My name is Mecca and I’m a double major in Psychology and French, with a minor in sociology. I went on the IE3 French Language Institute program in Lyon, France for Fall semester of 2018. When I first started learning French in HS, I never even considered studying abroad as a possibility. But when I continued my studies at UO, I was introduced to the many programs offered by GEO and I was excited to prepare and apply for the chance to acquire learning beyond the traditional classroom setting. I chose to go on a French program to support my major and to practice speaking the language with native French speakers. There were many locations in France to study abroad, but I chose Lyon (rather than Angers or Poitiers) because it’s the 3rd largest city in the country and I really like that city feel.
My trip to France was my first time ever in Europe. I traveled alone and flew from LA to Paris, then took a train from Paris to Lyon where I met my program director and host mom. Although I had two large luggage bags and a backpack, I was very optimistic about traveling alone and I was ready to conquer any challenges that came. With this, I learned how to troubleshoot and ultimately navigate life in a foreign setting.
The biggest takeaway from my experience was building confidence.
Even within my first month in the country, I learned how to communicate with people to get where I need to be via public transportation (that was very new to me), I opened a bank account, and got a new phone service plan all in French. I developed patience and courage in this journey. Lyon is the perfect study abroad location for international students because there is always something to do. There are many activities to do over the weekends, like going to the farmer’s market in the mornings, attending an opera show, spending time in Place Bellecoeur, which is the city center.
The highlight of my study abroad journey was my experience living in homestay because:
- I was able to speak to native speakers about many different every-day topics that wouldn’t be brought up in the classroom
- I was provided with authentic home-cooked meals throughout the week
- I always had a family and a home to return to after my long days in the city
For my first dinner with my host mom in Lyon, she invited a good long-time friend to join us. Although I first thought that it was a little nerve-racking participating in the many discussions that are brought up at the dinner table, they were extremely patient and even lent me the family iPad to look up the words that I didn’t know to fill in my sentences as I shared my thoughts. Towards the end of my program, the same friend that joined us in the beginning was in town again and had joined us again for my last dinner. After I was rambling at the dinner table about my experience, what I really enjoyed and what I’d miss the most in Lyon, I remember him looking at me in shock and jokingly responding “where’d you learn to speak French so well?!” I really appreciated the positive and reaffirming feedback in his response because I too believed that my speaking skills and confidence excelled tremendously during that Fall semester.
In the French Language Institute program, I went to an international school within a French university where I took classes with other international students from all around the world. Some of the classmates that I engaged with throughout the semester came from Thailand, Egypt, Colombia, Vietnam, Canada, and many more places. As an international student, I took a two-weeks pre-course called a “stage” where I was evaluated on the language proficiency and learning pace. Once the stage was over, I took a placement test and began the school year in the B1 level. I took core classes for my level which included oral production, writing production, and civilization (a class on history and politics). The two electives that I chose were creative writing and fashion. We learned in lectures and activities that engaged everyone, and since we spent more time in the classroom than in the US, we didn’t have as much homework responsibilities outside of school.
There were a few challenges that I faced at the start of my program. First off, I wasn’t very confident with finding my way around the city via public transportation. I previously had very little experience with traveling on busses and trains in the U.S. and I learned that I actually needed to get familiar with it, living about 30 minutes (1 bus and a couple of tram stops) away from my university. After accepting rides in the first week, I soon understood how easy it is to public transport in this city! Catch the 46 bus at Soeur Janin, get off at Perrache (transfer station), and take the T1 tram to Rue de l’Université. There are two rivers that go through Lyon (la Sâone and le Rhone), and the university of Lyon 2 was on the Rhone. Many young people live in this city and hang out along the river during the day and in the evenings. There’s a skate park, dance clubs, boat bars, and many more places to socialize and meet new people.
Another foreseen obstacle that I faced was culture shock. Coming from Oregon, where it’s normal to make eye-contact, smile, wave, or even say hi to people on the street… the culture shock was real. I had to learn to not take it personally being around people that don’t come off as warm and bubbly one the street. A more positive experience of culture shock was having dinner. French people really value designated time for togetherness at the dinner table. This could go on for 2-4 hours of eating courses, discussing several topics, checking in with each other’s lives, and enjoying beverages.
Two years later, I’m still in contact with my host mom and she said that I’m welcome to return any time. Upon returning to UO, I moved my French minor up to a major with plans to return to the country as a teaching assistant for English. After putting myself in the position where I was successfully able to continue my everyday life in another country, I developed a greater passion for traveling and making more international connections in my life. If I could live out my study abroad journey differently, I’d write down a bucket list so that I could actually check things off and make sure that I did most of the things I wanted to do. I also wasn’t prepared for how fast time flies, so I’d put in more effort at cherishing each day and making the most out of each week.
For more photos from my trip, feel free to check out this link!