Katelyn Johnson is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The fine dining and etiquette of French cuisine is one of the largest cultural differences I experienced while abroad. In particular, one night our entire group had dinner in Arles, Provence at this low-key restaurant that was nevertheless beautiful. The entire meal took three hours to finish. I could eat a meal in less than ten minutes in America!! And that was something I did nearly everyday! In France, there is no time limit to how long one can stay at a restaurant. First, one enjoys some pre-appetizers (yes!) and a beverage. Then, it is the appetizer, usually a salad. Then, there is a nice long wait for the main course. And if one follows the dining etiquette in France by not cutting all the meat at once and really savoring each bite, the meal could take 30 minutes to finish. Finally, there is a nice wait for dessert, and sometimes there is cheese and bread before dessert. This huge cultural difference has made me appreciate French dining, and has made me reflect on dining in America. The French enjoy lasting meals with great conversation- something I hope to bring back into my life back in America.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study abroad first of all for the opportunity. I am a pre-med student with a goal of attending medical school post-CSB/SJU. My time to travel, experience the world, and learn about a different culture is rather limited, so I jumped at the opportunity to live abroad for a semester. I also wanted to study abroad to learn more about myself. I found out I love traveling, can speak better French that I thought, like French cuisine, and can live in another country thousands of miles from my own. I never would have found this out if I did not study abroad. I chose the French program because I have dreamed of visiting France since I was little. Also, I chose the France program because it wasn't in English. I wanted that extra challenge. Studying abroad was a great opportunity for me because I wanted to grow as a person, and I did in many aspects.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The France program is a wonderful program! The city and surrounding area is beautiful; one couldn't ask for a better view to look at everyday. The French program is an intensive language program that will really help you succeed in learning, comprehending, and speaking French. Other afternoon seminars are designed to give you a taste of the French culture, whether it be Art History, French Society, French Politics, Business, and more. The France program offers a spectrum of opportunities to learn about the French culture and language. Also, since it is at an International College, I got the opportunity to meet people from around the world- I met people from countries on every continent!! The France program is one that will change your perspective about the French (at least mine did!). Studying abroad, in general, was the best experience of my life. I had the opportunity to visit many countries in Europe and many, many cities in France. I also had the opportunity to try so many different foods and see places I have only seen in textbooks. There's nothing like seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Vatican in person!! It's an experience I will never forget for many reasons.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
The trip has definitely affected me, but a large part of me is still trying to process everything that went on. I know now that I can live on my own (really alone, not on a campus with people just down the hall), make financial decisions, and thrive in another country. I can speak French much better and can understand anything someone were to say to me. While it is hard to put my experience into words, I know that a part of France now lives within me. I am more open to trying new foods, traveling to different places, and meeting people from all over the place. Above all though, I am different in the sense that I have grown up. I am ready to take on my next challenge and I know that whatever it is, I can make it through. I also feel more classy with all this worldly experience, and I believe that has made a huge impression in my life. I have a better understanding of other cultures and how the world works, and I think all of this that I have learned is valuable. I am beyond different, yet I am only able to articulate some of the ways in which I have changed. The learning process continues...
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Keep an open mind wherever you go. Be open to trying new food, riding the metro, not speaking English, and traveling wherever you can. My goal was to be open to trying new and different things and to consider seeing and experiencing the world. Take lots of pictures, keep a blog, and, most of all, live it up!