Name: Clare Urbanski
Location of Study: Tours, France
Program of Study: L’Institut de Touraine
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures and Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
I’m a sophomore from Wisconsin living in Lewis Hall, and I’m studying French and Russian. I absolutely love languages—they’re sort of my obsession. Understanding the subtleties of my own first language, understanding the subtleties of other languages, and examining the differences between them are all things I take great interest in. I love classical languages too, and I hope I can learn some other languages in the future. In my spare time, I do a lot of creative writing.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
As someone who really loves languages, I feel like I need to spend a lot more time than I currently am spending immersed in a culture that speaks that language. My family isn’t well-off enough to take trips to other countries on a regular basis, so I’ve actually never left the United States. Needless to say, even though I’ve had a lot of training in the French language, I’m desperate to be able to speak it in its real context and put my skills into practice. At this point I feel it is the only way I can improve my French skills, as I’ve moved beyond the textbook level. I’m planning on becoming a translator or a teacher, and my greatest ambition is to get a PhD in linguistics, so thoroughly understanding one of the languages I’m studying by actually being immersed in the culture is absolutely invaluable to me. This scholarship was probably one of the only ways I could obtain the means to do so.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
This summer I want to really solidify my French skills. Like I said, I feel I’m at the point where only immersion will help me—I can communicate with people entirely in French, but I often find myself stumbling over how to articulate myself in stories, arguments, and more sophisticated points. I’m also obsessed with the idiomatic component of language, and how hardly anything can be directly translated from one language to another (for instance, how an American can say something in perfect literal French in a perfect French accent and still sound completely American). This is a level of understanding I hope to get a better sense of while being immersed in the French-speaking world. I want to be able to speak without stumbling so much when I get back.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to read French literature without having to place my first emphasis on understanding the words of the text, but instead on getting past that and understanding the text itself.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to articulate arguments and points in French better than I currently can in my literature classes.
- At the end of the summer, I will have a better understanding of the idiomatic structure of the French language that I can carry over into translation skills.
- At the end of the summer, I will have a more solidified understanding of the French language that will allow me to explain it better to first-time learners of the language.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I’m excited to be attending classes at the Institut de Touraine because there will be French students there from all over the world. This means, of course, that I won’t necessarily even be able to communicate with them in English—I can’t “cheat.” And I’m also excited to live with a French-speaking host family. In short, though I’m nervous the language barrier will be a problem in an emergency or something, I feel ready to go straight into the French-speaking world without the handicap of having other English-speakers immediately present. I plan to fully participate in my classes at the Institut de Touraine and to join my host family in anything they might invite me to.