Hey everyone! So sorry I didn’t get a chance to post last night – turns out it’s easier to fall asleep than it is to stay up and do work (shocker…). Before I begin talking about today’s topic, I want to recap on a sort of whirl-wind day. Today, I was on the tram and I was about to get off at my stop. Suddenly, the girl in front of me began to bend backwards towards me. Not knowing what was going on (and being the weird foreigner in a strange country), I panicked and reached my arms out and caught her. At first, I thought she was falling because the tram was stopping, but she fell limp and I lowered her to the floor.
We called the police. If I hadn’t been standing behind her, she would’ve had a concussion or maybe worse. I can’t believe I saved a life today. The wonderful things, yet strange things, that happen while studying abroad.
Yet, we shall move on. For those who have been reading my blog through my university’s contact, the last time we hung out was when I described a little bit more about my progress in France. For those of you who don’t know and are just now reading this awesome site, I am currently studying abroad in the south of France, and if you like what you’re reading (which I hope you do), I encourage you to follow me on Facebook, WordPress, or Twitter because I will be posting every other day!
Rather than talking about the social life of my trip, it’s about time to tell you guys a little bit more about my “host university.” I am taking classes here in France for my American university credit, which I am incredibly thankful for. Honestly, if I wasn’t receiving credit, I probably wouldn’t be participating in this program, so I am truly lucky that I have this opportunity to be able to study and experience new things.
Technically, I am not at a “host university,” but rather a language program for international students. My Swiss-German host sister and I attend this program, which is strictly language courses. If I had to pinpoint my “favorite” thing, it would be the fact that my teacher cannot speak English. As a French minor and someone who desperately wants to become fluent, this is crucial because I’ve learned so much from Laurence, my French teacher, than I ever have from any other teacher in the eight years that I have been learning this language. Grammar makes more sense because if I try to complicate some sentences (like I did in the states), she’s not going to understand. She has even told me that the way some of my teachers taught me French were just incorrect and that I’ve just got to scratch it out and start over. Because of her, my French has improved immensely and none of that would be possible if I hadn’t come to France, itself.
Since this is not really a “university,” there isn’t a campus. My program consists of two buildings in the middle of downtown where I can switch between classrooms while eating a baguette from the café next door. There are times when I miss the rolling green hills of the states, because everything here is cobblestone and gravel and trams and noise. It’s wonderful, though, since it’s easy to get from Place A to Place B without worrying too much. I take some classes at another building that’s a little farther: I have to walk through down-town, a mall, and into another neighborhood to get there, but I don’t mind! I walk everywhere usually and it’s possible to get to class with the tram or the bus. Plus, all my classes are in the afternoon (except for the ones with the language program).
Yet, being in a different, uncomfortable environment is the most difficult part about change, in general. It’s difficult to immerse yourself. It’s difficult to read nutrition labels at the grocery store. It’s difficult to understand someone who asks you for direction. And it was difficult to understand my professor, at first. The real challenge, to be completely honest, is yourself, though. At the end of the day, you’re the one putting up the blocks that are preventing you from talking to other people or even trying to understand your surroundings. It takes some real confidence to get out of your shell and to really enjoy the study abroad. Because you can travel as a student, speak English to people, and make sure you reaffirm that stereotype of the “typical American,” but what’s the point of studying abroad then? Aren’t you hear to learn the language? Yes. Then why don’t you try to learn the language?
I’ve finally come out of my shell with language communication. However, I think there’s another challenge that’s in my way, now: using words that I would normally avoid using just because I have no idea how to use them (makes sense?). It’s being the girl who bargains hard at the open markets, when I’m usually too scared to yell at strangers. It’s being that girl who will call the police and (try to speak) French as fluently as possible just to save a person’s life.
Yes, it’s hard. But that’s life. And, really, that’s why I’m here.
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