The end of March is approaching, and I only have a little over a month until the end of my program. There were times throughout the last couple of months I felt ready to go home, but now I wish I could stay here for the whole summer! The weather is getting so much nicer and all I want to do is explore more of Marseille and take Ryanair flights around Europe. I have a couple of exams the first week of May, but my last class is on April 13th. I should have plenty of free time, so I plan on taking advantage of it and traveling. Until then, I have to put my head down and get through the last few weeks of classes. I want to take advantage of my last few class sessions in France and learn as much as I can. So far taking classes in a foreign country has been an incredible learning experience and I have developed several transferable skills both hard and soft.
The most important hard skill I’ve developed since being here is my French. I’m still no expert, and I absolutely still sound American, but everything is finally starting to click. When I first got here, I didn’t have much confidence in my French, despite having taken it throughout middle and high school. It didn’t help that whenever I tried to speak French, no one could understand me. I got discouraged quickly, so I gave up on trying to speak for a while. Instead, I focused on listening and trying to understand French sounds. I watched French movies, listened to street conversations, and did everything I could to try and understand what I was doing wrong. After hours of listening, I could understand French very well, but my speaking skills hadn’t improved much at all. It was on my weekend trip to Paris earlier this month when everything started to click. I was talking to a French person at my hostel, and he told me the trick is to focus on the vowel sounds. He told me non-native speakers always have trouble with certain sounds such as “au.” It turns out “au” isn’t just pronounced “o,” and I was making a similar mistake with all vowel sounds. “un, on, en, in, and ou” are some of the many I thought I knew but I was mispronouncing badly. Since then, I’ve been practicing these sounds and I’m able to have basic conversations with people now! I only have a month left here but I plan on practicing as much as I can.
One soft skill I have developed since being here is communication. Other students in my exchange program are from all around the world and I have been exposed to many different cultures and communication styles. Being able to communicate with people from around the world is a valuable skill because I plan to work in an international setting. Another soft skill I have gained is planning. I have gotten good at planning ahead and creating schedules that balance work and travel.
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