before I felt closer to a local. Still I could not resist the temptation to travel around Paris as a tourist. Strolling by the Seine and taking Roue de Paris, I still feel the same amazement when I first saw Paris years ago. In the pleasant evening breeze, the city is indeed the greatest gift for my summer.

La première rencontre : Arrival in Paris

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Cliché enough, Paris is a dream realized for numerous people, of which I have never been an exception. When I read this famous quote from Hemingway for the first time, as a child I  imagined nothing but the scents of Paris. Taking his words literally, I envisioned the city to be exceptionally delicious. Would it smell like the most tender and juicy goose liver? Freshly made chocolate whose lovely scent lingers on in the last bit of warm vapor? Or the charming scents of fruits that rise from bubbling champagne?

Later on the city has taken on a much more romantic tone, which I imagined to smell like the richest blooming red roses. Then finally at the age of eleven, I came to the real Paris for the first time. Stepping off the coach and rubbering my shoulders with others’, I ran into a Paris filled with crowds and traffic. I understand neither the flowing French around me nor the extremely convoluted layout of roads. The intensive package tour exhausted both my parents and I, struggling to force our sore feet on and to memorize the numerous monuments we saw. The dreamlike city vanished in the face of fatigue.

Thus with the luxury of a one-month stay this time, I determined to find a Paris that conforms more or less with my earliest fantasies; or one that exceeds my wildest dreams. Tender breeze of a pleasant summer night embraced me the first moment I stepped out of the Charles de Gaulle Airport. As I traveled through the twists and turns of the Parisian roads, a strong sense of déjà-vus came alive. All those elegant light brown rooftops against the azure sky looked so familiar as if I have seen them for a thousand times before. “Home away from home,” I said to myself, “et Paris j’arrive !”

My host family is in a tranquil neighborhood in the second arrondissement, minutes away from le Centre Pompidou and the Seine. Opening the door, a cute black cat greeted me with clear elegance and suppressed curiosity. A lovely start of my Parisian life, I thought. Pondering the limited amount of French that still remains in my memory after a month of summer vacation, I stammered to my host mother, “Bon..bonsoir ?” She gave out an encouraging smile, though the next minute her cheerfully flowing French quenched my growing pomposity. As I finally lay down on my bed, looking at the darkening sky outside, my Parisian life started!

La vie quotidienne

Jardin du Luxembourg – Children Waiting to Ride a Pony

Since the program at la Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne (CCFS) do not begin until July 4th, I have the leisure to roam around Paris for almost a week. I started to immerse myself into the francophone atmosphere all around. There were times when I successfully “became” as a local, while other times I sneaked back into the familiar American space at Starbucks. Yet as I sat on the bench in Jardin du Luxembourg, amid numerous French people, I began to feel the everyday Parisian life creeping upon me. This time, and for the first time, I am not a hasty passer-by who would no doubt missed much beauty of Paris. I would not turn off my ears to the melodious French as a lazy traveler.

La vie est belle. Encore plus belle quand elle se passe doucement.

SLA Pre-Departure Prompts

Provide a brief personal bio (50-100 words)

Provide some general background on yourself with references to your personal and academic experiences.

I am a sophomore majoring in History and Political Science. Originally an international student from Shanghai, China, I now live in P-Dub with the beautiful Ugly Bush. Having taken up French only since I came to Notre Dame, I feel extremely fortunate to have this chance to fully immerse in the French culture overseas. Outside of classroom, I enjoy reading and doing Chinese crosswords. Thanks to the two gorgeous lakes at Notre Dame, I am also on my way to become an extremely amateur photographer, with a particular obsession for the sunset scene.

Why your SLA Grant is important to you (100-200 words)

Explain why your SLA Grant is important to you and your future plans. This will likely implicate intellectual, academic and career goals. You are welcome to use your statement of purpose on your SLA Grant proposal to help craft this.

As a history major I intend to concentrate on early modern France, more specifically the period around the French Revolution. As I researched on “revolutionary iconoclasm” for a term paper last semester, I have found that the most important sources are almost exclusively written in French. The ability to comprehend and use first and second sources in French is hence indispensable for my future, more in-depth academic research that would very likely form a senior thesis. A more advanced level of French not only helps my academic pursuit but also would substantially contribute to my long-term career goals. I intend to pursue a legal career after graduation and focus specifically on international law. As one of the most widely spoken languages, French would undoubtedly open to me a huge scope of francophone countries and regions; its usage as official language of various international organizations also makes French a key language for the study of international law.

What you hope to achieve (100-200 words)

Describe what you hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience. In short, what do you intend to get out of the grant?

Above all, I hope this summer study experience will make me more “at ease” using the French language both in vernacular and academic context. I plan to enroll in the six-week intensive summer program at Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne (CCFS), which entails five-hour courses per day and opportunities for various extracurricular activities. While the idea of wandering around Paris is lovely, I envision my summer there above all a serious learning experience to truly solidify my linguistic skills.

In addition, I have developed a strong interest in French cultural history, particularly of the period preceding the Great Revolution. As the heart of France and various historical events, Paris would be a precious treasure for me to gain a vivid notion of this history. I hope to take advantage of this location and to explore the numerous historical sites and libraries in Paris. Ultimately, I hope this summer immersion will make the French language and culture an integral part of my intellectual sphere, with living impressions and memories.

Your Specific Learning Goals (3-5)

Provide at least three and no more than five specific goals for your learning this summer. Frame your goals via functional statements of ability: “By the end of the summer, I will be able to…”

My specific learning goals are that by the end of this summer learning experience:

1. I will be able to navigate independently and confidently through France, i.e. from grocery stores to administrative offices;

2. I will be able to fluently hold non-trivial conversations with locals and discuss relatively profound topics;

3. I will be able to significantly expand my vocabulary so as to effectively and accurately express myself with proper word choice;

4. I will further refine my grammar and in particular its spontaneous application in everyday conversation so that I could talk with few errors.


How you plan to maximize your experience (100-200 words)

Describe how you intend to “hit the ground running: and take full advantage of your international language study. Please feel free to draw from your ‘Plan of Action’ in your SLA Grant proposal to help craft your response.

Before all, I plan to take full advantage of my language program, Cour de Civilisation Français de la Sorbonne (CCFS), which partners with Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) to provide great opportunities to learn about the French culture. CCFS also organizes numerous cultural, social and sports outings for its thousands of students every year. I will take full advantage of these outings to work towards fluency of French and to befriend my fellow French students, with whom I will hopefully keep in contact upon return.

To maximize my engagement in authentic interactions, I also plan to stay with a host family throughout the six-week period. I will make my best efforts to blend into the Parisian daily life. Besides an opportunity to practice my conversational skills in everyday setting, a host family will also offer me a chance to acquaint myself with the most vivid aspect of French culture.

Finally, with the perfect location in Paris, I would not waste this incomparable chance to explore the heart of France, to see with my own eyes those legendary historic sites, and to experience the “moveable feast” that shall stay with me for a lifetime.