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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Sandra in Paris

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Sandra de la Riva ’15, a dual major in French and International Relations, currently studying abroad at Lake Forest College in Paris.

I have been in France for a little over a month now and have lived with my host family for almost three weeks. When I first arrived in France, I had no idea what to expect because I had never been to the country, and my knowledge of French was far from fluent. Thankfully, the first month I had an intensive French class every day that helped me to improve my written and oral skills in the language and I work at an internship where I only speak in French. I am not fluent yet but I am getting there.

            In addition to my French class, I am taking a French history class. This class is unique because lectures are not in a classroom setting but instead at the places that we will learn about that day. One weekend, our professor took us on a field trip to the chateaus of the kings and queens of France, and Leonardo Da Vinci. These chateaus are hundreds of years old but still kept in good condition, which is amazing. The history in the US is relatively new when compared to France, and I am so lucky that I have this opportunity to experience the ancient history of this country. I have learned so much already and I cannot wait to learn more.

            The transition into the French way of life was not very easy at first, especially when it came to figuring out what metro I needed to take to class or my internship. But thankfully, after getting lost a few times, I have managed to figure the metro out with the help of my friends, my professor, and host mom. I am very happy where I am living and love my host mom. She is very helpful and welcoming, and does not hesitate to help me with my mistakes in French. What is interesting and different here is dinner with my host mom. We eat a three-course meal that usually lasts around two hours with lots of vegetables, fruits, and bread. At home, in the US, I usually have a light dinner like a sandwich while doing my homework or watching TV. Having large two hour dinners took some getting used to but I’ve come to like it and enjoy the conversations I have with my host mom who I call, Mama bear.

            I still have another two and a half months to go in Paris. That means more time to improve my French, more time to learn about the French culture and history, and many more two-hour long dinners with mama bear. This experience would not have been possible without the scholarships I have received. Therefore, I would thank to thank the Ingrid H. and George L. Speros Scholarship and the Gilman International Scholarship Program for giving me this opportunity. I know the rest of my time will be as adventurous and unforgettable as this past month has been.