Nicole's Semester in France
Introduction and Summary
Although many students come to Bloomsburg University undecided on a major or with only a vague career goal in mind, I’ve known since the eighth grade that I wanted to teach French. This also means that I’ve been dreaming of my semester abroad in France for years and have built up some pretty high expectations for my experience in the mean time. Fortunately, writing from France, I can tell you that this semester has exceeded my expectations and I’ve only just reached the half way point!
During the spring semester 2011, I have been studying with the ‘French as a foreign language’ program at the Université de Nancy 2 in Nancy, France. The exchange program I am participating in is actually between Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Nancy 2, but given that the French education system is quite different from its American counterpart, it works out well that IUP will look at the work I’ve done in France, make those credits comparable to American ones, and transfer those credits to Bloomsburg to count towards my French major.
As for my experience here, the classes with the program have been wonderful! Half of my credit hours are focused on learning the French language (oral and written expression and comprehension) and the other half are classes that I was able to choose to focus more on my personal interests in the language (such as culture or career specific courses). All of the professors are French, of course, and more than willing to take the extra time to break down a difficult grammatical concept or explain something in terms of its historical or cultural importance to make it more meaningful. The students in my classes are from all over the world, so it has been great practice using French as the common language in our interactions and getting used to listening to different accents. In this international atmosphere, I’ve also found it very interesting to hear how other students’ cultural backgrounds compare to the French way of living.
Outside of the program, there are two things I would like to emphasize that have really made this semester a memorable one. First, the ERASMUS Student Network (ESN) is a group that exists at just about every university in the European Union, and is a group that focuses on international students and diversity. Although many of the students who participate in their activities come from countries outside of the EU, the ESN [in Nancy] organizes weekend trips in and around France for very reasonable prices which give students the opportunity to travel and appreciate the historical and cultural importance of the places they visit. Their events are always very fun and informal, but students always walk away with a better understanding of the diversity that is Europe; I highly recommend getting to know this group if you plan on studying in the EU. The second thing I wanted to mention is the conversation exchange that the foreign language department has set up here. In order to take advantage of the language diversity at the university, they offer a conversation exchange in which people are paired up according to the language they speak/want to learn; for example, I speak English and want to practice French, so I am paired with a partner who speaks French and wants to practice English. It is wonderful to learn the language the way your peers speak it, as well as get a perspective on the culture from another student’s point of view! Through this exchange, I met two very nice French girls who were able to explain to me, in a more informal manner, what French culture is and who even travelled with me to some nearby cities to show me how my French peers lived and what those places meant to them – something that I would never have learned in a classroom.
Since beginning this program in early January, I feel that I’ve not only learned so much more about French culture, but also about the way the Francophone culture has influenced the international community and vice versa. I encourage everyone to look into some kind of exchange program because I truly believe that everyone should study abroad while in college, no matter what your major, because it is a valuable experience that will change your view of the world around you.