Maeve Hanson ’25

Program: France Semester

Major: Elementary Education

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

I chose to study abroad because I knew I always wanted to travel and experience different cultures, so I looked into the France program and saw that there was an education program. Reading more about the program in Montpellier made me interested, so I decided to apply. In all honesty, it was more of a spontaneous choice but I was all in for a new adventure.

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

Between food, lifestyle, politics, what is considered as polite, views on snacking, and teaching styles, it is difficult to decide one specific cultural experience on my program since they all made a lasting impression. However, the one cultural experience that left me to rely solely on my problem solving skills would be the strikes in France. Genuinely, I have never experienced something as frustrating as a tram, bus, or train strike. It tested how I managed under stressful situations and my ability to adapt. This experience taught me to better prepare myself for whatever may happen in the day, but it also taught me that I am able to observe my situation as an outsider and tackle a problem I may run into.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience was sincerely the best moment of my life. I do not think many other experiences will be able to compare to to memories I made in France. While abroad, I learned about the amazing French culture, the similarities and differences between American and French school systems, some of the romantic language, saw breathtaking scenery and architecture, and met people that I consider some of my best friends.

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 and interning abroad contributed to my personal, academic, and professional development in wonderful ways. I grew more independent and confident in myself. I also learned how to pick and choose who I was spending time with; I determined who were the people who were supporting and growing with me and then the people who were trying to stunt my growth so I was at their level. Learning how to recognize that distinction was important for me personally because everyone needs friends who care about each other. I also had a lot of time to self reflect as I was enlightened on what people in France go through in life and I learned, as a white female American, I am privileged and I must acknowledge that. Academically speaking, I learned how to speak a little bit of French from my French class, learned about French film and the French revolution, and learned valuable lesson planning skills in my education courses. Professionally, I fell deeper in love for the profession I was going into. For my teaching practicum, I interned at a preschool and taught English to 4-5-year-olds. Although there was a language barrier between me and my students, I was still able to create meaningful relationships with them and looked forward to the hugs I would receive as soon as I walked through the gates to the school. I knew that this profession was meant for me because being able to make connections with kids that do not speak the same language as me solidifies that I am pursuing the right career. Moreover, my heart broke the last day I was with those kids, who felt like my own students.

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

Go for it! Your worries and fears are valid, but just think about the opportunities studying abroad can offer and the experiences you will gain. Trust me when I say I was beyond concerned about a number of things such as homesickness, losing my things while traveling, not being able to make friends, and the biggest worry of them all: what if I don’t belong? All of these factors heightened my anxiety, but there was something more that pushed those worries aside. It was the fact that I have the opportunity to travel and study at the same time. I have the opportunity to learn about a culture other than my own. I have the opportunity to make new and meaningful connections. All of it is worth it. What’s more? I never took any French class and I still went to France, stayed with a host-family, and lived a life in a French speaking world. I learned a lot of French along the way and was even able to understand conversations amongst French people. So if you speak an immense amount of French, a little bit of French, or no French at all, believe me when I say that if I studied abroad, then you can too. You do not want to miss out on this once in a lifetime experience!