Semester Abroad (SA): Penn Semester in Lyon, France
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- Living in a country that does not speak English as their native language. This mere fact made every one of my memories very special. I lived with a host mother and had dinner with her every night. We chatted about everything from politics to Penn to my love of singing. I took all of my classes in French, which allowed me the chance to socialize with French and other study abroad students.
- Improving informal foreign language speaking skills. I befriended a French girl named Amélie in my Psychologie Sociale class with whom I chatted before entering the classroom and next to whom I subsequently sat every week. I always enjoyed catching up with her about her weekend and texting her whenever I had questions about class assignments. Befriending Amélie greatly enhanced my experience in France, as I learned how to have informal conversations in French with peers my age.
My Experience Abroad:
As a French and Francophone Studies minor, practically every moment of my experience in France related to my coursework at Penn. Because very few people in Lyon understood English, I was completely immersed in the French language and culture. I ultimately learned how to better communicate and express myself in French, both in casual conversation as well as formally within classes I took among French students. Residing with a host mother gave me ample opportunity to practice my French in a low-stress environment as I was not scared to make mistakes in my speech or grammar. As a result, my spoken French drastically improved by the time I gave my host mother the last bise before departing for the U.S.
My host mother was also a great resource for learning about French culture. She often encouraged me to explore the many museums and parks in Lyon. I can definitely say that by the end of my semester abroad, I had explored every centimeter of the city. One of the most special opportunities I had while abroad was attending national events about which I had previously learned in French culture classes taken at Penn and in high school. One such event was the Fête des Lumières, during which light performances are shown on the walls of prominent buildings in town. I was able to walk around to every light installation. The festival was probably the most spectacular few nights of my life. My time abroad built upon my existing connection to France and its culture while also immensely improving my language skills, and for that I will forever be grateful for the experience.
An excursion that my program took to the French region of Ardèche. Our program director hired a tour guide named Jean who spent the whole weekend with the group, driving us around to various locations. One of our activities was kayaking by the Pont d’Arc, a large naturally-formed bridge. I can remember every moment vividly. We arrived at a small shack where we put on wetsuits and life jackets. We then drove about ten minutes to reach the Ardèche River, where we began our kayaking adventure. The temperature was cool and it was drizzling ever so slightly. Because of the rain, the river was void of tourists apart from us. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, covered in trees and mountains, and the water was clear. We soon approached the bridge. It was tall and covered in foliage. We positioned our kayaks directly beneath it and began to sing “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel; our sound resonated perfectly. I will never forget this experience.
Attending the Marché de Noël, or Christmas market, in Annecy, France - “the Venice” of France. I had been to Annecy earlier in the semester during the summer and appreciated the ancient town with its many canals and gorgeous view of the Alps. I returned in December for its Marché de Noël and was blown away. The narrow roads were lined with about 100 chalets selling food and drink, including specialties like tartiflette and raclette. Of course, I tried everything that I could, and it was all delicious! It was by far the best Christmas market I have been to in my life.
Taking a class called “Lyon Métropole” which was offered to all study abroad students. During this small class of 12 students, we took field trips to various quarters of Lyon and learned about the culture in each. We explored every centimeter of Lyon, from its Ancient amphitheaters in Vieux Lyon to the international cultural neighborhood of Guillotière. Because the class was created for international students, I was able to befriend peers from all over the world. The countries represented in my friend group included Australia, Ireland, and Argentina. I always looked forward to the class’s weekly walking tours and to grabbing coffee at a local French café afterward with my new friends. We often compared and contrasted the cultures of our home countries. I told my friends about college life at Penn and they told me about their experiences at their universities. I will always cherish these conversations as they made me more culturally aware. I’m excited to visit these friends during my future travels!