Megan Gemuenden '19
Program: France Fall Semester
Major: Elementary Education
Minor: French and Language Endorsement
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad in Cannes, France because it met all of my academic, personal, and professional goals. After graduation, I would love the opportunity to teach abroad in France: so studying as a student there aligned perfectly with my professional ambitions in working towards linguistic fluency and greater understanding of their cultural. I had also traveled to France for a language program in high school, and fell in love with the French language. My experience staying with a host family lit a fire in my heart to return to the country to learn more about its people, language, and politics, and culture.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A cultural experience that made a lasting impression was time spent on the beach across from campus next to the sea watching the sun set and rise every day over the city and behind the peaks of the mountains. It was an incredibly reflective experience to take in the vastness of the world and to recognize the beauty of nature in the sea, mountains, trees, and city all coming together in one space. I would trek out to the beach individually or with friends. We would swim, do homework, paint, and talk about our experiences in France together. This experience truly reflects French culture in its emphasis of quality time and interaction with nature.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience brought me incredible joy, connection, personal insight, and global perspective. It was challenging to balance a new language, meet so many new people, learn how to travel, and track a budget. I was stretched to evaluate my own perspective and experiences in the new connections that I was making in the context of a different culture with different values and experiences.
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?
Studying abroad has stretched me to evaluate my own lens from the framework of a greater global perspective as I was given the opportunity to form friendships with students from all over the world including Australia, Brazil, London, Morocco, Switzerland, etc. I engaged in meaningful conversations about politics, culture, food, music, and student life. Speaking French enabled me to express myself using the platform of a second language which was challenging but highly rewarding. Personally, I feel more confident in my ability to navigate, make connections, and to advocate for myself. Academically, I achieved significantly greater fluency in the French language and maintained high expectations for a diverse array of courses including European Political Science, French Cinema, Theater, and Language Comprehension; all taken in French. Professionally, I was able to complete my French minor which brings me one step closer towards becoming a French teacher.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I would advise future CSB/SJU students to lean into the uncomfortable and unfamiliar whether that be language, food, or cultural traditions at their study abroad site. Truly take ownership of your experience in all facets including group excursions, independent travel, and within the classroom: being present on a daily basis within your environment. I would encourage future study abroad participants to engage in reflective processes during their experiences; to take pictures, keep a journal, create a blog, or artistically interact with their surroundings. Make sure that your experience aligns with your professional, personal, and academic goals. Remember that your study abroad experience is an investment in yourself: so prepare yourself well pre-departure, asking questions and opening your mind to change and growth. During your program, take advantage of any opportunity to encounter new perspectives and people in navigating a new culture. After your program, bring your experiences back to campus with you. Share your stories and new perspectives with others and integrate your experiences abroad with your engagement on campus.