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French Graduates: What have they done with their major?

Other student profiles:

    Susain Haigh '14 (Testimonial)

Program: Rennes
Testimonial:

            The first two years of college I changed my major three times and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after college.  My freshman year I did not understand the value that my French studies would eventually bring to my life, so I even tried to drop out of my French class.  Luckily, my French professor at the time, Madame Larsen, encouraged me to continue my French studies and convinced me to stay in her class. 
            One thing I did know coming into college was that I definitely wanted to study abroad.  I had always had this desire, but I had no idea how much knowing a foreign language would enhance my abroad experience.  In the fall of my junior year, I studied in Rennes, France.  My passion for the French language and culture deepened so much during this experience.  I finally put to use the past seven years I had studied French by living with a host family, developing many French friendships, and taking all my courses in French.  Communicating in another language is such an amazing skill that allows me to relate to people of another culture that have an entirely different perspective.  I learned so much from the French people through taking four months to leave behind all my leadership commitments in the U.S. as well as my academic responsibilities.  It was a chance to truly follow instead of lead and in doing so I learned so much from a different way of life, way of speaking, culture, and history. 
            Through my study abroad experience and the continuation of my French studies at Hope, I feel better prepared to confidently enter the professional world when I graduate in a year.  I have a much better understanding of the global society and I am aware of the vast differences and similarities that can exist between cultures.  By living in France and being a French major at Hope, I also now have a very different perspective on the U.S. and American culture.  After I graduate, I would like to return to France in order to hopefully master my French language skills, deepen my ability to communicate across cultural barriers, and gain further international experience.  Eventually, I would like to apply my passion for cross-cultural communication, the French language, and social justice through using my French in a international organization, governmental or non-governmental, that works with multinational issues of social injustice and/or human rights.  If I decide to focus solely on my French studies, I would be open to working in a French immersion school in the U.S.

    Athina Alvarez '13 (Testimonial)
Testimonial:Short update: our new life in Paris is wonderful and much more than we could have ever wished for. After finding a new place to live, I decided to apply to graduate programs in art and art history. I was accepted to L'Atelier de Sevres and La Sorbonne Paris IV, but opted to follow my passion for research and am currently enrolled at the Sorbonne. Admission was no easy process, but I would do it all over again if I had to! Tomorrow, I am starting the first day of my 6-month internship as an assistant agent for illustrators and photographers at Karine Garnier Agency, in the 10th arrondissement. On Tuesday, I am starting classes at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art and the Institut Michelet d'Histoire de l'Art.

The picture is of Athina and her mother Dr. Isabelle Alvarez at the 2013 Celebration of Student Research where Athina presented three research projects in French, Art, and Mellon Scholar Studies.

    Devin Ryan '13 (Testimonial)
Testimonital:

My time in Rennes through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) was not only a great time, but also definitely a life-changing experience. The semester began with a three-day orientation in Paris, during which we took a guided tour of the city and visited the Louvre Museum, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and several other cultural landmarks. At the same time, I got to know other CIEE exchange students from all over the United States, people who would later become good friends and with whom I still maintain contact. En route to Rennes, capital of the coastal Brittany region in Western France, we made a stop at the Cathedral of Chartres, one of the most well known gothic Cathedrals in France. This would be the first of several CIEE excursions to other famous sites in France, including the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel and châteaux (castles) of the Loire Valley. Upon arrival in Rennes, I met my host family, the Le Carvennecs, and started another lifelong relationship over a traditional Breton dinner of galettes, a type of crêpe made of buckwheat flour. About a week later, I began courses at the University of Rennes, studying in the part of the university meant for foreign students. I was able to participate in courses alongside students from countries all over the world, sharing a love of learning the language we all had in common. The university offered courses that encompassed nearly any discipline imaginable, with subjects ranging from the evolution of medieval architecture to the different perspectives represented in modern French media. Since the courses were taught entirely in French, I was able to study subjects that interested me as well as improve my language skills. For five months, I had one of the best experiences of my life, with incredible people. I would recommend studying abroad to every one of my classmates. The broader perspectives I gained and numerous relationships I formed while abroad are justification enough for anyone to experience and learn from another culture.

    Kristin Stevenson '13 (Testimonial)
Program: Nantes
Testimonial:

La France… Where can I begin? I spent five months in the magnifique city of Nantes, a port city not far from the western coast of France. My experience there was so much more than I could have ever imagined it to be. Nantes is a lively city full of diversity and tradition. The more time I spent in the city, the more I felt myself engaging in and becoming a real part of life there. My favorite part about living in Nantes was my host family. They were absolutely amazing and welcomed me with arms wide open, easily making me feel right at home and helping me make the transition into French society. Our daily conversations helped my language skills grow immensely, especially our lively discussions every night at dinner. Lasting at least an hour, they were always entertaining, whether they consisted of serious debates or humorous stories. My host family was truly a blessing in my life.

Aside from my host family, life in France was just as superb. Whether it was eating lunch near the fountain at Place Royale in Nantes or visiting the castles of the Loire Valley, I have great memories to cherish forever. I made French friends through the weekly Franco-American conversation club offered by IES, my study abroad program. Thanks to my new French friends, I began to really live life as a resident, not a tourist. I adjusted to the city andintegrated myself into typical French student life by taking classes at the IES Center and the Université de Nantes. In addition to my classes, I was given a teaching internship where I taught English to children ages 6 to 7. I taught one-hour sessions, four times per week, and since I spoke mostly in French with the young kids, I was very fortunate to have another way to practice French in a professional setting. And, of course, living in Nantes was not all work. Apart from classes and my internship I was able to indulge in the region's savory gallettes, and taste different varieties of Muscadet (a well-known wine from the area), and learned to live life with a fervor I didn't know I had within me.

    Emily Handy '13 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:

I always knew that I wanted to study in Paris, home to some of the most historic and famous monuments that represent European history. I relished being able to visit le Louvre, la Tour Eiffel, l'Arc de Triomphe, le Musée d'Orsay, la Place de la Concorde, and the renowned Château de Versailles. I loved living in the city of endless baguettes, Paris Fashion Week, and the pinnacle of French politics, being able to witness an exciting French Presidential election. The IES French Studies program allowed me to take part in cultural experiences and visit some of the most amazing landmarks in France while studying.

The IES program calmed my worries about the new city, language and culture. My political, history, film, literature, and grammar classes further helped me learn about the French culture, perspective and history. It was my first time living in a huge city, taking the métro, speaking French to natives, living with a different family, never wearing "sweats" in public, and experiencing a foreign presidential election. At first, I was nervous about beginning life in Paris, but the excitement of these first-time experiences made living in Paris that much better.

Upon my arrival in Paris, I first walked up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I looked out over Paris and saw, for the first time, the Tour Eiffel, the Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, the Seine, and the many streets that I would eventually stumble upon during my… time in Paris. The scene was not what I… expected; it made me nervous. I have never lived in a city with over two million inhabitants and many more tourists, but it was not until I started to trek the streets, walk along the Seine every day, and picnic in the many extravagant jardins that I truly made Paris my home.

Part of what helped me adjust to Paris and enriched my experience was the IES French Studies program through which I took my courses. The staff at IES informed us of many cultural events around the city as well as sponsoring excursions. My first weekend in France, the IES staff took us to the Loire Valley for our orientation weekend. The Loire Valley is known for its numerous châteaux (castles); we visited the Château de Chambord (the largest château in the valley) and the Château d'Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and died. The staff also took us to the city of Reims, where French kings were crowned. In Reims we visited the unique Mme Pommery Champagne Cave and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims.

The courses through IES Abroad were tailored to my interests and offered many practical courses to facilitate learning the language and the culture. For example, my stay in France coincided with the 2012 French Presidential elections. To better help students understand the election process, IES designed a unique new course devoted to the discussion of these upcoming elections. It was so fascinating to have a class that would help me converse with the locals about the "hot topics" and debates.

My semester in Paris was a life-changing opportunity that helped me grow and gain a more concrete perspective of life. I knew that studying abroad would be beneficial academically, psychologically, and socially, but in actuality, it gave me so much more to hope for in the future.

    Gretchen Baldwin '12 (Testimonial)
Program: Cameroon
Testimony:

Upon getting off my plane in January, I met my program manager, let him help me with my bags, and promptly walked right past our car, having misunderstood his directions.

Rough start.

My journey to Cameroon is my fourth to the African continent, and it has been by far the hardest. While the duration of the trip is daunting, it was not what exhausted me. A semester abroad for anyone is some combination of wild, inconvenient, exciting, and tiring at any given time. To be immersed in French is never to really leave class. When I buy beans and beignets from the street vendor down the road, our interaction is homework. Unlike Hope, going home is not necessarily relaxing here. Host families mean making small mistakes, regular requests for repetition, and improvisation.

But with the exhaustion comes a paradoxical exhilaration. One of the most miserable moments one can have here is to hear the English words, "You don't speak French, do you?" from the person in line behind you in the grocery store. But no number of those moments matter when a university professor tells you that his first impression of your speech is fluency, or when your host family points out a particular improvement. It is absolutely impossible to immerse yourself in a culture and language not your own and not experience failures. But the victories outweigh the discouragement of the failures tenfold. I have never been more proud of myself academically than when I was there, because my every moment is unconventionally academic.

Being in Cameroon has been a mélange of the unexpected, the inspired, the random, and the totally unknown. In this country of over 250 ethnic groups (each with a dialect to match) I have picked up not only French, but have added a bit of Pidgin English, Fulfulde, Meta and Yemba to my repertoire. I have been blessed to live with not one, but three host families. Each could not be more different than the one before it, and each has given me a fresh perspective on the country and its great diversity.

And the diversity here extends beyond the language and the people. I have seen everything from the outer Sahel to palm trees on the Atlantic coast to dunes of volcanic ash on top of Mount Cameroon. The language nuances and cultural norms that I pick up in one place may be a help or a hindrance in the next, but I never knew that until I was in the thick of the newness. It is astounding how lost and broken one can feel in one moment and how independent and capable in the next.

Four months is not enough time to explore Cameroon. It probably isn't enough time to explore much of anywhere, and it certainly isn't enough time to master a language. But the opportunity to get a four months' head start on a place, to have a taste of long-term life overseas, is something I would not have gotten without studying abroad. This promised to be difficult from the moment I stepped off the plane and I would not change a thing.

    Kristen Dufty '11 (Testimonial)
Program: Morocco
Testimony:

As I was searching out a place to fulfill my study abroad requirement I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had been taking French for only 2 semesters in College and my heart, pas- sion, and focus were on the Arabic population. What seemed like a mess of unorganized passions and random classes that I had taken throughout my life actually turned into a dream come true. I studied abroad in Morocco with the program SIT. I lived with a host family in the old walled city of Rabat and took 3 hours of inten- sive Arabic a day, along with around 3 hours of cultural and human rights studies. I had no prior experience in Arabic, but out of necessity, needless to say, I learned the language quite rapidly. However, I spoke French with my family and shopkeepers along with other tourists whenever miscommunication arose, or if I simply could not remember the Arabic words for something. I began speaking in what I would like to call 'Frarabic', a combination of Arabic and French, which is quite normal for a former colonial country.

Arabic countries once colonized by the French still have most of their education, medical, and government systems inspired by the French, while the people of the country speak a dialect of Arabic. My future career plan is to live in an Arabic community and provide health care and education. I will continue with both Arabic and French this coming school year and then go on to Graduate school for a health degree.

While I was in Morocco I was given the opportunity to experience things to which some will never be exposed. One of my favorite memories Graduates 1991-2011 Continued from page 1 is going into the Sahara Desert. We dropped our stuff off at an Auberge, a small hotel, and slipped onto not-so-happy camels and began to ride up huge sand dunes. We made it to a rather gigantic peak to watch the sunset over hundreds of miles of orange sand. That same night, late into the night, with more stars in the sky than I had ever seen, my best friend and I were given the opportunity to ride four-wheelers into the desert, up and down the dunes. Well, until the four-wheeler broke down and we had to walk 2 miles or so in the Sahara desert sand back to our hotel, an experience I will never forget.

My other favorite memory is going into a small village town called Boujaad. We were all placed into families and then would be picked up in a week. With little knowledge of the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, I communicated with my host mother and brother in broken Arabic and drew pictures that we would giggle at. It was amazing how much we could communicate without knowing each other's language. And yet they cared for me so much and made sure that I was safe and comfortable. I have never experienced such amazing hospitality.

I will never forget this experience for it truly changed my life. I simply love the Arabic culture and people. Choosing to go to Morocco gave me confidence in the degree I am seeking and in my future career goals.

    Gina Veltman '11 (Testimonial)
Program: Nantes
Testimonial:

My life in France is most memorable to me not because of the amazing monuments I saw (truly spectacular!) or the mouth-watering croissants I ate (several times a week on my way to class), but because of the home I found there. My wonderful semester was due in large part to the people I met and the conversations in which we exchanged opinions and viewpoints, intimate stories and weekend plans. When I reflect on my time in Nantes, my mind highlights the people I will never forget: my host-mom Annie with her kitchen walls plastered with facts and statistics, forcing any guest to confront the pressing issues we often ignore: racism, injustice, poverty and environmentalism. I remember the night we sat in front of the map on the wall for hours, "unraveling the problems of the world all in one night," as my host-mom said. I think about Annie showing me (nervous and shy) off to her neighbors with, "Voilà ma nouvelle fille!" (Here is my new daughter!). Nantes is Madame Rouchet, the compassionate directrice of IES Nantes, with her short, chic, white hairstyle and her pink lipsticked smile, so quintessentially French. It's taking walks along the Elbe River through the centreville with cones of gelato and my French-Senegalese best friend, Anta.

I left my American home with tears and a sense of dread about the coming four months, but I didn't anticipate that I would cry equally as hard when I left Nantes, my new home, my life there and the people I'd grown to love so dearly.

I honestly could continue writing for pages about life in my perfect city, Nantes, with its friendly bakeries, and its beautiful mote around the Château des ducs de Bretagne, which, in the springtime, is filled with sunbathers and young amants. I loved the bustling and friendly city, taking public transportation and enjoying the traditional Breton cider and galettes. It was truly une belle vie.

I fell in love with the French life, but I also loved my Study Abroad program (IES Nantes) and the courses I took (except grammar). IES really helped me to adjust quickly to the city and avoid making faux pas in French etiquette (addressing people older than oneself as "vous" is much more important than I realized!). I also sincerely took some of the best courses I've had throughout college. Studying French politics, religion and art, I not only learned new information, but I was able to understand old issues from a completely new perspective.

Although Nantes is a lively city, some of my f vorite adventures throughout the semester were traveling through France. There were several fieldtrips with IES to sites around the country: several of the Châteaux de la Loire straight out of fairy-tales, Le Mont-St. Michel (my absolute favorite!), the beaches of Normandy and even a vineyard for a picnic and wine tasting. I also did some of my own travels to the French cities of Nice and Lyon (plus a trip to Rome!) during my school breaks.

My semester abroad goes way beyond preparing me for a career! Perhaps a bit cliché, but living in Nantes has prepared me for the future and has enhanced my life in the present. I be- came exponentially more independent and confident in my own abilities. I learned that there is a time to speak, but there is also a time to be quiet and listen, which sometimes means giving no answers or opinions.

Though I felt I was already culturally tolerant, my understanding and also the solidarity I now feel for aliens in my country have grown. I am not only confident in my language skills, but have developed a better understanding of a new culture, an appreciation for differences, giving me the ability to collaborate in our global society.

I could not be more grateful for the lessons learned in Nantes and the people who helped me learn them. It is a wonderful feeling that my years of studying the French language have provided me with such irreplaceable opportunities: to form friendships across the ocean, to learn from a different culture and to understand and be understood.

    Jamie Poppema '11 (Testimonial)
Program: Rennes
Testimonial:

Jamie Poppema (’11) is from Wayland, MI. She has a double major in French and International Studies and a minor in History. She plans on working either with a non-governmental organization in French speaking countries or possibly doing mission work.

I don’t think I can even begin to explain the learning, growing, and changing that I experienced during my year studying abroad in France in just a few paragraphs. I lived for nine months in Rennes, in a northwestern region of France – where the rare days of sunshine are cherished and Breton pride swells. I stayed with a host family who did a lot to make my year incredible; with them, and even the extended relatives, I always felt like part of the family. It was with this family that I learned the most about language, culture, food, values, and issues. The classes that I took with the CIEE program were useful, but it was the real life, daily conversations, and relationships that challenged me more. I have to say that staying for the whole year (as opposed to only a semester) was beneficial to me in so many ways – if I had only stayed a semester, I might have come home with a negative perspective, but with time, growing comfort levels, higher language skills, and closer relationships, I ended the year sad to go. I found that staying only one semester was not nearly enough time to delve deeply into the culture and language or to fully immerse yourself in the lifestyle.

I am happy to say that I went through the typical experiences of a study abroad student through which I learned independence, better communication, and confidence. Indeed, traveling across Europe – sometimes alone – by trains, planes, metros, and buses required all three! Just living the European lifestyle encouraged me to look at my own life and reevaluate my priorities, values, and perspectives. I came away with skills and strengths that, before, I didn’t know I had, and I am very appreciative of that.

The most important part of my study abroad experience is actually something much more personal: my faith. It took leaving the comfort of home, college, and church to realize how much I needed and wanted that close relationship with God. It took living in a place that seems void of spirituality to realize that I wanted to live a life fully and completely devoted to Him. And I am so thankful for this. I also was blessed to find a Christian group on campus called Agapé, which provided an opportunity to go on an evangelical mission trip to Belgium that opened my eyes to so many new possibilities for mission work. By getting out of my comfort zone and learning about everyday life, not just facts, I became closer to God, stronger in a foreign language, confident of who I am, independent… and able to decipher a metro map.

    Jeff Vredenburg '11 (Testimonial)
Testimonial:

Jeff Vredenburg in the Three Gorges Dam region of the Yangtze River in China, wearing a traditional costume of the people from that area. Jeff is a triple major in French, Spanish and Biology.

The fantasy of pre-teens, encouragement for high school students, and bane of college students; finding the answer to that question has been my goal at Hope.

We students are part of the generation that is breaking free from the cultural constraints of the “correct” order of doing things. Maybe it is a retort to the sluggish job market, but people are taking more time to dabble in various other careers and activities before settling on their future profession. Those that do, gain a tangible edge on those who stay home.

A 5th year senior, (super-senior, if you will), I have taken two semesters off during college to pursue international experiences and I originally postponed my college enrollment out of High School to live in France for a year. The quest for my future profession has been exciting, frustrating, and always something new.

Ever since my first Spanish class in 6th grade, I have had a passion for language and culture that has fueled my itch to see the world. My first semester off found me first in China, where I took the equivalent of 8 semesters of intensive Mandarin study. Next, I went to South America where I finished my Spanish major and volunteered with a conservation project, teaching adults about the environment. The contrast between the beauty of the South American Andes and the megaindustry of the Yangtze River Delta in China shaped my views of our personal responsibility to take care of the world. Back at Hope I became involved in the Environmental Issues Group and additional work at a biological station, which persuaded me to add a Biology major with the goal of attending Graduate school in ecology and conservation.

Although I have concentrated much of my time to language, I am excited to meld those skills with my biology degree in order to work internationally, and am fortunate that Hope gave me the flexibility to figure out what I wanted to do within my own time frame. The question, “What I want to be,” is one that I am excited to answer, and although it might still go through a few revisions, I’m well on my way to who I want to be.

    Julia Peterson '11 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:

Julia Peterson is from Grand Rapids, MI and is a Senior at Hope. She is majoring in French and Communications and minoring in Studio Art. After graduation she plans on finding a job in Marketing, Advertising or PR and hopes to do some traveling as well!

As a nine year old girl touring Paris and the Loire Valley with my family, I dreamed of nothing more than learning French and going back one day to live in Paris, speak the language, and embrace the people, culture, art and food France is so famous for. This Spring ’10 semester I was able to fulfill those dreams and spend four months living in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris with a host family and studying with the IES Paris French Studies program. As a French and Communications Major with a minor in Studio Art, it was my goal to take full advantage of all the art and history at my disposal, so I was able to take classes in French that took weekly excursions to different museums in the city, experiencing first hand the pieces and movements in art that we studied each day in class. I also took a class at the Sorbonne Paris IV: “Art et Architecture on the Stained Glass Windows in 12th and 13th Century Gothic Architecture,” which allowed me to study the most influential architects, sculptors and artists of the time period by visiting the very cathedrals that made them famous.

During my time in Paris I learned how to ask more questions than I ever thought possible, how to find my way home after a wrong change on the metro, how to open my mind and palette to a plethora of dishes, how to disguise my pointedly Anglophone accent and how to dress à la parisienne. But beyond those trivial things I learned, there are also those more significant elements: how home can be so many places and people at once, how life can be so full of flavor, color and vibrancy that it doesn’t seem real, and how sometimes the best decision you can make is not making one but just allowing life to unfold as it will. I truly enjoyed my time in Paris and traveling in France and around Europe, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to fully experience such a different culture and meet such amazing people. Wherever my French may take me in the future, I know that living in Paris was a formative part of who I am today.

    Annalise Almdale '11 (Testimonial)
Program: Nice
Testimony:

Annalise Almdale ('11) is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a Biology and Chemistry Major and a French minor. She plans to continue studying at graduate school in the field of medicine.

This summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in France, specifically in Nice. Like any city in the Côte d’Azur, Nice is meridional but because of its location, offers a variety of both scenery and activities. Nice is situated on the Mediterranean and is surrounded by the French Alpes. And yes, if you were wondering, Nice is very nice. While in France, I was able to experience the French culture and language to the fullest as I was working, studying, living and eating with real French people.

Through a program titled France for the Pre-Med, I was able to shadow several pediatric doctors at l’Hôpital Lenval for five weeks. Watching every part of a doctor’s routine was exciting as I was able to see complex surgeries, rotations, and consults. By actually being a part of the hospital, I was able to more effectively compare and contrast the French medical system to the system in the US. The facility was exquisite and even offered a view of the Mediterranean and the beach from the lobby. A menial task such as studying for class became enjoyable as locations for studying included the beach or an outdoor café while sipping espresso. And while I did enjoy eating a fresh baguette every day, this program allowed for more substantial benefits such as the study of the French language and culture in a beautiful location.

Living with a family was an experience as I was able to travel to cities such as St. Tropez and Aix-en-Provence with them as well as go on several day hikes in the Alpes. One can never experience French culture the way you can in France or another francophone country, so I suggest that if you can, take the opportunity to travel and experience la belle vie dans un beau pays, la France.

    Christa Bonin '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Cameroon
Testimony:

Christa Bonin is a French and International Studies double major. During the Spring 2010 semester, Christa participated in an internship with World Vision in Washington D.C. Christa hopes to work for World Vision or another non-profit organization after she graduates in December.

As I flipped through the study abroad catalogs that I had just received in the Martha Miller Center on Hope’s campus, my mind was filled with the endless possibilities of travel, adventure, and learning that a semester abroad had to offer. Knowing that I wanted to continue my studies in French, I automatically began searching for programs that integrated the French language into the coursework and home-stay experiences. I soon realized that it is possible to study French in a multitude of settings and cultures throughout the world. During high school, I had taken a two-week trip to Kenya. Ever since my experience, I had a profound interest in returning to Africa and discovering more about the difficulties faced by many of the third world nations and peoples that are so different than my own struggles and difficulties. I longed to experience adventure and step out of my comfort zone in a way that would cause me to mature, not only academically, but also spiritually and mentally.

After studying the glossy photos and reading the various program descriptions in the study abroad brochures, I soon decided that I would spend my semester abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon, a mid-sized West African country that is known for its incredible geographical and cultural diversity. Cameroon is technically a bilingual country with French and English being its official languages, but the French speaking population far outweighs the number of people who speak English.

Living in Cameroon for three and a half months afforded me a vast number of opportunities and experiences that I had never imagined I would encounter. I had the opportunity to learn and improve my French language skills through relationships with a number of different host families. These host families helped me to see and experience firsthand the diversity of Cameroon’s people as well as the incredible similarities that exist between people, no matter their economic or cultural backgrounds. We were all created by God and placed in different circumstances. Traveling throughout Cameroon helped reinforce this concept in my mind and in my heart. Although it was oftentimes difficult to witness the poverty and injustices that exist in many areas of the country, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity as my eyes were opened to opportunities to serve the community and the world around me.

    Lauren Clack '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Nice
Testimony:

During my stay in Nice I participated in an internship in Neurosurgery at l'Hôpital Pasteur during which I assisted with patient visits and several surgical interventions. In addition I was able to develop great relations with the hospital staff. I could not have asked for a greater opportunity to have an inside look at the French medical system and experience a medical internship at a level that would not have been accessible to me before finishing my pre-medical studies in the US.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the program was the level of independence and maturity expected from the participants. During the internship there was no one saying 'do this' or 'follow me' so you had to learn quickly to be selfmotivated and run with the big dogs! This independence wasn't limited to just the internship, as the students were free to travel during the weekends and explore the bus system of the Côte d'Azur. I also traveled to Paris, St. Tropez, and Italy and visited several villages near Nice that are off the beaten tourist track.

This was my first time in France and I could not have been happier with the experience. As a matter of fact, I loved France so much that I decided to prolong my stay another 5 weeks!

Having finished my studies for the program, I'm now making the most of my extended stay in France. I've made some great friends here who help give me the inside view of French life. Thanks to them I've been able to experience French concerts, cafes, and camping, à la française!

    Natalie DeGeorge '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Rennes
Testimony:

Living in France for a year was something that I had never seriously considered. Studying abroad for a semester was an easy enough commitment, but consecrating an entire academic year to another country, culture and language seemed to me an entirely different story.

My nine-month stay in France was split between two very different cities: Toulouse in the southwest, steeped in Occitan influence, and Rennes in the northwest, swelling with Breton pride.

During the fall, I studied with the School for International Training (SIT) in Toulouse, where I spent my mornings in a Français Langue Étrangère (FLE- the French equivalent of ESL classes) program with other aspiring Francophones, and my afternoons in highly specialized seminars whose topics ranged from French economics to the roots of French identity.

My spring semester was spent in Rennes, the capital of Brittany, with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) where I was enrolled in yet more FLE-type classes as well as other courses of my choice.

The latter of the two programs was more similar to a typical college schedule, punctuated by a period of midterm and final exams. The former program, however, was comprised of one-timeonly lecture-based seminars; it also included a 10-day village study coupled with various excursions, and culminated in the preparing and subsequent presentation of an extensive research paper conducted and written entirely in French.

Even more striking than the different formats that structured each program were the differences between the cities of Toulouse and Rennes. Toulouse, la ville rose as it is called, is home to the current rugby champions of France, demonstrates a regional cuisine and architecture colored with Mediterranean influences and, along with the rest of the south of France, is characterized by a laidback approach to life. Walking the ever-busy streets of Toulouse, I explored countless shops and boutiques and bought savory ham and cheese crêpes from street vendors. I learned that the back wall of my current school was built over the ancient, fortified ramparts that used to encircle Toulouse when it was just a fledging Roman city. During one of our many excursions, I saw the residence of José Bové, the farmer who led to the highly publicized dismantling of a McDonald’s restaurant in Aveyron. I spoke with shepherds in the Pyrénées Mountains about the dangers and consequences of the French government’s initiative to reintroduce Slovenian bears to the area in an effort to bolster the dwindling native population.

After three months in the Rose City, I developed a surprisingly strong affinity for Toulouse and the south of France as a whole, a sentiment that I was quick to express when I arrived in Rennes for spring semester.

The first time I shared my love of savory crêpes with a Rennais, I was met with a look of skepticism. Home to galettes, the buckwheat flour equivalent of savory crêpes, Rennes is the last place I should have expected such an opinion to be unquestionably accepted. I even encountered doubts concerning the very existence of my beloved “crêpes salées.” Hard cider always accompanied a meal of galettes, and the combination of the two was always heralded as a “true” Breton meal by my host family. I was immediately made aware of the strong sense of community that existed in the much smaller and more compact city of Rennes.

The deeply ingrained regional patriotism challenged my newly found southern pride, and while I have not lost my inexplicable feeling of hailing from the south of France, I ended my experience being considerably more comfortable in Rennes. Much to my delight, my host parents informed me that I did not have an American accent, but had the singsong rhythm of southern French and sported some unidentifiable “European” accent. I also witnessed the college students at the University of Rennes 2 (the campus where my program was hosted) stage a “blocage”, which consists of emptying all the chairs and tables of the ground floor classrooms and piling them in the doorways of every academic building to prevent classes from taking place. While it was amusing for the first week, we quickly tired of the constant protesting and blocked entrances, wishing fervently the student union and administration would resolve their issues.

    Julian Hinson '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Nice
Testimony:

My experience with the France for the pre-med program consisted of a stay of five weeks on the French Riviera as one of twenty-five students interning at one of three hospitals. A typical day included shadowing a physician for four hours, then two hours of class, and finally a lecture from a visiting doctor. This is an awesome experience if one limits oneself to this description alone; but as is often the case with study in France, there was so much more.

My experience at the Hôpital Pasteur took place in an endocrinology ward, doing daily rounds with a physician, an intern and several externs. While the majority of our cases concerned diabetics, the visits offered insight into the French medical system, which, while functioning much better than our own, still has its flaws. We were introduced to all the deleterious effects of high blood sugar and the resultant desensitization of the feet. (I can assure you, Dermite Ocre doesn’t look any better in French than it does in English).

A Washington University professor and a local French professor taught our courses (their Niçois accent is much more fun than Parisian French) which consisted of an introduction to the culture and practice of French medicine (did you know that aluminum may play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s? Or that a surgeon, while staring at a monitor, may operate on a fetus in advance of its birth? The latter issue raised some interesting questions about the difference between the French and American concept of “Life”). We also of course made sure to fit in visits to the beach.

Finally, the best family I could have hoped for housed me: my grammar needed improving, my host-mum was an elementary school teacher, and the family offered me an environment where I could truly learn about the culture of France. Between visits to Monaco, Antibes, and Eze, we argued over Sarkozy, Obama, smoking, and romance. When I wasn’t poring over Montaigne, Molière, and Camus, we were munching Carpaccio (raw beef dish) and Soca (chick pea pancake) between daily baguettes, pain au chocolat, and homemade Italian jelly courtesy of the first person who indicated to me the definition of “French Wit” (and taught me all the slang I am now employing).

    Corey Franks '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:

Corey Franks with a group of friends

A photo of Sacré Cœur

     This summer I studied abroad in France with the IES Paris Summer program. I lived there for a little over 6 weeks and loved every minute of it. There were about 50 other students in the program from schools all over the United States and we really got the chance to get to know each other. After our three-day orientation session during the first few days of the program, we continued to have classes together and go on field trips together. Many of the students even traveled to other cities on the weekends. I myself went to London and Madrid with girls that I met through the program and we had a great time.
     I lived with a host family in the 16eme Arrondissement of the city. My host dad was semi-retired so he was home most of the day and did a lot of the cooking. My host mom worked long hours for an insurance corporation outside of the city but she was always around at night and on the weekends. Both of my host parents were very sweet and all of their kids were grown so I got to know them really well. We lived in a 5th floor apartment that was small by U.S. standards, but was always clean and beautifully furnished. I had my own room with a balcony entrance and a bathroom to myself. I ate dinner with my host family three nights a week and my host mom always made me breakfast. The food was delicious and my host parents were always bringing home information on things to do in the city that we often discussed over dinner.
     A typical day for me started at 7h15. After I got up and got ready, I had breakfast with my host mom before I left for classes. It took me about 45 minutes to get to the IES Center from my apartment with a combination of walking and taking the metro. I had two classes from 9h30 until 12h, one was a French Sociology course and the other was an Advanced Grammar course. Both of them were 3 credit classes that easily transferred to my home school and helped me to complete my minor. After class, I went to lunch with some of the other IES students. There are numerous restaurants along the rue Daguerre where IES is located and many of them were cheap enough for a student budget. I usually left lunch and had the rest of the day/night to see the city. I went to museums, restaurants, tourist attractions, cafes, gardens, movies, bars and shops all over the city, often with other IES students or their host siblings.

A photo of some gardens in Paris

A photo of a building in Paris

     Paris is a wonderful city and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to study there. I really liked living in a big city and taking part of all that Paris had to offer. I loved the things that I got to see, the people I got to meet and the new culture I got to experience. I really grew to love the French language and my speaking abilities improved enormously while I was there. The IES Paris Summer program was a wonderful choice for my study abroad experience and I recommend it to anyone considering studying in France.

    Lauren Johnson '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimonial:

Lauren enjoying a dinner cruise on the Seine.

Lauren and her host family.

Lauren and her sisters at Notre Dame.

     New ground was broken as Lauren Johnson became the first Hope student to participate in the IES (Institute of International Education of Students) Paris Business and International Affairs program. Upon completion of the program, Lauren reflected on her experience, what she learned, and plans for the future.
     "I had a wonderful time and I was surprised at the program's organization as I was with only the second semester of students to go through (it was just established fall of 2007). The classes I took were Advanced French Language and Culture II, Business French, History of Paris in Art and Architecture, Comparative European Political Systems, and International Political Economy. I was very satisfied with the courses that I took."
     "There were many things I learned about French culture during my time in Paris. First of all, everyone is VERY into politics. Everywhere I went people were always asking me about Bush and if I liked Obama. As a political science major I really enjoyed it because politics seemed to be a sort of "way of life." I also learned that, contradictory to what most people believe, the French are actually very nice and polite. I could see how they come off as arrogant because they definitely have a sense of pride in who they are, but I found them to be quite charming people. I also learned that the French really enjoy life. I found it amusing that even my host parents would have friends over and go out on a regular basis and they weren't afraid to have a good time."
     "In regards to my future, I think that my time in Paris will play an important role. Not only did I grow as a person, but I also think that my experience has helped shape who I am today. Not to mention that my language skills went through the roof compared to the level I was at before leaving. After spending a semester in Paris I am now very comfortable in the city and I could definitely see myself moving back some day.
     I was blessed and had an AMAZING host family so I think that some of my fondest memories were spent just hanging around with them. I had four host brothers so that was crazy at times, but that also meant that my host mom loved me because I was the only other girl around. I also really enjoyed the city itself; it seems there was always something new and exciting to do until the very end. In conclusion, I would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the opportunity; it was a life changing experience!"

    Laura Malpass '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimonial:

Laura in front of the Eiffel Tower

Laura in front of the Cafe De La Gare

     This past Spring, I had the opportunity to study in Paris for almost four months. I participated in a special IES program solely for Hope students. There are not many study abroad programs that cater to dancers. IES has worked carefully with the Hope Dance and French Departments to offer students the opportunity to study dance abroad.
     In Paris, I attended classes at the IES center with other study abroad students from around the United States. I took a French language and culture class, as well as “Paris Musées,” an art history course in which we were able to visit many of the incredible pieces we studied. I also attended classes at le Centre de Danse du Marais, one of the famed dance schools in Paris. I took six courses at le Centre, including ballet technique, Limon and Graham modern dance technique, and baroque dance. All of my classes were taught in French by French professors.
     Because I was in a specialized dance program, my schedule was very different than the other students with whom I took academic classes. I took classes at IES on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then danced all day Wednesday as well as Sunday morning. Depending on my schedule for the week, I also had technique classes on selected evenings and Saturday. Despite the workload, I was able to travel substantially. I visited Normandy and Giverny on IES sponsored field trips. I also visited the French Alps, Lyon, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Spain, and Geneva, Switzerland. My student visa was still valid after my final exams, and I traveled to Florence, Venice, and Rome, Italy before heading back to the States in mid-May.
     In addition to providing student apartments, IES offers the unique opportunity for students to live with a host family. While “at home” in Paris, I lived in the 16th arrondissement, dining and socializing with my host family 3 nights a week. My daily interactions provided an inside peek into French family life and culture, while still allowing me independency.
     My spring semester in Paris was a whirlwind of fun, change, and growth. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to live and breathe Paris for a few short months. Hope has worked hard to provide study abroad opportunities for students with varied academic interests, and I hope that many dance and French students will take advantage of this opportunity in the future.

    Elizabeth Olson '10 (Testimonial)
Program: Nice
Testimonital:

Elizabeth with two French doctors

Elizabeth with her French family

     I spent 5 weeks in Nice, France this summer on the "France for the Pre-med" trip through Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. I was accompanied by 23 other students from various universities including Johns Hopkins, Yale, Berkeley, Ursinius College, St. Louis University, Tulane, and Washington University. There were also two professors with us. One was a professor at Washington University, and the other was the coordinator of the trip from Nice, France.
     I stayed with a host family in the suburbs of Nice which provided all of my meals. They were all delicious and gave me a taste of Nice and French food. I also had a daily opportunity to be in a hospital observing French physicians. At the Hospital Lenval, I was in four different stations including neonatal, smaller children (1 month – 3 years), older children (3 years – 18 years), and pediatric emergency. I learned and observed first hand the differences between American and French medicine. I also took two different classes entitled "Civilization" and "Maladie et Société." "Civilization" included learning about French civilization and the French way of life. "Maladie et Société " included learning about the history of medicine and how it has affected society. This class also included different doctors who would come in as guest speakers and discuss different topics with us. These classes and lectures were all in French, helping me to improve my French comprehension.
     A typical day for me was going to the hospital from 9-11:30, going to the beach from 11:30-2:00 to eat the lunch that my French mom would pack me, attending class from 2-4, then time in the evening to do homework, eat dinner and spend time with my host family, and explore Nice. Nice is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean with many things to see and do. On the weekends we had time to travel to surrounding places. My travels included Cannes; Monaco; Florence, Italy; and the French Alps with my host family in their vacation home. This program was truly an amazing experience filled with meeting new people, complete immersion in the French culture, getting first hand experience of the French medical system, and classes that expanded my knowledge.
     Since it is so hard to study abroad for a semester when one is a Pre-med student, this is a great opportunity not only to travel abroad, but also to get experience culturally different ways of doing medicine. This trip can also work for those interested in becoming a physician's assistant. This is what I hope to do, and I am assured that this experience will definitely help me in applying for graduate schools. I hope you all consider going on this trip.

    Lacie Rawlings '10 (Blog)
Program: Morocco

Blog: Laceophere
    Zach Nielson '09 (Testimonial)
Program: Geneva
Testimony:

Zach Nielsen (second to the left) with his host family in Switzerland.

I spent fall semester of 2008 on an adventure in Geneva, Switzerland, as a member of the SIT Development Studies and Public Health program. Switzerland (not Sweden! everyone gets them confused) is a small jewel in the middle of Western Europe. It’s a country so in touch with its natural resources that more than two-thirds of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable hydroelectric power; it’s so in touch with its history and lineage that my host family’s ancestors have lived in the same village for over 450 years; it’s so in touch with its long-standing tradition of offering warm hospitality that when I met a stranger at a grocery store and he found out that I was visiting his village and wanted to cross-country ski, he took me back to his house and let me use his brand new skis for free.

My program’s theme was Development Studies and Public Health and Geneva is the perfect spot for that kind of program—it’s the international super-center of all humanitarian aid and other international organizations. Instead of being in a classroom, we had class at a different aid organization every day. Our lecturers were public health professionals at organizations like the United Nations, WHO, UNHCR, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They immersed me in the public health environment, helping me to learn in innovative ways and enabling me to see what a career in that field looks like.

My learning experiences culminated in an Independent Research Project during the last four weeks of my program. My research focused on the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on how aid agencies are inhibited from helping. I met with professionals from headquarters of organizations who enabled me to better understand the situation from different perspectives.

These are a few of the enlightening experiences that I had because I went to study in a place I’d never been to before. Every day I spent in Switzerland was an adventure: I was immersed in Swiss culture, used my French daily out of necessity, and learned about humanitarianism and public health, all of which I know will somehow be a part of the rest of my life.

    Rachel Rees '09 (Testimonial)
Program: Cameroon
Testimony:

As I reflect on the past four years I have spent at Hope, I am more and more amazed at the ways in which God has woven together the different threads of my life to create a picture that is so fulfilling and eye opening. I came to college knowing two things: 1) I wanted to be trained in a profession that would allow me to serve other people every single day and 2) whatever my primary major would be, I would also major in French and study overseas. As a nursing major I have found a field that allows me to enter into relationships with people who are hurting and provide for them when they need it most. However, I have also found that my knowledge of French opens up possibilities beyond the confines of the English-speaking world and this revelation excites me even more.

In May 2008 I had the opportunity to participate in a clean water project in Nkuv, Cameroon, a small village innorthwestern Cameroon where English and French are spoken, along with the tribal languages. The project aims to improve water quality through the use of clean water filters, water quantity by the construction of a water distribution system, hygiene through health education teaching, and sanitation. Research shows that addressing these four aspects of health will bring about the greatest health benefit for a community.

This project has challenged me in ways I never would have imagined and has truly shaped the way I view the world. Being able to incorporate my nursing knowledge and my French language skills to communicate with villagers and people in the cities we passed through was exciting and liberating. Over the course of the past two years I have begun to feel a growing pull toward using these gifts to serve people in French speaking countries, preferably in Africa. My heart has grown close to these people and I have found such joy in working alongside them.

I believe God has gifted me with a love for French. Even though I often get questioning looks from people when I tell them I am a nursing and French double major, as that does not seem like a very practical or common combination, I am convinced that both majors will prove to be relevant for the work God has laid out for me to do in this life. I am excited for what lies ahead.

    Brianne Carpenter '07 (Blog)
Program: Nantes
Blog: Troisbisous
    Sarah Quesada-Lubbers '06 (Blog)
    Anne Stevens '04 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:

Mont Saint Michel

As a large university town, Dijon has a lot to offer students. There are plenty of young people to meet. Although Dijon is relatively small compared to other French cities, the number of students at the local universities compensate for this difference. For me, this has been the best aspect of attending the “Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Dijon”. Along with the twenty-one other Americans at the school, there are Mexicans, Germans, and several students from Finland, Sweden, Poland, and Spain. And due to the school’s small size, it has been relatively easy to meet these students and spend time with them outside of class as well. In the United States, we view people of various ethnicities as being different from us, but in reality, it is Americans who are different from the rest of the world. In my business courses we often discuss the implications of working in a global setting. With so many backgrounds in the classroom, I have learned more from just listening to my peers than from any of my class work.

Attending classes with French students has been a learning experience in itself. In the United States, students never talk in class, and just scrawl some notes in order to listen closely as the teacher presents the lesson. But in the French classroom, students take meticulous notes. They use a ruler to underline important concepts and write with several colored pens. A student told me that he learned to do this in grammar school because it helps with retaining the information. However, it seems to me that they pay less attention to what the teacher is discussing than what he has written on the overhead projector.

Living with a host family is definitely the right choice to make. Since there are other international students at the school, and the French students also take classes in English, the English language is often the most widely used. But with my host family, I only speak French, and members of the family are more than willing to answer any questions I have. In addition, dinner time is an opportune occasion to have lively discussions. Politics is important to the French, so that is often a common subject during dinner. The French are very particular when voicing their opinions on American politics and politicians, so it is a learning experience for all of us to hear the varying attitudes, as well a good chance for me to practice speaking the language. All in all, I am having a great time this term in Dijon.

Anne was offered in June 2013 the opportunity to travel to Zurich, Switzerland for a 6-month work assignment. She leaves the US on July 5th and will stay until December/January. Instead of assisting with the North and Latin America assignee populations, she will be handling Outbound assignees from France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Greece, as well as the Swiss Inbounds. She adds that she is very excited for this opportunity, which may even lead to a longer stay. 

    Liz Foster '04 (Testimonial)
Program: Rennes
Testimony:

Liz Foster

  
If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be spending four months in France, I’m not sure I would have believed it. And still, now that I’ve been living in Rennes for two months, I can hardly believe it’s happening. But the city of Rennes is wonderful. I love everything about it and I’m having the time of my life. Of course, I’m taking classes but it’s the whole experience of living in another country and learning to speak fluent French that is the best learning experience.


When I first decided to study abroad, I assumed I would go to Paris. But after looking at the programs Hope had to offer, I decided to go to Rennes, which is about 2 hours west of Paris by train. The program here benefits my goals as a French major, as all of my classes are taught in French by French professors. Rennes is a university town- out of a quarter million people, 60,000 are students. And because Rennes is hardly a touristy place, I can get a real feel for French culture, more so than if I had studied in Paris.


My biggest fear before coming to live in France for four months was the language barrier. While I had taken many French classes, it’s hard to be fully prepared for the real thing. It’s one thing to speak French in an hour-long class three or four times a week. But it’s something completely different to be forced to speak, listen to and comprehend French all day, everyday. However, as hard as it was, and sometimes still is, being totally immersed in the language works wonders.


I live with a host family in Rennes. By far, it’s the best way to go. My host mom does not speak any English so I’m forced to speak French if I want to talk to her. My goal in studying abroad was to really improve my language skills. While classes teach me the rules, actually carrying on real conversations in French is what helps me improve the most. Living with a host family is one of the best decisions I’ve made when coming here. It’s a great way to get an up close and personal look at the French way of life.


I take classes at the center for foreign students, which is a part of Rennes II, Université de Haute Bretagne. My classes are focused on French language and culture. Instead of being in class with native French students where I’m sure I would be lost, I take classes with other students who speak French as a second language. Therefore the professors take the time to explain concepts of the language so we all understand.


By far, my favorite thing about studying abroad is taking time to travel. As a student, it’s surprisingly cheap. And with the amazing transportation system in France, my friends and I thought nothing of taking a weekend to go to Nice or Paris. The TGV goes just about everywhere in France and gets us there very quickly.


Without a doubt, I love studying abroad. Everyday is a new adventure. It’s such a great experience to live in another culture. Not only does it help me appreciate foreign cultures and learn to speak French very well, but also it gives me a new appreciation for my own culture in the United States. I’ll always remember this once in a lifetime experience because while I’m only here for four months, the memories will last me a lifetime.

    Jen Bodine, Hannah Reddick, Lauren Hinkle (Testimonial)
Program: Toulouse
Testimony:


A good professor helps you find something you have a passion for, and then says – go! That’s the concept behind SIT’s (School for International Training) focus on independent study projects. In the course of the semester, there are three projects, each one growing in size and freedom of topic. When it came to choosing a focus for the final project, Hope’s students chose three completely different paths. Jen Bodine’s (’03) love for photography (which had been well served by nights in Paris and days in the Alps) led her to study how photos shape our images of a culture. She spent her time interviewing French individuals and American students on their reactions to French photography. Hannah Reddick’s (’04) desire to become an ESL teacher led her to spend her days in the high schools of Toulouse, learning how the French teach English. She even had the opportunity to teach her own lesson on American slang in a French class. Lauren Hinkle (’04) left Toulouse to spend a couple weeks in the Taizé community in Burgundy, trying to discover if its legend of reconciliation was a current reality. After two months of adjusting to and learning about French culture, society, and language, we were given four weeks to research and write, continually encouraged to put far more emphasis on experiences and people than on books. As our time in Toulouse drew to an end, it became evident that our projects, reflecting our individual passions, had led us to enjoy very different experiences and form unique memories of “notre séjour en France.”

    Rachel Tableman '04 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:


St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat (South of France)

Bonjour! My name is Rachel Tableman and this past summer, I spent 6 beautiful weeks on the French Riviera, La Côte d’Azur in Nice. I had the opportunity to participate in the “France for the Pre-Med” program out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Madame Colette Winn is the program director, and she taught the group of 17 students while we were there. This program is very unique since students have the opportunity to work with a doctor in a hospital during the mornings and take courses in the afternoon, as well as live with a host family. This was my first extended visit to France, and I was very nervous about my French speaking ability. However, I found my host family very welcoming, and by the end of 6 weeks I was much more confident in my abilities. My hospital placement was in the maternity wing/delivery room of Archet 2 (the hospital specializing in women and children emergencies) in Nice. I was able to see a live birth and several caesarian births. I also became very familiar with the bus system, since it was my main mode of transportation! The coast was beautiful, and my host family lived three blocks from the beach, where much of my free time was spent. Overall, although short, my experience in Nice was amazing, and I learned a lot about French, medicine, and myself.

    Scott Dalessandro '04 (Testimonial)
Program: Rennes
Testimony:

If there is one thing that I would suggest that every student do, regardless of his or her major, it would be to spend at least one semester abroad. I was lucky enough to spend the academic year of 2002-03 in Rennes, France and Seville, Spain.
Located in Brittany, Rennes is a small university town of about 200,000 of which thirty percent are students! I remember well considering where to apply – Should I go to Paris? Or Nantes? Perhaps Mali? I chose Rennes because it seemed to have just what I was looking for. It has a smaller town feel, but you will certainly not run out of places to see, things to do, or people to meet. You are also only two hours away from Paris, with trains leaving about ten times daily. In Rennes, your classrooms will not be full of other Americans like many programs – my peers and new friends are students from Thailand, Brazil, Peru, Vietnam, El Salvador, Serbia and more. Since French is the only language you will probably have in common, you learn lots about other people as well as experience different approaches and ideas that people hold about the French. With the Council programs there is also an option to enroll in University classes with the French students, which is where I met most of my French friends with whom I still keep in contact.

One of the things that I miss most about my time abroad is the amazing public transportation systems. In France I lived with a host family about thirty-five minutes from the university, first taking the bus downtown and then riding the metro along with many, many other students. The schedules are always very accurate, coming every few minutes until the small hours, and then running once every hour for those memorable late nights out with friends. I also decided to take advantage of the bike paths that cover every major route as well as many smaller roads. With my chic black, hot pink and purple second-hand road bike, I made the 15 kilometer trek over the well-paved paths and lanes strictly reserved for cyclists almost everyday for two months despite the frequent Breton mizzle. (I would not recommend taking off one’s wet sandals in a French classroom!)

Four months in another country and language is only a tease – it will pass faster than you can fathom, you’ll be just getting comfortable when it is time to leave. My sincere advice to anybody that really wants to become proficient in another language is to ask lots of questions and to not be bashful– even if you might think you know the answer. Your host family is one of the richest resources that you’ll have – enjoy them as much as possible. Also, stick around your city or region as much as you can – try not to spend every weekend in a different European city because this is when the other students are hanging out and getting to know each other, and so should you!

    Matthew Camp '03 (Testimonial)
Program: Nantes
Testimony:

I spent the 2001 fall semester studying in Nantes, a city of about 500,000 in the northwest of France, with IES (International Education of Students).  Students studying with this program are automatically enrolled at both the IES institute, conveniently located in the center of town, and at the Université de Nantes.  We could choose to take as many or as few courses as we wished at either institution.  Not entirely confident in my level of French, I chose to take all but one of my courses at the IES institute.  At an orientation period at the beginning of our stay we were given a placement test that assessed our respective linguistic capabilities and helped us to choose courses that were best suited to our varied levels of proficiency.  I took several French language courses, but also courses in other areas of study, such as Economics and Sociology.  All of these courses were instructed in French by French faculty.  This was a challenge, especially at first, but I soon got used to it and by the end of the semester, it seemed completely natural.

I really enjoyed living in Nantes.  The city is full of beautiful architecture, made possible, unfortunately, by the slave trade that prospered there during the 18th century.  Nantes is still a thriving port city, situated at the mouth of the Loire River, and is surrounded by countryside filled with vineyards and châteaux.  There are plenty of great restaurants, crêperies, cafés, and nightclubs, and a large student population.  The IES institute organized events that allowed us to meet other French students, with many of whom I became good friends.

All 50 of the participants of the program, Americans from all over the country, lived with their own host families.  I found this aspect of the program to be extremely valuable as it immersed me in the French language and culture.  My host family was very kind and encouraged me to improve my French.  I enjoyed our dinner conversations, which, to my amusement, often consisted of my host father explaining to me that just about everything important ever invented was invented by a Frenchman, from whom credit was often taken by someone else.

The IES program included several trips that allowed us to discover some of the surrounding region.  Our four-day orientation period was spent at Batz-sur-Mer, a small resort town on the Atlantic, from which we made several short excursions to nearby points of interest.  Later, we took a weekend trip to the northern coast of Brittany, where we visited Mont St. Michel, a fortified medieval village that becomes an island at high tide, and St. Malo, another strategically positioned medieval town.  Finally, for our last trip as a group, we visited six different châteaux of the Loire Valley, including the famous Chenanceau.  I also had the opportunity to take several trips of my own.  I further explored the region of Brittany on a road trip with several friends, visited Paris several times, toured the landing beaches of the Battle of Normandy, and even made it to Scotland, Switzerland and Italy.

My semester in Nantes was an incredible experience.  I significantly improved my ability to communicate in French and increased my cultural understanding of France and of the French people.  I also had a lot of fun along the way!

    Kathleen Davenport '04 (Testimonial)
Program: Paris
Testimony:

This past summer I had the exciting opportunity to study in Paris with IES. My IES classes helped me discover much of Paris “off the beaten track” because classroom lectures were augmented with walking tours, museum visits, and site seeing around Paris. I took two content courses at IES that were an excellent way to see Paris, and especially to see sections I would probably not have visited on my own.

In addition to learning about Paris through my classes, much of my “education” came from living with a host family. Even though my family was fluent in English, they only spoke to me in French. They had three girls, ages 4-11, all of whom were welcoming and accepting of me and my Hope roommate, Amanda Dykstra. Our family dinners provided an excellent opportunity to improve my conversational French and learn about French customs, society, politics, and cuisine. Their apartment was located within walking distance to my classes and was also around the corner of an adorable street, Rue Daguerre, filled with outdoor markets and fresh produce.

One of my favorite aspects of Paris is the arts. The Louvre and Orsay museums are of course not to be missed, but I found it remarkable to visit wings or floors of these museums where tourists tend to be more sparse. In the Louvre, I thoroughly enjoyed the Napoleon III rooms, the Raphael series of Marie de Medicis, and the ancient Louvre exhibits since these sections contain beautiful art without throngs of tourists. Although Orsay is best known for its extensive impressionist collection, other excellent sections, such as the Art Nouveau exhibit, are often missed.

Some often overlooked museums include the Espace Montmartre, Jacquemart-André and Palais du Tokyo museums. The Espace Montmartre is a must for anyone who enjoys the work of Salvador Dali. It is set up to provide a “surreal” experience, complete with dimming lights, black walls, and the voice of Salvador Dali accompanying new age music. I also highly recommend the Jacquemart-André Museum, which was a private residence of wealthy art collectors. Their house with its art collection was donated to the state and contains the second best collection of Italian art in France, second only to the Louvre. A newer addition to the art scene in Paris is the Palais de Tokyo, which houses contemporary art. The space itself is interesting for its unfinished look, contrasted with modern lighting and cafe.

Of course, there is much more to Paris than looking at fine art. I was surprised by the amount of greenery in Paris, providing a nice escape from the concrete of the big city. The Bois de Boulogne is a Parisian favorite on the outskirts of Paris. It is a large wooded park with winding paths, lakes with canoes, picnickers, and a few topless sun bathers in more secluded areas. In the city, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries Gardens are ideal locations for lunch and people watching. Across the Rue de Rivoli from the Tuileries Gardens I frequented Angelina’s, a salon du thé whose specialty is their rich chocolat africain (hot chocolate).

On a final note, Paris is always full of life, but there are several unique events which only take place in the summer. Fete de la musique and Bastille Day are some of the exciting opportunities to get a taste of french culture. Of course, during the summer there are often strikes, but dealing with a slow metro and having performances cancelled the night of a show are little inconveniences that are well worth the rewards of studying in such an exciting city. The Tour de France is also worth dealing with some occasional summer heat. I treasure my picture of Lance Armstrong on the opening day of the Tour.

I highly recommend studying in Paris since the large city provides countless opportunities, but the small feel of each arrondissement creates a welcoming atmosphere. Bring good walking shoes, buy a “Paris par arrondissement” (fondly called the Bible of Paris by my friends and I), lots of film, and enjoy the City of Lights!

    Brandon Guernsey '03 (Testimonial)
Program: Mali
Testimony:

Spring semester 2002, I spent my time studying abroad in Mali, a land-locked country and a former French colony located in West Africa. The program was offered through the School of International Training (SIT), and focused on the issues of gender and development in Mali. Throughout a sixteen-week period, I and seven other students from universities across the U.S. studied in Bamako, Mali’s capital city. Residing with host families, we spent several weeks taking seminars and intensive French courses taught by local professors, and took time to travel to the village of Sanankoroba for one week and later on a two-week excursion across the country. The last month of the program was devoted to an independent study project. The following is an account of my experiences in Timbuktu, located in Mali, which was one of our stops during our two-week excursion.

From the windows of our 30 passenger plane, you could see evidence in the terrain that we were indeed traveling along the fringes of the Sahara Desert. The land became very flat, and all the way to the horizon you could see only the beige color of the sand and hard earth. Flying over numerous dry river beds, the scraggly bushes growing near the sandy banks gave proof that at one time in the recent past the river had flowed through the area.

We had departed by plane from the city of Mopti, a major trading port along the Niger River, and followed the river downstream to reach the fabled town of Timbuktu. It had been no ordinary all-American “Northwest” or “Delta” flying experience! Our smaller plane, only available for domestic flights from Bamako to other major towns in the country, was from “African Airlines,” yet if you looked closely on the side of the plane, you could still make out the decal which read, “Armenian Airlines.” Evidently, many retired aircraft from Eastern Europe are sold to countries in Africa to be used for domestic transport. After boarding the plane, I also noticed that all the evacuation directions and exit signs were still printed in Russian, the crew was all Armenian, and there was no evidence of a safety belt in my seat, which seemed to rock precariously back and forth as I sat down. However, the flight did have a beverage service, and one of the crew members walked down the aisle offering a tray of cold Fanta, Coca-Cola, and Sprite.

We could only stay in Timbuktu overnight due to the return flight schedule to Bamako. If we missed our plane, we would be stuck for another five days before the next flight would arrive. With time being short, we packed in as much of Timbuktu as we could, despite the intense afternoon heat and everyone having been quite tired after two weeks of traveling the country. We checked into our hotel to drop off our bags, and headed out on the sandy streets with our local guide. There are three mosques located in Timbuktu, one even being affiliated with the ancient Sankore University. Each mosque has its own unique architecture, often reflecting that of the North African, or Moroccan style. We were able to go inside the largest of the mosques, Djingarey Ber, after receiving permission from the local imam. Inside the adobe structure was a large, dark room with row upon row of columns. The interior of the building was dark and cool in comparison to the heat of the midday sun outside.

We continued our tour of the city and visited what remained of the homes of explorers Heinrich Barth, Réné Caillé, and General Alexander Gordon Laing, all among the first European explorers who had traveled to find the mysterious city. They had all resided in Timbuktu for a short time, but Caillé of France was the first European explorer to see Timbuktu and live to tell about it back in Europe. The market area of the city, heavily oriented toward attracting tourists, seemed quite abandoned. Although there were a few shops open, many had closed their doors to wait out the hot season until the tourists would return in several months. However, I was able to find a local tailor. I had been admiring the local attire, and so I had a blue, Tuareg style outfit made during the day, and wore it proudly and comfortably with my new black turban on the return flight to Bamako the next day.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the day was our evening camel ride. We all were able to have our own camel, led by a guide, and rode out to a Tuareg village located not far from the city. My guide provided me with a thorough tour of the village, and we were also able to meet the village leader and see his home. On the return route, I had quite a conversation in French with my guide. He asked many questions about why I was in Mali and if I had enjoyed my time in Timbuktu, and I responded as best I could while struggling to remain seated in my saddle, rocking side to side as my camel plodded along. We soon returned to town, I thanked and tipped my guide, and after several photos, I returned with the group to our hotel. That evening, we dined on the patio of our hotel, which despite the sandy soup and the gritty bread, was quite good. From where we sat we could see the sun set in the distance, turning the landscape a golden color before all became dark and the stars appeared up above. We enjoyed the evening chatting on the patio before returning to our rooms to prepare for our return early the next morning.

Back at Hope College once again, it is sometimes hard for me to believe that less than a year ago I was in Mali, and my day in Timbuktu seems like a dream. It was truly an amazing semester, and I learned more about the culture, way of life, and language through living day to day than I ever would have, had I been back on campus. From Timbuktu and back again, those few months in Mali are a part of my life that I will never forget.