Maria Beck ’24

Program: France Semester

Major: Biochemistry & French

Athletic Team/Club: Swim and Dive

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

My family came to America three generations ago through Ellis Island from Europe. I had a great interest in better understanding my family’s history and the culture of where they came from. In addition, I have always wanted to travel across seas to learn more about contrasting cultures and try new things, so regardless of the country, I was excited to go somewhere new. I thought that studying abroad would be the perfect opportunity to do so, especially in the current stage of life that I was in. I chose the Montpellier, France program because of my interest in French culture. I liked the immersion aspects of the program and had wanted to improve my French language proficiency. With the hopes of traveling to other cities in France, and nearby countries, I thought that France would be an ideal, central location.

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

Montpellier, France is truly a beautiful town. Exploring the pedestrian-designated city center and streets crawling out from it was a wonderful opportunity. I will never forget the new restaurants, markets, shops, and grand churches that I discovered simply by wandering throughout the town alongside the friends that I had made. It was incredible being in a city whose origin and architecture dates back to more than 1000 years ago. I will always have fond memories of the beauty of Montpellier.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Studying abroad was incredibly eye-opening and a wonderful opportunity that I had been given. I stayed in a homestay which presented many positive occurrences but also challenges that I had to overcome. In my classes, I stepped aside from my typical science-related classes, and took many classes in the arts and French language which I found to be incredibly interesting. The professors and program-advisors at the study center were some of the kindest and most helpful people that I have worked with. In addition, I met many new people from all around the United States who I will always stay in touch with. The Montpellier program was very unique in comparison to other CSB+SJU programs, and I would say overall I am very happy with the experiences had studying abroad in Montpellier.

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 was a wonderful opportunity to be immersed within another culture. I had the unique (perhaps once in a lifetime) opportunity to live in a French household, eat authentic French cuisine, practice speaking French, and interact with French citizens on a day-to-day basis. I benefited in these aspects because it is not something that I could have experienced within the United States. I developed individual skills to interact with people who’s language was not my first, how to best adapt to the French educational system, and from having two internships while abroad, I learned more about the professional environment and etiquette within France. From all of these experiences, I hope that I will return to France one day with friends and family

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

Advice I would offer to CSB+SJU students who are considering studying abroad would be to expect the unexpected. Studying abroad for me in France was in certain aspects what I had pictured prior: beautiful French architecture, rich history within cities, delicious pastries and dishes, etc. However, there was a much greater depth of personal development, stemming from the unexpected experiences and realizations that I had while abroad. I would strongly encourage all CSB+SJU students to take the risk and study abroad with an open-mind, ready to take on new experiences, perhaps expected or… not!