Skyler is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France
Major: Nutrition Dietetics
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I knew that this was a unique opportunity where I could drop responsibilities in the US and go live somewhere else for four months. This is a rare opportunity so I took it. I chose to go on the France program quite easily, as I am a French minor, wanted to become more confident in speaking french, and had already fallen in love with the country when I had a two week trip there as a senior in high school.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Besides speaking a second language for a large percentage of my time on the trip, I had an interesting experience surrounding eating. In France, meal times were always at set times, and lunch and dinner were eaten all together. More time was spent at the meals than I have experienced in the US. It was also very different having lunch be the heavier meal of the day, rather than dinner. I really enjoyed how we all unplugged and left problems behind when we went to meals and just spent time sitting down and communicating. Meal time means a lot more than just fueling your body to the French people.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I was in the highest french class for our study abroad group. I was lucky to have taken so much french before going on the trip, and was already fairly comfortable speaking french. This was a great way to start out because I could begin with working on my accent and pronunciation, and also start expanding my vocabulary and specifying details surrounding grammar. My roommate was Colombian, and her first language was Spanish. I very highly recommend rooming with someone outside of CSBSJU if possible because I loved having someone outside of my group to spend time with, and there was no conflict. The international school is really the best because that's what it is: international. I already have friends from all over Europe and a few other places including Columbia and Saudi Arabia. I even had the opportunity to go visit one of them in England already. This trip allowed me to be stretched and uncomfortable, while still feeling very safe. I did some weekend travels by myself to go visit friends in other european countries, which was a big step in my independence.
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?
When spending a semester abroad, students really become residents of the area, instead of just tourists. This is an amazing feeling that can not be explained too well, but a shift does happen after about a month or so. I was so happy to blend in with my french and not be addressed in english after a few words. People began to ask me directions to places in Cannes, and ask me questions about how the trains worked because I must have looked confident in what I was doing. A semester blows by so quickly, even those that are a bit of a homebody can really find ease with getting adjusted to their new living spaces, and being able to use technology to communicate with those at home. With spending a whole semester abroad, it is much easier to do some external traveling, which is where I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities, so I'm thankful for the breaks and weekends. I accomplished a lot of things for graduation by studying abroad. I was able to get IC and EL, upper theo, fine arts, and my minor completed just by this one semester.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Students must work over the summer. Try to work full time. Don't overdue it by getting rid of all the fun, but as much as it might be not very fun, you will be infinitely thankful that you worked once you get part way through your semester and still have a good amount of money to do all the things you set out to do.
Ask questions. Use the ambassadors to ask any little question that is on your mind. What type of clothes are important? What types of things did you forget to pack? What things did you pack that were unnecessary? What did you do when you got homesick? All are questions that anyone would be happy to answer and they'll put the future traveller at ease!
Cut your parents slack. As much as it might seem like they are up in your business about all things study abroad, they care about you and love you and are ten times more anxious about you leaving for four months than they pretend to be. Thank them every chance you get, and tell them you love them at random times while abroad, its so easy to send a text message and it really brightens their day when it's unexpected.