Autumn Ayer '23

Program: France

Major: French, English

Club: French Club, AIM (Advocates for Inclusive Mentoring)


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

Studying abroad has always been something that I’ve dreamed of doing, and one of the goals I had set for myself even long before coming to St. Ben’s. I believe there is so much value in exploring the world and interacting with the people that live in it. I wanted to experience living in an entirely different culture in an effort to further develop a sense of open-mindedness and knowledge of our world. As a French major who has been studying the French language for many years, I chose to study in France to further improve my proficiency, immersing myself fully in the language and all that this culture I adore has to offer. Although I had been learning French for nearly 8 years before this experience, and although it wasn’t my first time visiting France, I feel that I learned the most I ever had within just 4 months. If you’re learning a language, it’s one thing to learn it, but a completely different thing to learn it in an environment that allows you to function entirely in that language.

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

Something that will stay with me forever is the way in which the French have such an incredible appreciation for good food and how that food brings people together. Some moments that are very special to me include sharing meals with others, whether that had been at an apéro in which we casually shared a glass of wine and an assortment of cheeses, or at a restaurant where I spent hours eating several courses of traditional French cuisine.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

There is so much I could say about studying abroad and about how much my experience in France means to me, but what I will say simply is that this was one of the best experiences of my entire life, and something I will always remember and cherish forever. Not only did I learn so much, meet so many different people, make new friends, and partake in so many things that a time ago, I would’ve never even considered doing, but I also feel as though I left France as a new person. I left with a newfound sense of independence, love and appreciation for the world and myself, and inspiration for how I want to implement all the knowledge and certain ways of life I obtained while abroad.

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?

The benefits of studying abroad are endless. As I mentioned, I feel that when I left France, I wasn’t the same person I was when I had arrived. Having had to learn how to manage myself in a foreign country has strengthened my ability to be independent. Having chosen this program with language-learning goals in mind, academically, I feel so much more confident in my French speaking abilities. Looking ahead to what I might want to do with my language degree in the future, studying in France has allowed me to consider many possibilities.

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

The advice I have for students is to be adventurous. Don’t be afraid to take risks. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Use it to your advantage and make as much use of your time abroad as possible. Be present in every moment. The photos you rush to take on your phone will never even come close to the real beauty sitting before your eyes. Slow down from time to time and appreciate the little joys of your study abroad location, down to local stores you visit, the food you eat, the streets you walk on daily. The simplest of our experiences are ones that can be easily taken for granted, but they might be some of the most special ones to you when you’re looking back at those memories later on. There will be days that feel like a dream, and there will be days that challenge you. Embrace them all. I promise they will all do nothing but contribute to your growth in every aspect of your life.