Well, this is the last hurrah. I’m sorry, but there are no pictures for this time.
It’s been quite an unforgettable time these last few weeks in Brest, and while I’m sad to leave my new friend(s) and host family, I am so excited to start my semester at Angers.
If I could share perhaps the most important thing that I realized about language learning, it’s that immersion is immensely important. I feel that a huge difference has been made in my speech, comprehension, and reading having spent so much time only using French. In fact, I imagine the same courses that I took would have less efficacy had I taken them say in the United States or another non-French speaking area. Such is the importance of the immersion in my books, just my two cents (and there’s a Euro coin for that here strangely enough, I don’t see why but there is).
As for cultural differences, I thought the ones I had to deal with were quite easy to manage if one had an open mind. There were big examples, like the bathing suit controversy I had, to smaller things like when we ate, what was acceptable to say, and how to interact with strangers. I found that just being a friendly, outgoing, and most importantly willing to learn American was sufficient to get by and have people like you.
To recap, my goals were to speak confidently, express myself with greater sophistication, read more quickly, and better understand the grammar and style of French writing. I would say that I can do all those things, and this became particularly evident when I introduced myself to my host family here at Angers and we immediately had a lengthy dinner featuring many fluidly flowing conversations about myself, my aspirations, and my opinions.
Yet, I am hesitant to say that I am fully ready to accomplish my overarching goal of writing on some aspect of French history. As I mentioned in my grant report, while certainly the SLA was vastly helpful, it was not the entirety of my plan, as I am spending a semester in the ND Angers program. Further into the semester, I think I will more fully know if I am truly ready to produce significant academic writing using my French.
When I reflect on the SLA Grant overall, I realize how much I took for granted back home. The daily things in my life from a car, to AC, late night snacks, and ESPN are so much more precious to me now knowing what it’s like without them. Also, like a LOT of people smoke in France, so having mostly fresh air back home is another thing I miss. This summer abroad has also changed my worldview of Europe. I really thought that everybody liked America in Europe, but that is not the case. In lieu of the universally agreed upon great nation and promoter of democracy, some people here had more negative views like environmentally wasteful, politically meddlesome, and culturally ignorant. To each his own.
And so to advise any potential applicants or study abroad folks who end up reading my blog, I would say prepare for a time where you don’t have a lot of the same things like back home, and people don’t necessarily think the same way as you. But those aren’t huge things, you can get over it really quickly.
Lastly, to build on my summer, I will be studying abroad in France for a semester as well. I hope that by my return, I can then use this combined experience to write scholarly works using my French language skills. I am not certain on the historical writing, as this experience really showed how much of a ways I had to go before mastering French, but at the very least I plan to pursue a supplementary major in French as well. Thus, if not used for history, I will at least have gained conversational fluency with a second language to be used for other academia. Further down the line, I believe my French skills will be useful for building my marketability and value in my intended future profession as a lawyer. Not just on in a linguistic/academic sense, but spending some time in France has imparted valuable personal/professional insights on culture which will also be invaluably useful.
I thank you, valued reader of my blog, for keeping up with me so far. Its over now, and so I say, Cheers to you, Good Night and Good Luck.