Mae Stuart is a Senior undergraduate student from Chattanooga, TN, and she is double majoring in Political Science and Humanities with a minor in French. For all of the Fall 2017 semester, Mae studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, a small city in southeastern France, to both study French and to continue research for her senior thesis. Mae’s senior thesis is on the relationship and history between France and Algeria, and she chose to study in Aix-en-Provence because “there is a very significant Algerian immigrant population in the southeast of France, and this specific program had many connections to the subject I’m studying.” When asked if she met her academic goals during her study abroad experience, she replied, “Absolutely, I made incredible contacts for my thesis, and the semester in France definitely helped my French.”
The relationships Mae made through the program quickly became her favorite part of the entire experience.
“I got to have a lot of conversations with people who live on the border of a lot of different identities, in terms of having a French identity, having a Muslim identity, having an Algerian identity. And that was the border I was interested in.”
Mae’s familiarity with the French language in history limited the culture shock a typical study abroad student might experience, but there was still plenty to learn of the culture during her home-stay experience. “The French are very specific about their space, and I don’t think you realize how much cultural understandings of space differ until you’re living in someone else’s home.” When asked what she would say to students thinking about studying abroad, her advice is simply “do it”. “I recommend living in a home-stay if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture, but there are still many options that will be more comfortable on a day-to-day basis. It of course helps to know French, but I still believe someone with little to no knowledge of French can get something out of the program. Just being in somewhere that’s new, and having to interact to make relationships with people who have very different paradigms than you, is always valuable, even if you aren’t fluent in that language.
Written by Thomas Davis – Business Management Major – Senior
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