For two weeks I woke up and walked fifteen minutes to a classroom in Montpellier, France. The week before that, I rode the metros beneath the streets of Paris to visit various destinations. In total I spent approximately three full weeks of being immersed not only in a different country but in a different culture.
My “school” days were filled with talks about the differences between French and American gastronomy and taste testing some of the delicious wonders of France: pastries, cheese and wine. Personally, those days of taste testing were my favorite.
The pastry tasting left everyone stuffed, the cheese left some of us sick and the wine left many of us a little too giggly for 2 o’clock.
In between those fun experiences, I was also able to learn more about the history of France and why the food here means so much to the people—which is something I feel like I would have never actively learned back home while pursuing my chemistry degree.
As soon as my class for the day ended, I would walk the streets of Montpellier or hop onto a bullet train and head to other cities in the country. Those moments were when the memories really began to form.
My friends and I would dodge Vespas as they literally sped towards us, laugh about it and then go grab a seat at a local cafe.
Sometimes we would even meet people like my newfound friends, Simon and Simon. Yes, that is right, I met two people named Simon within minutes of each other and befriended both of them immediately.
While I made great memories and learned a lot about French gastronomy, there were two main takeaways from this trip.
The first takeaway is how hard it is for someone of a different culture to be immersed in a new one. This is something I feel that people born into American life take for granted. In my three weeks, I struggled to communicate with people and read signs. It took me a while to get adjusted to the mannerisms and it was hard.
This experience taught me that foreign exchange students at Franklin are going through the same thing, but instead of three weeks it spans an entire school year. So often I see people get frustrated with those who are different, especially from other cultures, but frustration is not needed—just patience and understanding.
The second takeaway is that this immersive experience is an opportunity that should be taken when given. As a chemistry major with a biomedical physics minor, I take a lot of STEM-based classes alongside the required liberal arts courses. There can be little room at times to take unrelated courses. This was a great chance for me to not only travel to a country that I may not have ever gone to but to learn about a topic that I would never have learned on my own.
Three weeks can be a long time, but it is just enough time to plunge into a new culture and experience a new side of life.
If given the chance to take a travel immersive term, do it.
This trip has given me memories and experiences of a lifetime. Twenty years from now I will still be talking about eating olives from a stranger and getting a French phone because mine went missing, and I will talk about these moments with a smile on my face.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.