Program: ISEP — Grenoble
Time Abroad: Fall 2008
Major: International Studies
Studying abroad as everyone will tell you is a great way to learn a lot about yourself and the world we live in from another perspective. I ended up choosing a program in France through ISEP which is one of the more independent programs. It definitely forced me to use my French and get comfortable with French culture right away. Although it was stressful some days, it was nice not to speak English and really live differently than how I was accustomed to living. The first week or so of my program felt very strange, knowing no one, and hardly feeling like I spoke the language made the first week discouraging. The thing to keep in mind is that you get over that very quickly. Making friends is easy and so rewarding. Once you start to feel comfortable in your host city there is a huge sense of accomplishment! One of the best/hardest parts is coming home. You realize once you step off the plane in the States how different things have actually been for the past semester, quarter, or year. It is a proud moment, but can also be sad leaving. At least you know that you have done it and could go back and do it again!
It is hard to describe which experience was most memorable for my trip abroad. The trip was only my first time out of the country (except for Canada, but if you grow up in Maine, Canada doesn't feel like another country). When I was boarding the plane in Boston, the one way, 8 hour flight to Paris, I could hear a mix of French and English but I just couldn't seem to filter out the French, it was everywhere, the in-flight movies, the conversations around me. I had spent the last 8 years of school studying a language that all of the sudden was so foreign to me. When the man sitting next to me looked at me and blurted something out in French I froze—but he switched to English right away (how jealous I was of him) and we chatted in between naps, movies, and in-flight meals. When we landed he turned and said in French "now we are in my country, and we will speak my language". We ended up splitting a cab to the city and during the hour long cab ride I learned so much about this person that I had been sitting next to for hours. I realized that in the context of his city, his language, his home, he was a completely different person. He was comfortable there. Once I became comfortable and let my guard down I could really appreciate the idea of living in another country and had so much more fun. It's an experience I wouldn't trade for the world.