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Jamie Poppema

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.