Reflecting on France

After two months living and working abroad in Paris, all I have to say to anyone who wishes to learn, grow, and build cultural competency and confidence is, to “go and study abroad”. The last two months in Paris has allowed me to grow personally, academically, and professionally in ways I have never imagined. Looking back on my pre departure mindset makes me think about how far I have come mentally and emotionally. When I first arrived in Paris, my mind was filled with nervous excitement yet fear of the unknown that I was going to face. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I always want to be prepared to the fullest extent, of knowing what is to come and get ready for that challenge and avoid as much mistakes as possible. However, that kind of mental headspace did not have a place as I have landed in Paris and started working in a completely different country with a completely different language. Nothing can prepare you for the cultural shocks or real-life interaction with native French speakers. From this trip, I learned that it is important to face the feeling of uncertainty and uncomfortableness to increasing self- confidence and growth in the long run. That is why I am glad to have attended this program where you are able to experience the best of three worlds of work, culture, and life. Growing academically, personally, and professionally by merging with their culture, learning by working, and building personal networks in the host family and private environments. This program gave me an opportunity to come out of my perfectionist shell and instead build inner acceptance, patience, and confidence that I will be able to take with me and apply academically, professionally, and personally.

When put into a new and uncomfortable environment, I developed an act of acceptance because there is nothing you can do but change and evolve. The nature of this program allows us to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom directly in the real-life environment, to experiment and explore our linguistic capabilities outside of the constraints of a classroom. Because these two months were about learning the French language by living and working in France, even though I had initially been reserved, I had to accept the fact that I need to make mistakes to improve. When I accepted that mistakes are something positive that will change me for the better, not only did my mental approach change when I was applying this in conversation, but in professional settings in academic setting. In all of those environments, I have used acceptance as a guide to make incremental progress through my mistakes.

Another change in outlook that took place is patience. Through the cultural difference in Paris, I am starting to slowly engrain within me to approach things slowly, be in the moment, and realize that it takes time to improve. Watching people in Paris take time to enjoy each moment of their day without a care in the world for their past and future has helped me put life into perspective. Stop and smell the roses- accept that the journey is long but build patience by taking the time to enjoy everything positive and negative that gets thrown my way.

Lastly, there is not a more important aspect of growth that I acquired this summer than confidence. Learning French came with doubts of if I would ever be able to master it because it is the first language that I have ever learned from scratch. The process of learning a language is a rollercoaster, where you have to endure the study of basics, learning to speak, making lots of mistakes, feeling the improvement and going back to square one. It is a non-linear process of constant trial and error, balancing encouraging and discouraging moments. Going through this process over and over again in school and in France has allowed me to get used to the process of making mistakes and rising from failures. In the moment, making mistakes and essentially making a fool out of myself in another language seemed humiliating and discouraging, but as

time passed by, I realized that I was speaking French without less mistakes. After years of studying French and making mistakes, I had felt a great level of improvement and satisfaction that I had earned this through years of commitment to the language. Feeling of deep inner satisfaction that I have acquired through this confidence, acceptance, and patience goes a long way. Because I have accomplished something by going through the hardships, I will bring this trust within myself to succeed at Pitt and my future career.