Surprising connections, next routines, limitations, growth, and finally love September 29, 2018

By (Bates College) - abroad from 01/01/2018 to 05/07/2019 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Bordeaux

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a better knowledge of the French language. I attained an unprecedented fluency and ease with my French speaking through engaging with the others in the language on a persistent daily basis in different social contexts. I learned how to be a better, more-prepared, and competent traveller through excursions and trips, as well as from the semester away in general. I gained a stronger sense of my self, and a greater confidence on my ability to find my way in a different culture, language, and in an unfamiliar place across an ocean and away from home. I gained confidence and independence. I made treasured friendships, a few of which I expect will last and carry into the future. Yes, the experience was worthwhile; it full of personal growth and of gaining knowledge of the wider world beyond my habitual sphere.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Amazing immersion experience through living with a host family, and studying at a university overseas, taking classes in French literature, philosophy, and geography/environmental studies. Learned in terms of academics and the languages and also learned through traveling and excursions and connections made along the way University courses were rigorous but not too rigorous in my experience; minimal nightly homework assignments, but big papers and projects to work on along the way. Excellent teaching for the most part by the professors. Difficult final exams, and multiple types of exams required French language learning made classes rigorous that I may have perceived to be more basic had they been taught in english

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Very welcoming and informative; easy to relate to Great guides Friendly Gave good advice and answered questions

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was very satisfied with my living arrangement. I lived with a very kind and sweet family of four. I was happy to enjoy a bedroom living-space separated by an outside garden from the main house in which the family lived, which allowed a perfect amount of privacy.

* Food:

Good access to food in city Generous and high-quality and creative cooking as part of shared meals within host family

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Program leaders at the host country provided excellent information about local health resources and contacts in cases of health emergencies...they outlined what to do in the case of an illness or a health issue very clearly

* Safety:

I experienced the city of Bordeaux to be safe No safety related incidents for me Carrying a map was important for me at the beginning and when traveling to certain unfamiliar places... As I was not familiar with living in a city, navigating/orienting myself was at first a challenge

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I was satisfied and happy with my experience on multiple levels: I loved the city of Bordeaux where I spent most all of my days, I loved my host family, I appreciated each of the classes I took at the university, and I enjoyed the excursions organized by the program, and I positively connected with numerous students who were with me there as part of the same program. I appreciated the connections I personally made with French people of Bordeaux - often because of random encounters and at other times because I sought out certain interests. Yes, I would plan my abroad semester the same way if I had to do it over again.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About 100-120 dollars
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Not especially I found the lunch meals provided at the university unsatisfactory and not suited to my preferences. One piece of advice: sometimes pack lunches

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Absolutely, yes. The program supervisors in the host country asked students to take a language pledge, meaning that students agreed to use solely spoken French with all others in person during the entire semester. French language tutors, made available to students by the program, also encouraged students to use French. Finally, the program's organized events and excursions for the students inspired further use of the French language by the study-abroad students -- French language application that went beyond the habitual routine of host-family life and days at the university.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? a 300-level French seminar at the college level
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Practice reading, building vocabulary, listening, and speaking.... I felt that my oral French and conversational skills and fluency were what I most lacked going into the program... Definitely practice speaking and formulating ideas and opinions vocally, out loud, on a vast variety of subjects .... In other words, don't just practice reading comprehension and writing essay, practice communicating!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The absorption of the French language and culture
  • Living in beautiful European city in which I came to feel at home, and learning to navigate it
  • Connections with peers, tutors, professors, program supervisors, host family members, and new-found friends
* What could be improved?
  • I personally wish I had found ways to engage with the university-community and in Bordeaux more (perhaps via an internship or volunteer situation)
  • Class schedule timing ... so that commutes back and forth from the city center and from home to the university campus were reduced (though this was manageable, it was just a long tram-ride back and forth many times)
  • University food options (not something the program can change though)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Before going on the program, I knew that the experience would be both incredible and positive, but also include very challenging moments. Reflecting back, this completely rang true. I would tell myself that I would find a way - that I would work through the hard times and find people and places and travel-experiences that were incredibly rewarding. I would tell myself that living through the challenging and uncomfortable moments is worth it, and that language speaking becomes easier, and that it is satisfying to witness one's one growth in conversational French speaking. I would tell myself to seek out some of my passions and interests -- such as the sport of ultimate frisbee and music -- even in an entirely different place (because this is part of what I did while abroad, and it led me to some special and unexpected places and experiences).

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!