Why did you choose this program? I chose to go to Aix-en-Provence, France not only because I'm majoring in French and wanted to improve my language skills, but because I wanted to totally immerse myself in French culture. I participated in the IU Honors Program in France during the summer of 2008, and ever since then I knew I wanted to go back, and Aix-en-Provence was the perfect choice for me.
Describe your favorite classes abroad. Even though I had a lot of difficulty acclimating to the academic life in France, I did enjoy my classes there. My favorite class that I took was about Women in French Society, which actually turned out to be more like Gender Studies classes that are offered here at IU. And, because I'm minoring in Gender Studies, it was really fun for me to contribute during class and to try to understand theories that I've heard in previous classes at IU, but in a different language.
What was housing like on your study abroad program? (where you lived, who you lived with, etc.) I'm a firm believer in the advantages that come from living with a host family while abroad. In Aix-en-Provence, I lived extremely close to the main center of the city with the nicest French woman that I have ever met. From the minute that I walked through her door, she took me in as her own child and made it a goal of hers to make sure that I had the most fulfilling and enjoyable time in Aix-en-Provence. Not only that, but she also helped me a lot with the improvement of my French skills, which I have continually used in my French classes this semester. I have been in regular contact with my host mom ever since I left France.
What's your best memory from your time abroad? My best memories from being abroad were those spend with my host mother and her friends; whether that be playing Scrabble with her on a Friday night, drinking wine and watching a movie, helping her make dinner, or sitting on her balcony and eating breakfast together. All of these special moments that I spend with her amounted to me being able to truly feel like her home was my home, and that I lived in France.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Surprisingly, I experienced more reverse culture shock coming back from France than initial culture shock arriving in France. While in France I had become so accustomed to a culture, that was so different from my own, that returning back to the United States was very overwhelming. Not only was hearing English spoken all around me very strange, but I also felt that Aix-en-Provence was so much more accessible; I could walk just down the street to buy a baguette, go grocery shopping, and go to my friend's house, so, upon returning to America, everything felt more spread out and required more thought and less spontaneity.
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge while abroad was not being afraid to make mistakes while speaking in French with other native individuals, especially my host mother. I eventually expressed my concerns to my host mother about being very self-conscious, so then she made an effort to give me constructive criticism but to also help me become more talkative.