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Learning Abroad Through Research

May 16, 2019

Palmer Haasch had the opportunity to conduct research while learning abroad in Montpellier, France during spring 2018. This undertaking not only helped fund her trip, but also gave her practical experience that will lead to a promising career.

What was your learning abroad experience like?

It was difficult but rewarding. I studied in Montpellier for the full duration of the spring 2018 semester. While I was there, I took classes split between Université Paul-Valéry and the University of Minnesota's program office. During my study abroad trip, students at the local university went on strike to protest proposed education reforms, so toward the end of the semester most of my classes were at the Minnesota office. Alongside my courses, I also worked on an International Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project (I-UROP) with a local cinema professor. I lived with a host family out in the suburbs.

How did scholarships impact your experience?

In addition to a scholarship from the Learning Abroad Center (LAC), I also received a scholarship to conduct my I-UROP. I was worried about the cost that my family and I would incur in order for me to study abroad. Scholarships from academic departments that I'm involved in, the LAC, and the UROP office made studying abroad a much more feasible prospect and decreased my financial stress.

How has the experience of studying another language affected your education and career trajectory?

Studying French and being able to apply it abroad was a great way to directly apply my field of study to my life. French, for me, has always been something that I've studied because I love speaking it above anything else.

I'm going into journalism and this last summer I was remotely covering E3, the biggest video game conference of the year. Ubisoft, one of the companies presenting at the conference, is based in France. I was able to translate some of the tweets from the company as they were rolling out. It was nice to know that even in a position where I don't frequently get to leverage my French skills, they still proved useful. And who knows—maybe I'll move into a field of journalism where they'll prove crucial.

What was your biggest takeaway from your learning abroad experience?

My biggest takeaway from my study abroad experience was learning how to be more flexible and resilient. I went into my semester abroad not quite knowing what to expect. I think there's this perception of students that study abroad—in Europe, in particular—that they're always traveling and maximizing their time abroad. That wasn't something that I did a lot of, mostly because I wasn't sure how to make close friends and I didn't want to spend too much money on travel. In turn, I felt like I wasn't maximizing—or even that I was wasting—my experience. The advice I'd pass on is that no matter how you spend your time abroad, you're not wasting it. Simply by virtue of being there you're doing something and challenging yourself. Do the things that feel right to you and don't be afraid to push out of your comfort zone.

This story is part of a larger article. Read more at Learning Without Borders.

This interview was conducted by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.