It has almost been two weeks since I left Nantes, and every second I am realizing another way in which my time abroad has changed and shaped me into the person I am now. When I first arrived in France, I knew that I would be having an exciting summer in a new country. But I had no idea how much this trip would impact every aspect of my life.
I attended class at the IES center. I walked around the city practically everyday. I hung out with my friends at the school, my new french friends, and my host family. And most important, I spoke french the entire time and really improved my comprehension and learning skills in the process!
Going into this program, I expected to improve my french and experience french culture first hand. I definitely did accomplish these things, but I also accomplished and experienced so much more. I made friends with french people who I will keep in contact with for a long time. Making french friends is something I never imagined I would do. Making friends with people who don’t speak your native language is so mind blowing to me, but I am so glad that I was able to do it.
I learned some of the weird difference that you wouldn’t expect about a foreign country. For example: The supermarkets are smaller and they carry very different products. All stores sell some type of alcohol, which is very strange coming from a state that only sells alcohol in allowed and licensed distributors. The stores are also organized in categories. So you go to the butcher to buy meat, the cheese store for cheese, the bakery for bread, and so on and so forth.
I explored new places, like L’isle de Nantes, Mont Saint Michel, and St. Malo. I ate new foods that I never would have tried in the U.S. like ratatouille. And I made some of my closest friends that I have ever had .
My classes were definitely harder than I thought they were going to be. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to take a class in a language that you are still in the process of learning, but I sure did learn real quick. I worked for at least an hour everyday to study for my art history class. I read and re-read the book, spent hours on the homework, and studied for days for the tests. And in the end, all of my hard work paid-off, as I passed the class with an A-. On top of that, I passed my other class with an A. My “summer vacation” turned out to be a bit more difficult than I expected. But I changed my attitude and worked really hard in order to put my best effort into my work.
And now that my trip is over, I have so many skills that I can bring back with me. Struggling to understand a language is really hard and frustrating, but I’ve learned that through hard work and perseverance, you can get through even the most difficult situations. Now that I am back in the States, I have more patience and understanding when dealing with others and new situations. I’ve also learned that I should always expect to have to put in a lot of time and energy into my work, even if it is something I think will be simple like summer work. You will never run into trouble by putting in more work than necessary. And at Pitt, I will be sure to carry this lesson over into my fall and spring classes.
This trip was so amazing in so many ways. My french has improved, my social skills have improved, my work management has improved, and my experience has improved. This was a once in a lifetime experience that I may never get again, and I made every second count. To anyone who might want to study abroad, I say this with all my heart, do it. You won’t regret it and it will change your life.