Last year, one of my best friends, Kerry, ditched me to go study abroad in France for nearly a year. Not only did I miss her immensely but I also had to put up with the amazing photos she was posting on social media. Not cool.
Kerry is a rising senior at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, studying International Relations with the hopes of joining the Peace Corps after graduation. We’ve known each other since high school and are gearing up for a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia next summer– well, that’s the plan at least! (Isn’t it great when your friends have the travel bug too?)
Today, Kerry tells us about some of her experiences while studying abroad.
Q. Why did you choose France?
A. I chose France because I have always been interested in working in northern African states. I realized it would be necessary to learn French, so I started taking courses at my university. Naturally, the next course of action in mind was to get practical experience.
How long were you there for?
9 months, not including my three-week return for the Christmas holiday.
Where were you living?
I stayed with two separate host families (for 4 months and then 5 months) in Aix-en-Provence.
Did you plan on staying for that long?
I knew I wanted to go abroad for a whole year. I didn’t think I’d stay in the same place but I liked the way it worked out.
Where else did you travel while you were there?
Dublin, Rome, Vatican City, London, Croatia, Morocco, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, and the Netherlands… I think that’s it.
What was the hardest part about your study abroad experience?
Definitely trying to fight the American stereotype. A lot of French people hate Americans. I even got kicked out of a place once, while doing some Christmas shopping for my brother. I walked into one store in Aix-en-Provence and after taking one look at me, the person working there flat-out told me to leave.
So yeah, there are some places that are really anti-American. It can be demeaning, but again, there are only a select few of those.
On a happier note, what was your favorite part about France?
I absolutely loved my host families. I really got to know the country better by staying with them. I would come home from class, and we would discuss the current politics. They were able to better explain things to me, from their local perspective. I loved the independence as well. I truly felt free to do as I pleased.
What important lesson can you share with all of Wetravel’s readers?
Be very open-minded. While traveling, you will encounter very, very different kinds of people. For me, I learned how important it can be to hold your tongue. In the United States, I feel free to say what comes to mind. In other countries, you can say something… but it has to be in the right way.
Featured Image Source: Kerry Burke