Vanessa Eicher stops in front of Auzou, a famous chocolate shop, in the middle of the Rue du Gros-Horloge that runs through the middle of downtown Rouen.
Overseas Study Program
Vanessa’s major: Marketing and International Business
Term abroad: Spring 2009
Reason you chose this program: Having studied French for several years, studying abroad in Rouen was the perfect opportunity for me to experience the culture first-hand.
Describe the Housing Situation: I stayed in a residence hall on campus. The building was filled with international students from all over the world. It was a 5 minute walk to class and a 15 minute walk to a small market square.
Favorite classes: Critical Thinking: Digital Environments The professor was energetic and unconventional. I've never had such enthralling and enlightening class discussions.
Greatest challenge: Gaining confidence with speaking the language. I had studied French for years, but living in Rouen was the first time my skills were tried and tested outside of the classroom.
Best memory: Walking through the Saint-Ouen Abbey on my last day in Rouen. The cathedral was empty except for a trumpet player and organist practicing a duet for an upcoming service. The music and stained glass were beautiful. I sat treasuring my last few moments in the city.
Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: The most difficult adjustment was not having access to a 24-hour grocery or convenience store! For the most part, I loved the French way of long meals, sipping coffee and wine, and shopping at the markets.
Going abroad vs. staying on campus: If possible, I think everyone should have the opportunity to go abroad. It is an amazing and challenging experience unlike any other. You learn so much, not only another culture, but about yourself.
What I wish I knew before I left: Pack light! I had the lightest suitcase of everyone I knew and I still had twice the amount of stuff I really needed. Packing light on weekend trips is most important because traveling is exhausting-oftentimes I would have to take a bus, to a train, to a metro, and then to an airport to get to my destination. Then do it all over again to get home.
What you know now that you didn’t know before going abroad: I didn't realize how much I took language and social skills for granted. I had no idea that I would be so affected by an inability to make small talk, be sarcastic, and be social with strangers and shopkeepers.