De Los Santos, Luisa

Name: Luisa De Los Santos
Location of Study: Paris, France
Program of Study: L’Alliance Française
Sponsor(s): Cathy Stock


A brief personal bio:

I am Luisa De Los Santos and I am from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I am a rising junior and currently a Romance Language and Literature major in French and Italian. I completed high school in the Dominican Republic and I am more than thankful for the opportunity of being able to study French at the Alliance Française in Paris. Studying here at Notre Dame is already a type of study abroad for me, knowing how much this experience has impacted my life I can’t wait to be able to do so this summer in France. Having one cultural perspective, I felt I knew all about the US. After moving here, I noticed there were so many things I was missing. From the smallest mistake in the choice of a preposition to not knowing anything about football, I was introduced to a whole new world I had no idea about. I look forward to discovering this completely new cultural and enjoy every second of it!

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

I have always been very passionate about art, culture, languages and specifically the French culture. When I chose to major in French Romance Language & Literature I was not really certain on what professional opportunities I was going to have. I have always had the dream of living in France, so I decided to follow my heart and pursue an academic endeavor that I felt a genuine passion for: the francophone language and all aspects of culture that encompass it.  I hope to be able to apply this knowledge in a way that allows me to excel in a unique way by capitalizing on these skills.  In order to make this possible, I want to be able to speak French in a natural and intuitive way that lends itself to a practical and professional setting.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

The only true way to reach the level of fluency I am desiring is by taking intensive academic courses and immersing myself in the language. What better place to do so than in Paris ? By perfecting my pronunciation, vocabulary and my désir de vivre à la française I will become more prepared for advanced courses at Notre Dame, take part in an experience that will be an asset to me throughout my professional career and will have fond memories of my French experience that will last a lifetime. This program appeals to me so much because it concentrates on spoken French and the beauty of its idiomatic expressions; I want to be able to think in French one day! I will not be satisfied with anything less.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. By the end of the summer, I will be able to think in French.
  2. By the end of the summer, I will be able to express myself using French forms of expression that are not translated literally from my native languages.
  3. By the end of the summer, I will be able to gain a cultural knowledge only acquired by living and savoring the culture and its effects on its people.
  4. By the end of the summer, I will be able to achieve a much better level of pronunciation that is similar to the local accent in Paris.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

One of the great opportunities that Lâ’Alliance Fran’aise has to offer is cultural immersion. There are so many activities to choose from and relatively so little time. My biggest problem might be not being able to participate in the long list of activities that I wish to. One of my favorites is “Ateliers d’oenologie”, I have always been interested in the history and cultural role of wine production in France; the pride that the French take in their wine is an interesting sociological phenomenon that I would love to investigate further. This program offers fieldtrips and different classes every week throughout the month that  I would be enrolled in. They delve into the specifics of France’s provinces and their distinguished terroir. I would also be participating in fieldtrips to popular cultural destinations and It would be an amazing learning experience to see the world-renowned art that France has to offer.   Last but not least, I would also be there for the 14 of July and thus have the wonderful opportunity to see the military procession and the beautiful fireworks. This would be a great opportunity to meet and practice my conversational skills with native French citizens.

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

It has already been a week in Paris and I can say that my perspectives about it have changed drastically from day to day. When I first arrived, I had a family friend pick me up at the airport. He drove me all around Paris while I practiced my rusty French. Besides the jet lag, I felt overwhelmed by everything. Coming from the Caribbean, it seems I always expect a sunny and warm place, but unfortunately my first day in Paris was a very, very rainy day. On my first day of class, I decided to take a taxi to L’Alliance! What a mistake!! A taxi Monday morning is absolutely impossible to find! I arrive fashionably late to my first class and fortunately Paris is certainly the best place for that to happen! Not that it will again! That afternoon I took the metro all around the city to get used to transferring and getting to know my surroundings much better!
My classes at L’Alliance are fantastic! I got in the last week of a month, so many people had already started and gotten used to it all. Surprisingly, many of the students at the Alliance are not my age! Many of them are foreign women married to French men. At this point, I was a little disappointed of how my expectations clashed with what I was experiencing at the moment. The image I had of L’alliance here in Paris was much different. I imagained many young people taking classes during the summer.
As the days go by, I notice I start making friends and people are extremely nice. Before coming to france, Many people would comment on how unfriendly French people are, and I always refuted that comment. Now that I am here, I underestimated how nice French people really are! The are nicer than I thought!
My French is definitely getting better, and that may sound a bit precipitating at this point of the game, yet I am very serious! I avoid English and Spanish at all times! One of my goals for this program is not simply to learn French and be able to go by, but to do so intuitively and as natural as possible. I want to practice my pronunciation and pay close attention to how natives speak and what expressions they tend to use more often! That is the beauty of studying languages, being able to recognize the beauty in contrasting cultures.
For now I will continue listening to Christophe Maé, my new favorite French artist while savoring a tasteful café!
À bientot,

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

My second week in France is beautiful! Since it is the start of a new month, there are many new people that are coming in and starting French classes. Surprisingly, there are plenty more younger people, which is definitely a plus! I have met people from all different backgrounds: Brazil, Spain, Venezuela, Austria, England and plenty more! I start to get used to my surroundings and I definitely start getting more comfortable with my French. Last week, I went to the Louvre twice and I bought some French books to read and broaden my vocabulary. I read a book on symbolism and one on Egyptian history. I am looking forward to finding a book on Napoleon. I am really interested in making friends with some local people to really get the taste of the French language and its pronunciation.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

I love Paris. I am starting to really get to know the city and all of its “quartiers”. I am starting to wander on my own more often. Never do I bring out a map for aid, it looks too touristy! I am starting to go to more local and smaller restaurants where the French go; they are so good! I went to the Louvre once again. Fridays are great to go because it is free for those ages 26 and younger and it closes at 9.30! This Saturday was Bastille Day( July 14th) . I was impressed by the wonderful Morning Parade at Champs Elysées and the fireworks at Champ de Mars. The city gets so full on days like these and I had to wait hours in Champ de Mars to be able to get a good spot to watch the fireworks. It was a great opportunity to be here during such an important day for France.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

I am definitely noticing a drastic change in my French. I am starting to incorporate local Parisien phrases and vocabulary. I love it when the French say, “beh Ouais” meaning “of course”. I also notice how they say, “she pas” for “je ne sais pas”. Or even how they use different terms for a certain thing. For instance, “embouteillage” is traffic jam, but in Paris it is very common to hear it called “bouchon”. I got to know the Musée Carnavalet of Paris’ history, which is right in front of one of my favorite parks. As always I spent Friday afternoon at the Louvre. The highlight of my week was my trip to Giverny and Auvers-sur-Oise. Since my last trip to Musée d’Orsay, I read a book on Monet to be adequately prepared for my inspirational trip to Monet’s garden at Giverny. It was absolutely stunning! There are no words to describe how mesmerized I am. The real beauty of impressionism is that no moment is the same since the light illuminates the landscape differently. I also had the opportunity to visit Auberge Ravoux where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life and where he painted over 80 paintings. There, you can see many of his paintings reproduced where he originally painted them. It really shocked me to be able to compare what I saw with how Van Gogh interpreted it. When I finally arrived back to Paris, I was shocked that the Tour the France had still not ended. I headed straight to Champs Elysées and 2 minutes later I was able to watch the end of the race! Paris indeed loves me, I am so happy to have the opportunity to leave here for 6 weeks. I look back and time just flies by. Everyday I realize how little I know about the world.
À Bientôt!

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

This is my last week attending the current course at l’Alliance Française. The next week I start the same course but with a completely different professor and class. I am excited to get to know new people! Paris is lovely. It has started to get sunnier. I always thought Paris was sunny, it turns out it loves to rain in France! Talking about rain in France, that means that grape harvesting will be later this year. I just came back from a lovely trip to the region of Champagne! I have a penchant for oenology. There, I visited a small producer as well as the world famous Moët et Chandon house. Besides getting familiar with all the French terms in wine production, I also had the opportunity to ask many questions and witness one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen: the endless hills and fields of vineyards.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

This was my last week in Paris! How sad. I can’t see myself not living in Paris. I absolutely fell in love with it! The new class I started this week was the best one yet! Thee professor was marvelous! I kept telling myself I should just bring her back with me to Notre Dame! In the one week she taught me, we delved into the reason and existence of languages and hence their importance. I had never stopped to analyze this aspect so profoundly and philosophically. It is such a shame I could not stay for longer!
I also went to Chateau de Versailles! Wow! I was stunned! I took a tour around half the chateau and spent the rest of my time in the gardens! The day was lovely and there was beautiful classical music playing all the time! I felt as if in a dream! The next day I went to dine at the Eiffel tower followed by a tour around the Sein with the famous bateau mouches! Yes, I spent my last week as a complete tourist in Paris. I felt like I needed to do all the very touristy things so I could be able to relate with all those who have just been to Paris as tourists! Thanks to this wonderful opportunity, I am not one of those. I am really so grateful for having this wonderful opportunity. When I applied for the grant, I had no idea of all the possibilities and opportunities that would later arrive! This was a life changing experience and if I could do it again I would do so with my eyes closed! Not only did I grow as a person, but I also learned my French, just what I had dreamed for!

Postcard(s) from Abroad:

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Acquiring French in Paris has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. As a Romance Languages and Literatures major, I really felt the need to go to France and actually learn the language. Once there, I cannot describe how fast I acquired French. The first week was hard; however just being in continuous contact with the language makes the process so much easier. Now I see myself thinking in French at various points throughout the day. During my stay, I tried to keep in mind my goals for the end of my stay and I feel I have accomplished every single one of them. My last goal was to better my pronunciation, and even if not perfect, I do feel I can speak with much more facility.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

Since I originally came from the Dominican Republic and have now moved to the US, I have always grown up with an appreciation for different cultures. Going to France has made me reinforce this. I was absolutely charmed by the French culture. I was there during Bastille Day and the Tour de France, two very important days for the French. I made sure to read some history books in French to sharpen up my historical background and in so better adapting my mindset for Bastille Day. For the Tour de France, I decided to learn more about how it worked and waited for the arrival of the cyclists at Champs Elysées. My best advice for anyone who will do this study abroad experience is to pretend to be a native. Try to engage in conversations that challenge your ideals and knowledge, if you have to read some books or do some research in a certain topic, you are doing it right. Not only does this open a new realm of new vocabulary, it also creates a tie between you and your native friends.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

This SLA grant will always be with me. My French has been completely revolutionized and I am so proud that I was able to accomplish so much. Since I study French literature, I know this experience will take me to a new level of comprehension that will be essential in my future courses at Notre Dame. In addition, not only did my language skills become much stronger but also I grew as a person. I had to plan my trip, where I stayed and last, and most importantly, I had to start a completely new life in a different country. I had to adapt to a different culture and learn to be much more independent. I had to depend on myself and solve my problems all by myself. After this experience, I feel much more comfortable when faced with a new situation. Now I am studying abroad in Rome and I can see the difference in how easily I adapt to a new environment.