France was my home for 10 months and I would not change a single thing about my exchange. There are great challenges and equally great rewards for studying in a foreign country. Here are some of my personal accounts and hopefully, encouraging words as to why you should do the same.
1- It is so beautiful
Tiny little cobblestone alley ways. Vibrant villages. Breathtaking architecture. Stunning mountains. Greenery. This list goes on, France has it all. It is a truly beautiful place with so many places to explore.
2- For its culture
Of course, French culture is more than crepes. It is more than a lot of the most delicious breads, cheeses and wines you have ever tasted and more than its obscure delicacies. It is drinking espresso in the sunshine in immense outdoor squares. It is eating dinner late, ensuring you have time to sit with friends for a drink after school/work. It is walking through art and history museums and biking along canals It is all things family, friends and gastronomy and it is something to experience first-hand.
3- And its people
I carpooled with a French woman down to the nearby city of Annecy for a weekend. It was one of my first weekends in France and I did not know many people. I was feeling lonely but decided that going to explore a new city would be a fun experience. My french speaking was far from excellent, but nonetheless, she spoke with me during the whole car ride. She even offered to take me on a hike the next day in the city we were driving too. I accepted and the next day, she picked me up and we went and hiked to this wonderful look out. At the top, we took some photos and she pulled out lunches she had packed for both of us. We ate and I could feel nothing but lucky and grateful for this person whom had gone out of her way and treated me so kindly since I met her.
Of course, this was just one of my first great experiences. I met some incredible people abroad. Anywhere you go, people can be great and people can be less than great. If you travel with an open mind, I can guarantee you will meet some incredible people.
3- It can be challenging
Naturally there are going to be some challenges anywhere you go, but challenges are part of what makes studying abroad such an experience. Let’s address some particulars for France.
Parlez-vous anglais? The truth is, it is likely the majority of us do not have our French language skills up to par. The good news is, we are very lucky. Though French is the language of choice, English is not a completely foreign tongue to most French. Also, you will be amazed at the amount of conversations you can have even without words. Plus, it is a really cool opportunity to learn a new language- or refine some knowledge you may already have! I can say, by the end of 10 months in France I learned and was more confident with my language skills than 12 years of French Immersion taught me.
What about schooling? Studying in French was definitely one of the most challenging things I have pursued. I had to work hard to keep up with the grading system but I loved the challenge and can say, I really benefited from the experience. For those of you with adequate levels of French (like I thought with myself), I would keep an open mind to the idea of learning in French while abroad. For those with maybe less adequate levels, not every school requires courses to be taught in French! So do some research, and do not let a potential language barrier keep you from this beautiful country.
5- It can be really rewarding
I had the opportunity to babysit these two for a French family, and it was probably one of the coolest parts of my experience. I felt as I was studying in France that I was learning so much about a different culture and about myself, but it was easy to forget what I personally could offer to the culture. Teaching English to these two little French ones was such a rewarding experience. I picked them up weekly from school, and together we played and spoke English. Near the end of my stay, I was welcomed to enjoy a truly authentic French dinner, cooked by the family in their home with everyone including their little newborn and I was even gifted my very own French cookbook.
Being an English (-or bilingual) student in a French community is not only about gaining your own experiences, but also about giving. Experiences like that can make your own all the more rewarding.
Time for you to go see for yourself -Madi