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Modern Language Major Spends Semester in France

March 21, 2014

“If you can incorporate study abroad into your education I guarantee it’ll be one of the best decisions of your life.”

“Anyone who is even contemplating it, just do it. You’ll find the means if you really want to. Do it and you’ll never forget this experience of a lifetime.”

 

That’s sage advice on studying abroad from Krystal Clark who recently returned from a semester in Paris, France.  Clark, a Modern Languages Major, went abroad to earn her French credits and to immerse herself in the art and culture of France.

 She studied at the prestigious Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne, which specifically caters to foreigners who want to dive into the French language and culture.  Her schedule revolved around hours of French grammar, phonetics, and lectures on French history, art history, and French literature.

 The combination of waking up and living daily life in the heart of the France while taking these classes worked well for Clark.   “I picked up a lot of slang and language tips which I apparently learned well since natives occasionally mistook me for being a native French speaker.”

Clark found the experience of being the “foreigner” challenging as well as beneficial in building her self-reliance and confidence.  “Out of necessity, I had to learn to cross barriers and adapt,” she said, “And once I did, everything was at my fingertips – museums, art, history, fashion, music, the list goes on. I could just hop on the métro and go anywhere to explore, which made life so exciting and invigorating. I could ask things in French when I was curious. I could ask for directions in French. “

She noted that people greet and talk to each other differently there.  If she wanted or needed something, she had to tough it out both physically and mentally into order to obtain it— from food orders in French, to directions, to exploring the plethora of things Paris has to offer.

“Knowing the streets I walked on were the same ones that Van Gogh, Picasso, Debussy, Cocteau, Piaf, and many others used made it humbling,” she added, “and instilled a zest to know more of my temporarily adopted home.”

 Clark hopes to make Paris her permanent home in the future.  She graduates from UTSA at the end of this semester and has already begun applying for jobs there.

 

 

 

Q&A With Krystal Clark

 

What made you decide to Study Abroad?

  • A few reasons. Academically this was beneficial for my degree as 1) I am a Modern Languages Major and 2) If I wanted to graduate by Spring 2014, in order to obtain my French credits in a timely manner, Study Abroad was the way to go. Personally this was important for me as I’m such an enthusiast for all things art (music, cinema, art, dance, photography, EVERYTHING), so to be at the melting pot and where a lot of these art forms flourished and developed was incredibly important to me on a personal level. Thus, to have the opportunity to obtain part of my education in a city where I find so much resonance emotionally was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

When were your term dates?

  • Fall 2013, from September to December. This was technically a tri-semester, as the French school system didn’t start their regular term until October.

Where did you Study?

  • Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne” in Paris, France. For Europe, La Sorbonne is the equivalent of many Ivy League schools in the United States, so La Sorbonne is very well known across Europe. This part of the university, “Cours de Civilisation Française,” is specifically catered to foreigners to acquire French language AND French culture.

What is your favorite memory?

  • Everything. I can’t pin point anything because every day was like waking up to a dream. I woke up in the heart of Paris almost every day (I got to visit other countries/regions of France for some week-ends). From walking the streets of Paris, going to school right next to Notre-Dame, having my apartment right next to Champs-Elysées, eating the best macarons and crêpes, The entire experience was my favorite memory.

What did you daily schedule look like?

  • French intensive. Exactly what I needed. Everyday, Monday through Friday, from 2:00-4:00PM of French grammar. For just the month of October, we also had an additional class of French Phonetics (oral, listening, speaking) where we dissected French pronunciation and recorded ourselves in a lab. Additionally, we had optional lectures of French History (Mondays), Art History (Tuesdays), and French Literature (Fridays) from 12:00-1:00PM.

What did you learn?

  • French! My french definitely shot through the roof. Being immersed in the language 24/7 and having no choice but to speak it sometimes really helped with language acquisition. Applying it in real life rather than on paper makes a big difference. I also picked up a lot of slang and tips on the language, which I got so well I guess since natives mistook me occasionally for being native, haha!

  • French people don’t hate Americans! They really don’t. They love American culture. What they hate is when you go into their culture automatically assuming they know English, rather than giving their language a shot. That’s cultural insensitivity, and that’s what they (and most of Europe) don’t like. Make the effort, and they’ll work with you.

  • French people love McDonalds and fast food. This was a disappointment for me as I was trying to escape American food. However, their McDonalds are much nicer than here in the States, and they specifically cater to the region, as in, they have a McCafe sector and serve macarons and espressos. Thus again, they embrace American culture and food, with a French twist.

  • Despite the embrace of American culture, they have a regulation of how much “foreign” influences can come in. They have a regulation of on their film and music of how much of it must be French and how much can be from other countries. This is to promote domestic markets and production and conserve a certain degree of “Frenchness” I suppose. Also, candy/fast-food/anything unhealthy commercials must have a disclaimer at the bottom saying it’s unhealthy or a health recommendation as part of a balanced diet. Go France!

  • Self-reliance and confidence. This experience helped me become independent and more confident of myself. For once, I was the foreigner somewhere else. Out of necessity, I had to learn to cross these barriers and adapt. Luckily the culture isn’t vastly different from the United States, but it still is. It’s another language. People greet and talk to each other differently. And if I wanted or needed something, I had to tough it out and put myself out there physically and mentally into order to obtain it, from food orders in French, to directions, and exploring the plethora of things Paris has to offer! Thus, self-reliance and confidence was in order to navigate Paris like a local, and once I was, EVERYTHING was at my fingertips – museums, art, history, fashion, music, the list goes on. I could just hop on the métro and go anywhere and explore, which made life so exciting and invigorating. I could ask things in French when I was curious. I could ask for directions in French. And to top it off, knowing the streets I walked on where the same as Van Gogh, Picasso, Debussy, Cocteau, Edith Piaf, and more so humbling, and instilled a zest to know more of my temporarily adopted home, which I now hope to make my permanent home in the future.

 

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