Don’t Be Brave For Your Study Abroad Experience!

by Andrea Bouchaud on July 24, 2014

We all have that 1 item we look for when we’re feeling a little down. It’s that item that you took with you to college from home; the one that makes everything feel grounded again when things are topsy turvy. Whatever that item is you should bring with you to study abroad (within reason- for example if your comfort object is a 6 foot tall plush giraffe, you’ll need to leave it at home). Why is a comfort object so necessary? Studying abroad is putting yourself in a new environment where everything is different. Even with your preparations on the study abroad experience and handling a bad day alone (link to a prior post?), you’ll still have a moment of missing home, sadness, or just a general not so awesome day. Why? Because life has constants and no matter where you are in the world, you cannot escape a bad day or feeling sad from time to time. The comfort object does not replace the solo handling of strong, negative emotions to ensure that you do not fall victim to the study abroad blues; instead, it merely is a little something to calm your nerves or lift up your spirits. A comfort object is that little thing in the world that says “Everything is going to be ok. We’ve been through this together at home and we’ll get through this together here too.”

How do you know if you have a comfort object? If there is something that you seek during times of upheaval, confusion or just to feel better- that’s it! Again leave the really big things at home, it isn’t worth the time, money and effort to bring something like the giraffe plush example but everything else is essentially fair game. Don’t be embarrassed to be twenty years old and have a comfort object. It’s perfectly normal (in Andrea’s professional opinion at least)- the only time you have to worry is when you start bringing it with you everywhere but that’s a different story for another day if that’s your issue. So when packing your suitcase for that up-coming study abroad, don’t forget to bring that comfort object!

comfort blanket meme

  

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(Do you think Amélie was reading in English? photo by: www.soundonsight.org)

There are many ways to challenge and flex your French muscles at all different times of the day. At the end of a long day, I enjoy reading. My sister got me hooked on the Eragon book so after I read the first one in English, she bought me the remaining books in the series in French as a gift (I know I have the most awesome sister in the world- that is not sarcastic by the way!). Before I go to bed, I read my French book, it’s L’aîné or the 2nd installment in this series. The other night in bed, the beautiful man lying next to me stared at me while reading as he often does trying to determine if I’m really reading or sleeping with a book still in my hand- something I do quite often. Fun fact- I get very upset if he tries to take said book from me while I’m sleeping- I just know he is going to lose my page! Anyhoo, with the turn of a page he was thoroughly convinced that I was indeed awake and asked me how I can read in French. At first I didn’t understand the question. What was he asking me exactly? He then elaborated by asking if I read the text in French and then translate it into English or if I simply read it and understand it in French? What about words that I don’t know in French- does the story get interrupted for me so that I have to go into English to think about it or look it up?

In the moment, I muttered something about being super awesome and understanding the French text without translating it so that I could continue reading (What can I say? I was at a really good part). But after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about his inquiry. The next night of reading this book, I really started to observe how I processed the information from the story. How did I know that the chapter was about a battle? How did I understand that a witch on the good guy’s side snuck over enemy lines to poison some of the water supply for the enemy soldiers? How was I understanding the words I was reading which are in a language different from my native tongue?

images(Bilingual part of the brain. Photo by: www.nytimes.com)

The only conclusion I could come up with is that I am using a developed French part of my brain. It truly is a fascinating process that you can look forward to if you don’t already have it. When I read a French sentence, my brain pronounces it in French and then immediately applies a meaning to it and often an image. But I cannot deny that immediately after that there is a small part of me that puts it into English for a brief second. I’m not sure why that happens. Is it a 2nd opinion to make sure that I understood well? A natural reflex that every bilingual person does? All I know is that I can pick up a French text and read it and then tell someone in English what I just read. Things do get a little tricky when it comes to a word/expression I don’t know.

When I first started reading this book, I would circle every word/expression I didn’t know and look it up later. It was good because there was a lot of the story that I was missing. However, mid-way through (I’m at the end now), I stopped doing it. Why? 2 reasons- First, I don’t do this in English and I believe in being the same in both languages; Second- Using context clues is a better way to increase your vocab.

dictionaries(I don’t use them in English so why use them in French? Photo by: www.etiole.com)

 

Reading in French is a great way to challenge, grow and keep up your French skills. What are you reading in French?

  

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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

by Alexa Wybraniec on July 21, 2014

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(photo via nouvelobs.com: Busy busy busy.)

I’ve been staring at these open suitcases on my bedroom floor for the past month. I’ve been staring at my very insulated, American world for my entire life. I feel stuck and small.

I don’t necessarily see any of this as bad. People live their lives in bubbles. Some people.

I read a quote that I really liked the other day. It goes, “Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown. Everyone has the right to idle.” It’s actually a line out of the constitution of the Republic of Užupis, which is in Lithuania. Which is not even a three-hour plane ride from Paris. Hm.

cocoon_04(Life in the bubble. Photo by: www.yankodesign.com)

I’m taking a class online through Rutgers right now called Race, Gender, and Class in the Media. It reminds me of learning psychology during my freshman year. All of this stuff is so simple, it’s almost stupid. (We don’t live in a post-racism era, for example, and entrenched ideologies will only change if society willingly re-learns and re-frames basically every taken-for-granted thing.) But it’s the most important information I’ve ever learned. And I didn’t even know I wanted to learn about it. And now I wonder what else I want to learn. Everyday I feel myself standing up for someone else, even if they don’t know it. I hope that when I get to France and embarrass the hell out of myself, someone will do the same for me. Really, being a good human being is usually as simple as changing a few words while you’re talking, thinking before making snap judgments, and exercising a little patience. Weird how foreign it can feel, though.

I signed up for classes at Sciences Po. Here’s my schedule:

1. Foundations of moral and political thought (cours magistral)

2. EU as an international actor (séminaire)

3. Environmental politics (séminaire)

4. Theories of the photographic image (séminaire)

5. French, level 2 (conférence)

LessonsLearnedUnlearnedRelearned(photo by: www.radianceofjesuschrist.org)

That I didn’t have any Journo classes to choose from is both exciting and scary. (I’ll have those next year, when I try my absolute hardest for acceptance into their spring journalism program.) What do I know about politics? The European Union?

The point is, I’m about to throw up.

Here’s to open suitcases and opener worlds.

  

Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa is majoring in Journalism and Media Studies and minoring in French at Rutgers University. She will be studying abroad at L'Institut d'études politiques de Paris, also known as Sciences Po, for her third year of college (2014-2015). Check back every other Monday for a new post by Alexa. You can connect with her via Twitter.

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Looking for Motivation in all the wrong places

by Andrea Bouchaud on July 18, 2014

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(I know how she feels. Photo by: www.halogensoftware.com)

Motivation. It’s a great thing but you never really appreciate it until it’s gone. Lately, I have been suffering from a lack of motivation. I’ve been slacking off on doing French exercises, watching French shows, reading French books and my language partner and I have had to skip a few sessions. The things and people that used to inspire me haven’t been working lately. It’s an unsettling feeling that makes me feel like a lazy bum. Don’t worry- it’s no Paris Diaries slump! It’s just been a busy year and feeling unmotivated from time to time is completely natural. However, I still don’t like it, especially since it reminds me of when I was twenty and dreaming of studying abroad in Paris.

I never needed much motivation to dream big. Doing the preparation work to make this dream a manageable experience was another story. Anyhoo, back then I was unmotivated to do French things out of the classroom. I enjoyed French but not enough to make it a part of my personal life. I was also pretty boring- blah French skills, no hobbies, no goals. Lots of things have changed in the past few years since being twenty so being reminded of my more stubborn, unmotivated and bland self doesn’t make me feel that great.

Do you find yourself motivated this summer? Are you spending at least 1 hour a day finding out something new about France or French culture/language? If not, I understand completely how you feel but it’s important that we push each other to keep trudging forward and rekindle the embers of inspiration. There are so many ideas running through my mind but I can’t seem to find the motivation to do them. Here’s a couple of fun projects that I want to be inspired to do:

-        Partner up with a local art student and create a Study Abroad Dictionary similar to this Dr. Seuss one below (except without the Dr. Seuss-ness).

j2

 

d1

 

-        Create a series of study abroad stories which focus on one particular aspect of studying abroad through the eyes of different characters

-        Finish my Australia trip scrapbook

 

Here’s to motivation and finding it again (and hopefully soon!)

  

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