Adolescence French Education and Music dual major, Maureen Scoville (firstname.lastname@example.org), participated in the SUNY Oswego study abroad program at La Sorbonne, in Paris, France, in Summer 2011. Maureen shares her experiences from this summer program below and invites you to contact her if you would like to know more about the program.
What was the program like?
Céline Garelli is the director of the program and really made sure we felt like we were at home. There were 3 classes involved with this program. The grammar class was taught in French by a professor at La Sorbonne and based on your individual proficiency level. The culture class was taught in English by Céline. Both classes ran for the duration of the program. The 3rd class was a pronunciation lab. We worked one-on-one with a professor as he coached us through the proper pronunciation of the French language. I wish the lab ran for the entire duration of the class because it was such a great learning experience! The class schedule is busy. Our group left for class early in the morning (around 7 a.m.) and, most of the time, we did not return until late at night. However, unlike in the States, the French do not hand out an extensive amount of homework. Also, keep in mind much of our class time with Céline entailed excursions across the city to places we would never have the opportunity to get into, such as: The National Assembly (where we met the President of France!!) and the U.S. Embassy (where we learned about applying for jobs within France). We also were able to ride the T.G.V. to Belgium where we were able to sit in and witness a meeting at the European Parliament. So, although we were in “class” the majority of the time, we still had plenty of time outside of class to enjoy Paris!
How did this study abroad experience inform, influence, or change you?
For the time you are living here, you are Parisians. This is your city now.” This really changed my mind set. She wanted us to participate in local everyday events and go to the different neighborhoods to explore. Of course, we did check out the tourist sites. Our class was literally right across from the Notre Dame! But our group really made the effort to speak with the locals, go to concerts, watch the French Open, read the daily newspaper, etc. I think the most important thing I learned from this experience was to take advantage of the surroundings. The excursions with Céline were often outside of the classroom and showed me possible career opportunities that I would have never considered before taking this trip. Not only that, the summer program is smaller than the semester program (9-10 people) which gave Céline an opportunity to be more personable with us. She even invited us to her home to taste some local cheese and wine! Our group still stays in touch every day. We really became great friends over sharing this experience and still reminisce about the great times we had!
What experiences helped you develop your target language skills?
I developed better language skills through the pronunciation lab and by conversing with the Parisians. In Paris, the French often speak English near the tourist areas. However, we lived in the 14th arrondissement which was helpful because we were away from the attractions and in the “real” parts of the city. Our group made the effort to talk to locals and other La Sorbonne students. Most of the time, they wanted to speak French with us which was great for improving our listening and speaking skills. However, on occasion the locals would want to improve their English speaking skills. So we made them a deal: they could speak English to us if we could speak French to them! It was a really great compromise because everyone was improving on their language skills. Overall, the French are really great about encouraging you to speak their language. If I made a mistake, they would correct me. There is no other better educational resource, than the French themselves!
How did the study abroad experience help you develop cultural understandings?
Sure, anyone can read a French novel or watch a French movie. But the experience of living in France is something you cannot get from any book or movie. I was able to taste their delicious food, look at amazing art, attend local concerts, go to local markets and read their papers and magazines. It really brought the novels and textbooks I read to life. However, I think the most informative experience I had was (again) talking with the locals. Since the French have a great relationship with United States, they would often speak to us with amazement. They were so curious about the American culture which I found interesting because I was so curious to learn more about their culture! It was really interesting to see their point of view of us, as Americans, and their perspective of their own culture. After speaking with them, I was able to hear their perspective on their history, the World Wars, their architecture and their opinions on French literature and art. It shed a whole new light on French culture!
What special stories or experiences illustrate the value of the program for you?
I can’t pick just one story to illustrate my experience. The summer program is only one month long and I wish it would have been longer!