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Personal Growth Through Learning Abroad

May 16, 2019

Gabrielle Doyle spent spring 2018 studying in Montpellier, France. While learning to adjust to a different educational system was challenging, Doyle quickly adapted to her new university setting and left France prepared to tackle any class that comes her way.

What was your learning abroad experience like?

My time learning abroad was rich with new experiences. I was learning and adjusting to a culture quite different from—but also similar to—my own. I got to Montpellier in the first week of January 2018 and was back in Minnesota by the first week of May 2018. I took five classes while abroad: grammar, phonetics, gothic literature, Euro-Mediterranean exchanges, and an integrated course at the Paul Valery University called Histoire du Cinéma, which focused on classical French cinema. I stayed with a host family in one of the suburbs of Montpellier, and we are still in contact!

How did you use your French language skills while abroad?

I used my language skills during my entire semester in Montpellier as my host family didn’t speak English and all my courses were taught exclusively in French. My experience studying another language and culture during my semester abroad made me realize that trying new things can open infinite opportunities for personal growth. Adjusting to a new way of teaching and learning was interesting when I first arrived in Montpellier. In France, the professors do not tend to use many visual aids, so I had to quickly learn how to be an auditory learner to be able to succeed in my classes. I also needed to push myself out of my comfort zone more often in my courses, as participation is vital to the learning process (as well as the grade!), which was very different from my American courses, which are mainly lecture-based and notes are taken from a PowerPoint presentation.

What was your biggest takeaway from your learning abroad experience?

Learning to be flexible and be patient with myself. I recommend traveling, but my biggest recommendation is to really explore the city you are living in. You will not regret seeing everything your city has to offer. If anything, you will wish you spent more time finding all of your city’s treasures. Wake up early, go to the flea market, find a new coffee shop, try the €1 slice of pizza, walk to the beach, take the train to the end of the line. Spend time outside in the parks, take a tour of your city, take in all the beauty that is different from American cityscapes. Don’t be nervous to go abroad—see and do enough while you are away so that going back home is harder than going abroad.

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.