Claire Bjerke

Claire is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France
Major: Communication

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I chose to study abroad in France because I have been studying the French culture and language since kindergarten. I went to a French immersion elementary school and wanted so badly to experience hands on what I had been studying all these years. Also, my uncle was born and raised in France before he moved to America to marry my aunt. It was such a great experience to see where he was born and raised. Also, I am double minoring and one of my minors is French. The France program was the most beneficial towards my credits and achieving that minor.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

The cultural experiences of being in France are what I miss most. First off, staying at an International college was amazing because I got to know so many people from all around the world. I can now happily say that I have friends all around the world that I would be able to contact if I ever went to their home country. Learning their stories and cultural differences was incredible. In one of my classes there were two men from Libya. The way we would exchange stories and talk about politics, religion, law, education, etc. was amazing to have that learning experience while at the same time having a genuine respect for somebody's culture who is nearly opposite from your own. Second, I loved talking French in town. Any chance I had I would be talking to the locals and learning French that went beyond the text book. I could never learn that here in the states.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I had an incredible experience. As a student athlete and somebody who works with disabilities services (anxiety, depression, ADD), it is clear that I was nervous to be away from home and out of my element. Anxiety is what affected me the most for sure. I had probably the same fears that most other students have, and more. But after the transition of time zone and getting situated, I am happy to say I can call that place my second home. I had the best time of my life and want to be back there now. Everybody was so excited to be there and it was amazing to take hold of all the opportunities that were at our hands. Traveling around other countries was a great time but my most fond memories were in France. The people you go with and meet become your family. People I never would have met at CSBSJU unless we went on the same program. I am so happy to have shared my memories with those peers and many more. I fell in love with the country and the people I was with. An overall amazing, life changing experience of growth, learning, and fun!

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?

The benefits are nearly endless. Like I stated above, if the cultural hands on experiences aren't enough of a benefit, then the academic part most definitely is a big benefit as well. I got many of my generals done and I over exceeded my French minor. All while being taught by incredible teachers and learning with incredible students. In sum, the biggest benefits were becoming culturally experienced, growing as a person, a great education, and lifelong friendships. I would not trade my time abroad for anything.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

Be open minded. Being abroad is full of endless opportunities. Don't pass anything up because you will always regret what you didn't do (or didn't eat!). Get comfortable where you are living...but not too comfortable to where you would nap away an afternoon. Use every minute to explore. Take a train ride to the first place available and see where you end up. Open minds and open hearts will ensure you your best experience!!


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