Until six weeks ago, I spoke only one language: English. Arriving at Yale, I was terrified by the language requirement – how would I be able to catch up? There’s no way I could learn a language from scratch at Yale! Over the course of freshman year, after witnessing friends converse in other languages over breakfast or read their favorite texts in translation (or even the original language), I fell in love with this concept of learning another language.
On June 2nd of the summer after my freshman year, I was sitting in a classroom at Yale with Yale professors and Yale students, and together we began the first steps of studying the French language. Four weeks later, all of us arrived here in Paris, fully able to sustain a conversation (sort of!) with a French host family. We became temporary citizens of one of the world’s most revered cities.
Studying abroad with two Yale professors and twelve other Yale students has turned a French class into a tight-knit Yale community right in the middle of Paris. I’ve eaten crêpes with my professors after driving from Paris to a beautiful French castle (education at Yale definitely includes culture…and food!) and formed friendships that will travel with me back across the Atlantic.
I’m getting credit for writing about my experience watching fireworks light the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, and I’ve even began to read (and almost understand) Pride and Prejudice in French. Best of all, I will return to Yale able to leap into an upper level French class.
And yes, every study abroad experience has its difficulties. Sustaining conversation can be difficult enough in English. I have told my host family that my “hunter” broke (instead of my shoes), and have been teased mercilessly by waiters who have pitied my inability to remember the word for “spoon.”
But, I’ll take the humiliation any day! A summer in Paris on Yale’s dime is something I’ll remember much longer…