Through Abbey Road Programs’ French immersion experience in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, students have the opportunity to live with other program participants in a French homestay program. When I participated in the program, my host parents, Francine and Fredéric, had been hosting Abbey Road students for the past several summers in Saint-Laurent-du-Var’s city center. In living with them, they taught me to consider alternative perspectives to those I had been so used to growing up outside of Boston.
On one occasion, after eating a typical provençale meal prepared by Francine, she and her husband discussed some of their house rules, including one particular rule regarding short showers. Only a few days into the program, me and my roommates quickly learned how the French Riviera’s hot summer sun certainly makes for some great pictures and memories, but also some long, sweaty days. Showers were, therefore, most certainly necessary. Francine, however, was certain to remark that she much like other people in France’s most southern regions prefer to take multiple, short showers as opposed to the singular, long showers I was used to taking back home. She explained – exclusively in French, of course – that this was more so due to her environmentalist concerns for the preservation of water than any concern for saving money. At first, such a minor detail seemed at best arbitrary. However, as Abbey Road’s intercultural curriculum later taught me, Francine’s concern strongly resembled larger cultural trends specific to the French value of “universalism.” French universalism, for instance, informs the famous French motto of “la liberté, l’égalité, et la fraternité” (liberty, equality and fraternity), and the notion that all French citizens are equal; water and access to water, as Francine explained, was no exception to this commonplace rule. Accordingly, my roommates and tried our best during our month’s stay to take multiple, short showers each day.
Aside from learning how to be a good roommate and house guest– lessons essential to any college-bound student – living with Francine and Fredéric helped me develop a global mindset. Once I started school the following fall at Villanova University, I realized that the ability to engage with a diverse array of perspectives was not only beneficial but essential to my success and those of my classmates in college. As I prepare to graduate in a few short weeks, I cannot help but think that my experiences through Abbey Roads provided me with the intercultural skills and made me “college-ready.”
Brendan Carchidi was a participant in the Abbey Road Programs French Immersion Experience in Saint-Laurent-du-Var during summer 2013. He is currently serving as a Fulbright Scholar to Jordan through the U.S. Department of State.