In fall of 2021, I got the opportunity to study abroad in Lyon, France, the gastronomic capital of the world and France’s second largest city. My time abroad was an extremely rewarding and humbling experience. I chose to study in France to improve my French speaking skills and live fully emersed in the language and culture. The months and year leading up to going abroad was a stressful experience because of its cancelation the year prior, the increasing number of Covid cases and travel and vaccination requirements. Even with all the mess of the pandemic, it rewarded the opportunity to pay closer attention the French government, see how it was impacting the citizens and identify the significant differences between the American government and that of the French.
One of the first challenges I faced living in France was public transportation. I have lived my whole life in a city that doesn’t have a huge need for public transportation and before moving to France, I had never ridden on a train, metro, bus, or tram. The system was intimidating, and I spent the first week riding with others who knew how to use public transportation. I had no clue how to read the maps or understood what the directions meant trying to get back home. But after that first week, help from some of the others in my program, and getting completely lost, I was able to figure out how to understand the system.
Another challenged I faced was with the language and confidence. My goal for abroad was to be speaking as much French as possible, but the reality when studying abroad or speaking another language is that it is intimidating. The only practice I’ve had with speaking is with others who know English and if there is a word that I do not know, I can switch over and complete full sentences with a mix of French and English. This system does not always work when speaking with native French people in a grocery store or shopping center. It was also shocking how many time people would ask if I would like English instead or just speak to me in English. But with those that know little to no English like my professors, I had to be confident with speaking to be able to make sure that I understand the lesson and ask. Confidence is key and making mistakes is going to happen no matter what, it is a part of learning. Which also made this challenge extremely rewarding.
After getting acclimated to life in France, and doing as the Lyonnais do, classes began which were four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. Classes would alternate with different teachers and they would have lab days, where we would work on computers, that had completely different keyboard set ups. The school that I went to for my French courses hosted international students from all over the world that came to learn French. What I loved about going to school with international students was that many of the students do not know English and I don’t know their native language and to communicate with the other students in my class we had speak in French.
Going abroad had its challenges but was a mind opening experience and having the opportunity to see outside the walls of the United States help me realize my place in the global community. I recommend all students take the time to travel abroad to see life outside of the bounds we are normally used to.
Sara Marc (BA French) spent Fall 2021 studying abroad in Lyon, France with USAC. Sara had the following to say about studying abroad, “I recommend all students take the time to travel abroad to see life outside of the bounds we are normally used to.”
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