Sara Mayeux '24
Program: France Semester
Major: Biology and French
Athletic Team/Club: Ultimate Frisbee
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I have been studying French since I started high school, and upon taking a trip to France my Junior year of high school, I immediately knew I wanted to go back. Studying abroad was something I knew I wanted to do for a long time, and I knew it would increase my abilities in the French language tremendously, increase my confidence, and provide me with countless new cultural and world experiences. For these reasons, my decision to study abroad was already made before I applied, and I knew it would be a challenging, but also phenomenal experience.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your program that made a lasting impression.
Using public transportation, specifically the tram system, in Montpellier became a regular part of my daily routine and something I struggled with at the beginning, seeing as my sense of direction is not that great. However, there were several occasions where local, French people approached me at the tram stop to ask me for directions, to confirm that the direction of the tram we were going on was going to a certain stop. My ability to understand their questions, respond to them well enough that they could understand me, and give them the correct directions was a great boost to my confidence and helped me to recognize how well I was able to assimilate in France and how much my skills in the language had improved.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience is very difficult for me to describe in any other words besides “incredible.” I believe my semester in France truly allowed me to grow in my confidence and independence. In navigating a foreign country, traveling independently, using public transportation, improving my French speaking, listening, and writing skills, trying new foods, and growing to appreciate a different culture, I truly grew as an individual, and I would not change anything about my study abroad experience.
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?
For those who are studying the language of the country in which they are studying abroad, spending the semester in that country and being immersed truly helps to improve not only one’s speaking skills in general but also one’s confidence in speaking the language. Studying abroad also allows one to branch out by experiencing another culture and gaining a broader world view. With this, studying abroad allows for an exploration of one’s independence and creates an opportunity to learn and grow as a student and as a person.
Studying abroad in Montpellier improved my French language skills and my confidence in them as I was so fully immersed, especially while living with a host family. While studying abroad, I was also able to earn many credits in French to complete my French minor, so much so, that I decided to switch my minor to a major and double major in French and Biology. While in France, I did an internship at a local community center which not only helped me in my language abilities but gave me experience in community outreach and social health.
What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Embracing independence and new cultural experiences is one of the many pieces of advice I would give to CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad. The experience of study abroad provides such a broader world perspective and offers so many opportunities for incredible experiences. Although social media portrays students’ study abroad experiences as only positive, there are challenges along the way. However, these challenges are very much conquerable and worth the countless amazing discoveries, experiences, and memories you will make along the way.