Similar to a baby bird falling out of the nest for the first time in order to fly, I knew that if I got lost while studying abroad, I would either go through a character-building experience or learn a pretty harsh lesson. Most of France was a familiar country to me, but Lille, a city located in the Northwest and near the Belgian border, was not familiar in the slightest. I had a decent understanding of a beginner’s level of speaking, writing, and interpreting French, but I quickly found out that my limits were almost immediately reached as soon as I stepped off the Eurostar from London. Shockingly, everything inside the station was in French. Horrified, I immediately pulled out my phone and started to use Google Translate. Once I was astoundingly able to deduce that ‘taxi’ in English, translated to ‘taxi’ in French, I was on my way to the hotel where I was meeting the program director and the other students that were doing it.
Nearly getting run over within 30 seconds of leaving the taxi, I realized that I needed to be attentive to my surroundings. I check into the hotel and look up the directions to the building that the director told me to go to in order to receive the welcome materials from the program. Thankfully, it was a quick five minutes away, and by then I had started to remember my surroundings. Feeling more confident in myself, me and the person I’m sharing a room with go to a nearby Bistro for some dinner. On the menu, I see ‘steak’ and assume it was a fully cooked, hot, slab of beef. Instead, it turned out to be beef tartare – which is raw beef, mixed with raw egg, green onions, capers, salt, and served with bread. Being from Europe originally, eating raw food like beef was something that I was used to. Caught feeling somewhere between confused, disappointed, and curious, as well as absolutely starving, I end up trying it and to my surprise, it was one of the nicest meals I’ve ever eaten. After eating this, drinking a couple glasses of very affordable, yet amazing glasses of wine, me and my friend go into the city to explore a little more.
The sights, smells, and sounds were completely new. It’s easy to feel out of place when everyone, from children to the elderly, are speaking in a language you can only barely comprehend. French couples are also extremely affectionate to each other, so if PDA is not your thing, the majority of Europe will likely not jive with you well. There’s also always some type of music playing in the background, be it a street performer, restaurant, car, or even some random person blasting their music on their phone out loud for… some reason. I was completely out of my element, yet I was having the time of my life. Getting to immerse yourself in a place where people have a different way of living is both rewarding and amusing.
Rohan Thompson (BS Political Science) spent summer 2022 studying abroad in Lille, France through ISA. Rohan had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad is what you make it. If you take the time to immerse yourself with a new culture, try new things, and step out of your comfort zone, you’ll become a lot more comfortable in unfamiliar places, while also bettering yourself personally and professionally.”
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