Name: Ashley Zhou
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:
Hi everyone! My name is Ashley Zhou and I am a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. I was born in Austin, Texas, and grew up in Melbourne, Australia and Beijing, China. Can you believe it? I have not stayed put for over four years in any place. I moved back to the United States in 2012 and my family is now in Maryland. I have a brother who studies Electrical Engineering at UIUC. I, on the other hand, am not so sure about my major but I am very passionate about learning languages and experiencing different cultures.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant gave me the opportunity to explore the francophone culture and improve my French, which is very helpful to me as I am standing at the crossroads of choices for future career paths. When I think about what gives me joy, I remember the time when I nervously spoke French for the first time with an exchange student, and the words and tones rolled off my tongue as if I was a native. As I delved into the Francophone culture and language, I realized that I loved it with such a frenzy that it was not a hobby anymore. I knew I loved French then. But as a Neuroscience major, I couldn’t have finished the requirements for a major in French as well. SLA helped me realize my dream to go to France, to experience the culture at at the deepest level.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
When my uncle and his family moved to Montreal, I helped them settle down, but I couldn’t yet speak or understand French. I plan to fully utilize the summer program in Tours to improve my French as much as possible, so that even just earlier by a month, I can speak fluently, understand native speakers and write in French. I want to be able to tutor my cousin, know what kind of medicine to buy, how to fill out tax forms etc,. At school, I can drill vocabulary and grammar, but I will not be able to fully immerse myself in the Francophone culture and gain the necessary “survival skills” to help my family. The SLA program can offer me the opportunity to live in France for 6-8 weeks and improve my language as well as familiarize myself with the social customs and culture of a francophone country—an opportunity I cannot afford otherwise. At my return, I intend to declare a supplementary French major, because whichever speciality I choose to pursue in college I wish to be able to practice in Montreal when I graduate.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- I wish to be able to communicate with locals and native speakers freely and effectively, expressing my thoughts with accuracy and swiftness.
- By the end of the SLA program I expect to speak, read and write in French past the intermediate language standards offered at Notre Dame, and when I come back I wish to continue in French oral and French literature courses.
- I wish to be able to communicate with other college students on advanced academic topics related to the science and french literature fields, in preparation for more study abroad and exchange opportunities later on in college.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I am enrolled in an intensive program at the Institut de Touraine, lasting 8 weeks with 19.5 hours of language instructions and 3 hours of cultural excursions per week. The program offers phonetics training, workshops and tutoring in the afternoons. In addition, this program also provides application covered in full-day immersion experiences. I am also planning to live with a host family, which adds to the depth of the immersion experience by engaging in a family culture and practicing conversational French. I can’t wait to meet my host family in Tours and learn what it is like to live in France with the romance and history of the country without the noise and commercialized streets of a big city. Tours is a mild and historical city an hour away from Paris. Previous students have commented that the people of Tours is very down-to-earth and friendly, and the lifestyle is not as rushed as Paris. The lack of tourism reduces distractions in the language learning process and shows the real authentic lives of the citizens in France. By combining resources from the intensive course, a traditional host family, and the surrounding town of Tours, I plan to maximize my learning of the francophone language and culture.