Gabriel Kwan

Gabriel is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France

Major: English and French

Minor: Philosophy

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

I saw study abroad as an integral experience for college because it is a unique opportunity to visit other countries as a student, instead of as a tourist or a businessperson. Studying abroad as a student opens up different social circles and widens one's perspectives, and is especially invaluable for language learners such as myself, seeking to immerse oneself completely in another culture and learn its language.                     

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

I distinctly remember my visits to the Marché Forville in Cannes, a marketplace for fresh meats, seafood, vegetables and fruits located in the old city. I made weekly trips to the market to stock up on fruits and bask in the smell of fresh fruit, the tranquility of a small town on the French Riviera, and the vibrant atmosphere of French vendors and shoppers. I made a particularly lasting impression on a Provençal couple, who sold Paella in the market every day. Each time I stopped by, we would have long conversations about my classes in the nearby college, my life in Minnesota and Hong Kong, and my stammering but improving French. Then, when customers started lining up, they would insist on offering me a discount on the Paella I had purchased, and make me promise to return next week. Their faces were among the last I saw before I left for home at the end of my journey, and my study abroad experience was definitely made more wholesome, more complete, thanks to the market and the kindhearted people I met there.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience is nothing short of wonderful, and an absolutely integral part of my college experience as a whole. Over the course of three months, I have lived within the walls of Carcassonne, a medieval fortified city, studied the history of the Pope's palace in Avignon, walked the halls of Versailles, experienced Paris at night, toured picturesque south of France on horseback, and remembered all of it on the edge of the Mediterranean, basking in the sand and sunshine with friends I have made all across the world. And to further my future career, I participated in a challenging and rewarding internship programme in the Cannes Tourism Office, right next to the Palais des Festivals, where the Cannes Film Festival is held. This study abroad experience helped me grow in ways I have not conceived of, opened up blind spots in my worldview that I would have otherwise ignored, and propelled me into a hopeful future.

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?

For foreign language learners, a semester abroad is instrumental for the attainment of said language. The beginners in our programme went from not knowing a word in French to being capable of daily conversation in a completely alien language.
For those wishing to pursue a career on a completely new frontier, a semester abroad is the perfect way to break through spatial and cultural constraints, and experience what it is like to work in an environment where the lingua fraca is not their own.
For those pursuing personal growth, they need only step foot on foreign soil with the expectation of living, studying, and working there for three months, and the knowledge that the culture and the people are nothing but what they make of it.

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

Do it. The monetary costs might be higher than a semester at CSB/SJU, but the experience you gain from studying abroad has immeasurable value. Plan out traveling, look for cheap train and air tickets from reputable sources, and meet new friends (preferably not from CSB/SJU).