"I was interested to go, see, and live it." - Andrew
What department/faculty do you belong to? French/Linguistics
What country are you from? Canada
How long have you been studying at university? Five and a half years
1. Why did you choose to study abroad, and particularly why did you choose that country/region?
Andrew: Academically, all French honours students must spend at least 2 semesters in a francophone area, so Nice seemed to be a natural fit for me. On another level, I had spent so much time learning the language and learning about the culture, I was interested to go, see, and live it. Nice was a well-established programme, so the choice was mostly out of convenience.
2. Tell us about an interesting adventure, site, or trip experienced while studying there.
Andrew: While living in Nice, I did a lot of independent travel throughout France and the rest of francophone Europe. One of my biggest adventures was a month-long, 1000-km backpacking trip I took from Nice (on the Mediterranean) right up through the Alps and into Switzerland, into Luxembourg, and then into Belgium, finishing in the city of Ghent (almost at the North Sea). I slept in a fort, travelled through mountains in trains, hiked to a French castle, met all sorts of people and did all sorts of amazing things. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment, because I had done a lot of it on my own, and I had worked, lived, and learned in French.
3. What did you find was the biggest difference, either culturally or educationally, between your country and the country you studied abroad in? What was the biggest similarity?
Andrew: French people value different things in a conversation. For example, talking about the weather would seem pointless to a lot of French people. What lots of French people value is a meaningful discussion (about politics, religion, or other hot topics), and you have to learn how to be a bit more assertive and active in conversation than you would be in NL.
On the other hand, French people value their identity and many have a very strong sense of place (in terms of their country, region, or town) – similar to many NLers I know.
4. What would you say to another student thinking of studying in the country you visited?
Andrew: If you are truly dedicated to really improving your French, Nice is the option for you. Anyone can get by on English in Nice, so it takes determination, discipline, and a little bit of courage to stick with it, move outside of your comfort zone, and really immerse yourself in Niçois culture and French life in general. More broadly, Nice is warm, interesting, and is right on the Mediterranean. It serves as a fantastic jumping-off point to explore the rest of France (and Europe) and is extremely interesting in and of itself.
5. Upon reflection, what do you think the experience of studying abroad has brought to you?
Andrew: Study abroad has not only filled the academic requirements I needed – it has changed the way that I look at the wider world and how I see myself in it, and has, in a way, changed the way that I look at NL. I know now that I want to continue exploring different places (be it by reading a book or by actually getting out and travelling), but I also want to remain true to my roots here in NL. It's a sometimes troubling tension, but as I struggle with it, it becomes clear that finding that balance will really make me happy as I start my life beyond my B.A.