Ask me where I've been: France
||English and French Studies (dual major)
||Reading, writing, watching movies
||IES: Nantes, France
Why study abroad?
Because living in another country is an incredible experience and Scripps provides us with this amazing opportunity to do so! If that isn’t reason enough, I learned so much by being immersed in another culture and having to live independently away from home. My experience abroad made me more confident and gave me many great memories. Being exposed to another cultural perspective has also helped me better reflect on what I’ve learned at Scripps.
Why did you choose France?
Ever since I started taking French in middle school, it had been my dream to live in France. Studying abroad in a Francophone country happened to be a requirement of my major, but I would have still gone if it hadn’t. I felt that even though I was a French major, to truly understand French culture and improve my language skills, I needed to live there. I chose to go to Nantes as opposed to Paris because I thought that I would have a better cultural immersion experience and it would be easier to get to know people.
What courses did you enroll in while abroad?
At the IES center, I took classes on French theatre and art history. At the Université de Nantes, I took a literature class on Marguerite Duras, a comparative literature course on the Grotesque, and introductory psychology. All of my coursework was in French, and the IES classes were taught by professors from the university. My program had a required language class, but I tested out of it on the placement exam.
What was your living situation?
I lived with a host family, a couple with adult children who did not live with them. My host parents basically treated me like I was a member of the family. I babysat their grandchildren, attended their granddaughter’s baptism, and spent a couple weekends with them at their vacation house on the coast of Brittany (which was absolutely beautiful). I regularly ate dinners with them that my host mom had cooked (French food well deserves its reputation), and we occasionally spent evenings talking and watching a movie. When I was stressed or dealing with culture shock, my host mom was extremely supportive.
What did you do for fun?
My program scheduled activities including weekend trips to the Loire châteaux, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, and Clisson, as well as outings in Nantes that we could sign up for. My favorites were cooking lessons led by French families and ice skating. I regularly went out to eat with friends and explored places in Nantes including the market, Bouffay (the historic quarter), and the chateau. I also went to see a few French movies in theaters and managed to understand most of them!
Highlights of the program:
-Spending a day with my friend visiting Nantes’ various used book stores and getting French copies of some of my childhood favorites
-Climbing in the ruins of a château in Clisson, then going wine tasting
-Sampling the pastries at the boulangeries and choosing Au Vieux Quimper as my favorite of the many creperies
The most challenging aspects of your experience:
It was initially hard for me to be so far away from all my friends and family in the U.S. and adjust to having everything be different. It was also hard for me to make friends at first. Getting used to the differences in the academic system was stressful the first month. I was initially terrified of my classes at the local university, but they ended up being my favorite ones. Once I got over being afraid of talking to the French students, I got to know some of them. I made friends with one who I occasionally had lunch with on campus after our class, and I’m still in touch with her. When I got back to Nantes after traveling during my first break in March, it hit me that it now felt like my home. I wish I could have stayed longer than a semester– it went by so fast. It was particularly hard to say goodbye to my host family (I started crying at the airport security gate).
Final comments or suggestions for future participants:
I highly recommend taking classes at the local university because that’s a good way to meet local students. Don’t be afraid to try new things and go a little beyond what you are normally comfortable with, but also recognize that it’s okay if something doesn’t go as planned and experiencing some culture shock is normal. Also don’t be afraid to get to know the French. Although they can be reserved at first, most were very friendly and welcoming once I got to know them.