Along with several others from the group, I arrived at the Nice airport on Sunday July 3. Right away the foreign feeling kicked in, as I knew I was no longer in the U.S. I met my host mom who picked me up at the airport and right away, speaking French it was! I knew it was the start to something great! I stayed with my host-parents in St. Laurent-du-Var in a residential complex called Jeanne d’arc. I lived in a 3 bedroom, one bathroom residence. I stayed with the Cassar family. M. Denis and Mme. Françoise Cassar lived by themselves along with their little French bulldog Djoy. They always made sure I was comfortable and well attended to in every possible way. The food Mme. Cassar cooked was amazing! She made sure there was a variety and made sure I felt as though I was at home. I felt as though I got a lot of French practice with my host family as I conversed with them a lot over various topics like politics, the government, traveling, the U.S., Mexico, and several other things. Within those conversations, I learned that France and the U.S. have many similarities and differences. School was also one of the key components of the program. Some of my favorite classes were when we went around to the native people in St. Laurent and Nice and interviewed them. Not only did we get to practice our French in real life scenarios, but we also learned about the French culture. The staff also significantly helped with this learning experience and made sure our four weeks were unique and filled with experiential learning. My four weeks in France were full of fun activities! Every week we went to Nice at least once and I was always excited to go! Our staff did a good job in preparing many activities for us. A couple of my favorites were parasailing and kayaking. I had never done either, but it was fun to explore both! The day trips were also super fun! My favorite was the trip to Cannes. I wish we would have stayed there longer or at least have gone back another time, but either way, it was still fun. One of my favorite things was celebrating the 14 juillet! The celebration was so full of life and so vibrant! I had a great time participating in the many activities that were planned for us. The staff was amazing. I felt that they worked hard to give us a great summer vacation and to make sure we enjoyed our time in France. They looked out for our safety and did what they could to make sure we had fun. I want to thank everybody at Abbey Road for enabling me to have had this wonderful experience. Thank you for awarding me the Chris Meyer Scholarship and allowing me to participate in this four-week study abroad experience. I will continue to uphold Chris Meyer’s legacy in whatever endeavors I may embark on and vow to continue to be a citizen of the world.
What drew you to Abbey Road’s homestay program in St-Laurent-du-Var, France? Well, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in France. I had been studying French for four years and it was the end of my senior year. I wanted an experience that would help me become more independent and that would help me exercise what I had been practicing for the past four years. I also wanted to throw myself out there, into a totally different environment that would help me be more prepared as I step out into future. I really wanted a diverse, yet enriching experience. You were awarded the full tuition Chris Meyer Memorial Scholarship for your outstanding achievements in the French Language, what advice would you offer to students seeking similar opportunities? I think everything starts in classroom. It’s in the classroom where you discover passion and what you want to pursue. So be proactive, be motivated and get out there and look for resources. You won’t find anything if you aren’t looking! I was lucky enough to have counselor who knew about this opportunity. I had looked online at other programs and saw some that didn’t have any scholarships or that they only had partial scholarships. You should never give up and always keep an open mind because anything can happen. Going into things, you just have to be prepared for the best and worst. Also, have a willingness to explore an area out of your comfort zone. Did participation on this program impact your future life plans and goals? Coming back home, this trip makes me want to do it all over again it and to be more involved in programs like this and encouraging people to do the same. I have a better understanding of the people I met and I have a more open view of the world now. Also, this program has really helped me want to discover more parts of the world. I’m wondering what my next adventure in life is going to be. There is so much more to be discovered and I want to learn as much as possible. For starters, it definitely made me want to take a job that is not specifically in the US. I’m really interested in the international arena. France is a great place to go abroad. I felt like a native when I was in St. Laurent. Coming back I want and need to improve more and explore new fields. I’m familiarizing myself with things I didn’t know before. I want to make myself a more well rounded person. I’m going to study either international relations or international business. I also took a French placement test at school and I tested into French 230, which is the level a lot of upper classmen are in. I have a full scholarship to Salem College. It’s an all girls’ school in North Carolina. Actually my type of scholarship is the only one that includes study abroad opportunities. I would like to study abroad in France, but maybe northern France or Switzerland (the French speaking part). How significantly did your French improve as a result of the program? My French did improve. I talked a lot with my home stay family and their niece and they would ask me about my life back in the US. We would have dinner and talk (in French) about the differences between the US and France. I loved our conversations and they made me want to go for it further, to really try as hard as I could to practice my French. In school we learn out of the book French and here I was able to apply it to real situations and real life talk compared to a practiced conversation. The [experiential] French in the classroom helped me get away and experience something new away from home. Walking around and interacting with the locals is how I improved my French the most. The first few days of class we interviewed French natives, which I really enjoyed. I did learn a lot about French culture in class and from my host family. This program helps improve your conversational skills and makes you more culturally aware. I was able to notice the difference and similarities between French and American culture. The homestay experience is obviously a very significant aspect of the program. What was it like living with a French family for four weeks? How would you describe your hosts? I stayed with the Cassar family. They were a couple, but they had a very friendly little dog. We lived in small residence. My family was very attentive to all my needs and wanted to know things about me. They were always willing to help me. I think participating in a homestay makes a big difference. We were very busy during the program, but my family was always willing to talk with me and our conversations were very engaging. They didn’t just take care of me, they wanted to get to know me. I felt like a native when I was with my host family. It was all the little things like setting the table and helping wash the dishes or watching the television (in French). Towards the end [of the program] I felt so comfortable walking around St-Laurent, like I was used to it and I knew the area. I got accustomed to it. I even attended a mass in French. We were on an excursion and we had free time and I went to mass. I walked into a church when they were doing the rosary. I found I was actually able to follow along. Being away from home and in a new place, did you feel safe on the program? I always felt very safe every time we went anywhere. When walking to our destinations every time we had to cross the street the staff would make sure someone was always in the front and back. They also didn’t take us to anywhere that felt “sketchy.” What advice would you give to a future Abbey Road student? I would tell them to keep an open mind and remember you are not in America. The people are not the same and the food is not the same. When you experience something different don’t shut it down and be willing to learn. Try to become a part of that life, and try to do what they do. If you come into the program with an open mind you will learn so much more.