Marcelline Gangl is an ambassador who studied abroad in France
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I took my first French class in 8th grade and the more I learned about the culture and language, the more I wanted to experience it first-hand. In high school, I had the opportunity to go to France for a few weeks and I thought that would be my chance! My parents said that I should wait to study abroad in France until college. When I started at St. Ben's it was never a question of whether I would go or not. I really wanted to have a chance to experience the culture I had been studying since middle school.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The International Collége de Cannes offers a theatre class, for which the director of the Collége writes a one-act for those involved. The director of our program highly recommenthat we all enroll in the course to help with pronunciation. The play was all in French and getting the pronunciation down took much discipline and many failed attempts. There were days in play practice when it would be common to not understand what was going on or being said. And yet, the cast overcame that hurdle-we created a community that did not rely on the spoken language for communication but one that could communicate and understand each other in different ways. After 3 months of hard work, the French public was invited to see the show. The French are very particular about their art and their language so it was very intimidating to have them in the audience. Throughout the play, they reacted with us! They laughed, they cried, they followed the story! After the play, audience members came up to us and congratulated us on the show and said that our accents were wonderful and they enjoyed themselves. My grammar professor gave me and my fellow classmates a great big bear hug and said that he was so proud. That moment showed that the hard work we put in to learn the culture and language paid off! It was a great accomplishment and it meant so much for the audience to give us such positive feedback.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience was truly indescribable. It feels like a dream being back. And yet, like dreams, there were low points and high points. It never got old to walk past the Mediterranean after running errands or watching the sunset behind the mountains. It was a semester of feeling like the luckiest person alive. And the excitement made it easier to try different experiences and be bold in trying out the language. It has been the best way to learn-it was always hands-on and I felt like a student of the world. All in all, though, it was a semester of learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There are societal norms that one can only pick up being in a culture and copying those around oneself. It was a semester of learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. All in all, it was a semester of trying something new every day, no matter how small, and taking advantage of the opportunities around us.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
It's opened my eyes and made me more of a proactive student. I'm no longer content with just sitting and absorbing the information-I prefer to investigate and find answers myself. It's helped me think on my feet and be okay with everything not going as planned (sometimes that leads to the best experience anyways). I have done theater since middle school and I did speech in high school but they never gave me the self-confidence that study abroad did. There is just something about living in another country and being self-reliant that really can boost ones confidence.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you're considering it, do it! St. Ben's/ St. John's has such a great study abroad program that they can help even the busiest of students fit in some sort of study abroad adventure. It's by far one of the best experiences I have had in college. One girl on our trip said it well it was our semester to "live simply and simply live". Do not be afraid to try new things or feel overwhelmed, you are there to have the experience of a life time!