Hannah is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
While applying to colleges, it was important for me to not only look at the academic and campus-life aspects of each school, but also their study abroad programs and how they compare to each other. I found that St. Ben's/St. John's offered a strong study abroad program with a high percentage of students who participated. Since the beginning of high school, I had always dreamt of studying abroad, but never had a clear idea of where or how. As soon as I enrolled at CSB, I realized that study abroad seemed more of a personal requirement for me, rather than an option. With constant help from older peers, advisors, and ambassadors I made the confident decision to study abroad in Cannes, France. I made the choice to study abroad early in my college career because I find it important to take time to discover not only new environments, but a new sense of self as well. France has always been a country of interest for me, especially the French Riviera. The program originally had a language requirement which deterred me from signing up, but when I found out it had recently been dropped, France instantly became my first choice. The location was perfect for my interests, and learning a new language was on my list of study abroad goals. I couldn't have picked a better location for my semester abroad.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Whilst abroad, I was enrolled in the Collège International de Cannes, which is an international school dedicated to teaching the French language. I spent many hours a day learning and speaking French, which was not in my realm of abilities before last semester. Throughout the four months abroad, my French improved greatly as well as my confidence. Because of this, I was able to make friends from all over the world who were all at school for the same purpose. Learning French where it is the official language was an experience that opened many doors to new friendships and opportunities that will be useful later in life.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The before, during, and after portions of my study abroad were all important factors that added to my experience. The process of my preparation pre-departure was a very exciting 7 months. While living in France, I spent a lot of time exploring the country and meeting international friends, as well as creating a very close bond with those in my group. Every day, I woke up feeling extremely blessed to have had the experience to learn French in France on the Côte d'Azur with teachers and staff who catered to each students' needs. Our director Beth made our group feel extremely at ease during our four months in France and organized excursions to different regions of France. She was always available to chat with and ask for help. Being enrolled at a school, we got the benefits of hands-on help from teachers every day and lived in spacious dorms alongside other international students. Our school was located a few steps away from the beach, which we used to our advantage, and a 20-minute walk away from the center of Cannes.
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?
After coming back from studying abroad in Cannes, France, I have become much more independent. I had left everything I knew to live in a foreign country which spoke a different language for four months with students I had not known prior to our program. I adapted not only to a separate language but also a completely different way of life. I learned how to properly manage taking weekend trips to different countries and cities by myself, I learned that trying new things; foods, trips, languages, being in a play, can pay off in ways that are unexplainable. A month before my departure date, my grandmother was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and passed away a few days after I arrived in France. The idea of losing someone who I was extremely close to was difficult to cope with while I was thousands of miles away from home, but immersing myself in the beauty of the South of France truly gave me a sense of reflection and spirituality that I had never experienced before. Academically, I have become a much stronger student and have also become firmer in my career paths. Since being back from France, I have changed my minor to French and my goal is to work in communication in Paris.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
One of my biggest pieces of advice to those who are considering a study abroad program is to apply for a trip individually. I applied to the France program knowing no one, which helped me gain a more solidified sense of independence throughout the four months I spent abroad. I became very close to my group of 13 other CSB/SJU students whom I did not know at all before I left. You will always remain close with your best friends at home when you come back, but study/interning abroad is an experience dedicated to finding yourself and doing what you truly want to do.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in France? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.