Facing Challenges and Faux Pas Abroad

When I first began my study abroad program in France, the biggest challenge I faced was learning how to cope with my mistakes. Living in another culture and communicating in another language are experiences that naturally come with a lot of missteps and blunders. At first, I was also extremely embarrassed when one of these faux pas would arise, and I used to hold on to that feeling for days after the event. I remember this one night in the first week of living with my host family when I was very tired and having difficulty communicating in French as a result. During dinner, I was corrected at least 10 times on what nouns were masculine or feminine and my pronunciation of the word “laboratoire.” By the end of the meal, I was feeling absolutely humiliated and wanted to just go hide in my room and never attempt to speak French again. Looking back, I know that my host family only wanted to help me improve my language skills, but at the time I took all of these corrections very personally. I was stuck in this mindset of always being afraid of making mistakes, and it was really affecting my overall study abroad experience. In the end, what has really helped me overcome this fear was some advice from my study abroad director. She told me that the people around me in France (my host family, friends, teachers, etc.) were all there to help me grow and improve, not to judge me. She also told me I was not the first student to make mistakes and would most certainly not be the last. Hearing this advice has helped me shift away from this toxic mindset to one that was much more productive. I have started to view my little mistakes and slip-ups as more of part of my overall learning experience. Instead of dwelling on my embarrassment, I have started to just take note of whatever lesson I am being taught and then let the rest go. Over time, it has gotten easier and easier to move past my mistakes, and they have even become less and less frequent as I settle in and get familiar with the language and culture. If other students have the same struggles with making mistakes in their new language or culture, I would just advise them to keep moving forward because every mistake you make is just something new you learn. And really, isn’t learning new things the point of studying abroad?

Leave a Reply