As I am nearing the midway point of my study abroad experience, I think it would be appropriate to share the three biggest takeaways that I have taken from my time in France.
The Best Way to Learn French
The best way to learn French is by picking up on the subtleties of the French language. When I first arrived in Paris, everyone wanted to speak English with me. This is because my accent was not good, and I did not know the nuances of the language. As a French major, this was very disheartening. But after a month and a half of being taught in French at school, reading in French, speaking to people in French, and watching television in French; I am slowly starting to pick up on how to speak the language like the locals. There was no big “aha” moment for me, but rather locals slowly insisted on speaking to me in English less and less. Now, we only switch to English if I do not have a grasp of certain concepts. For example, I recently got my haircut and I simply did not know how to communicate with my barber in French. Luckily, we live in a world of technology and I was able to simply show him a picture of what I wanted my hair to look like. He did a great job!
I feel much more comfortable speaking French now, but I believe that that came with hard work and putting myself outside of my comfort zone. It is exhausting having to read a book in French after I take a three-hour collegiate course taught solely in French. But this hard work has paid off and I rarely have to translate to English while conversing with others.
The Importance of Leaving Paris
Although I love Paris, I have come to find that it can sometimes feel overly crowded and intimidating. When compared to other cosmopolitan cities like New York or London, Paris is generally much calmer and cleaner, but I am still always excited to leave the hustle and bustle of such a large city. Through my study abroad program and individual travels, I have been to many regions of France and have seen many different dialects, cultures, and most importantly culinary specialties. This has not only helped me improve my French, but it has also allowed me to more deeply explore the beautiful country of France. Some of my favorite moments during my study abroad experience so far have been spent in smaller cities and towns found off the beaten path.
Always say Yes (most of the time)
My final takeaway has been to, for the most part, say yes. Obviously, it is important to be smart about traveling abroad and to not put yourself in bad situations, but it is also important to take appropriate risks and say yes when the opportunity arises. One of my favorite trips was to Giverny, a small town in Normandy where Monet’s house is located. I did not know I was actually going to go on that trip until my friends told me they were going and invited me two nights before. I said yes and had an amazing time. Even yesterday, my friend was able to obtain three press passes for a new Halloween attraction sight in Paris through her internship. She invited us, and I ended up having an amazing time exploring the different haunted attractions! This philosophy of saying yes to whatever comes up has proven very rewarding, and it has allowed me to see places and experience things that I could have not previously anticipated.