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Shaylyn Pritchard ('15)

Majors: Biology, French, Philosophy
Plans after graduation: Master of Public Health degree (inspired by this trip!)

Program Information

Location: Nice, France
Duration: Five weeks during May and June
Intended audience: Pre-health students with 2+ semesters of college-level French
Persons of Interest: Host family, Instructors, and Classmates

I stayed with a wonderful host family who were very welcoming, accommodating, and genuinely interested in me as a person. They showed me around the city, introducing me to the local culture and history in a really in-depth but personalized manner. We even engaged in discussions and even debates about some heavier topics over dinner (which was always delicious). Our instructors, Mme Laborde and Mme Winn work so hard to put together this program and it shows. My classmates came from about ten different universities across the US and it was a really diverse group.

Internship at the Hospital

The whole experience was very personalized and interactive, and I loved every minute! I also heard from other students who followed nurses, surgeons, obstetricians, and pediatricians, and the experiences all seemed to be positive across the board. I honestly believe that there is something here for everyone, no matter what your area of interest is.

I was placed in the public health department of a local hospital called l'Archet 1, and I worked with really welcoming people. They included me in conversation during our morning coffee break, and when I had class close by, they also invited me to eat lunch with them and continue getting to know each other. It was from these casual conversations I gleaned a lot of my knowledge of France's medical and research cultures, and that's not really knowledge that you can find in a book.

As for the work I did, I conducted a small independent research project comparing antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance in France and the US. (Antibiotic resistance is an interest area of mine and a specialty of this public health department). This work heightened my awareness of the cultural differences that underscore the distinctions between the French and American medical systems.

I also got to attend a conference on area public health initiatives and I was even invited to talk at the end and share my opinion! The next day I had a really good discussion with the head of the public health department (who had attended the conference with me) to hear my reaction and continue dialoguing about my comments after the conference.

Classes

The classes themselves had great variety covering many aspects of French healthcare and directly comparing the French system with the American system. For the two classes I took, we almost always had speakers in to discuss their area of expertise. My favorite was a doctor who spoke to us about her experiences with practicing homeopathy, sometimes called a complementary or alternative medicine in the States. The homework wasn't terribly daunting, and the tests didn't have too many surprises

Overall analysis

The linguistic and cultural immersion is one of the key aspects of this program, and I felt that my French really improved as a result. I also felt that between my classes, my internship, and my discussions with my host family, I really learned a lot about French culture and not just in terms of the medical system. I learned about attitudes towards immigration, the French research system, and so much more, and I could not have learned them anywhere else. After having done this program, I can honestly say that it was such a good fit for me that I couldn't imagine myself choosing a different one. It's a subtle thing, but I have an inclination that this program has been even more beneficial and life-changing for me than I realize now…

General recommendations to those interested:

I highly recommend French Grammar and Phonetics (taken after French IV), not just for students interested in this trip but for any trip to France. It really is helpful!

Get an RFID shield case/envelope for your passport and debit/credit cards, and find a way to lock your backpack if you can.

You get what you give, so give it everything you've got.

Go in with a positive attitude and be ready to work hard and learn. Listen well, ask questions, and speak your mind, and reach out to connect with at least some of the French people (it may take more work than you're used to here in the US). If you can do those things, this experience can be both rewarding and life-changing.