Tag Archives: study abroad stereotypes

race

Talking About Race in French

(Photo by: memespp.com)

It’s true that a new year does bring a new start. January was a really big turning moment for me when I was studying abroad. It was when I really started to get comfortable, and might I say, excel, in French. It was in January that I noticed my conversations with Tatie no longer had 5 minute pauses in between each sentence, during which I would fervently look up words in the dictionary that we kept next to the table. This was the time when I was finally able to hold a somewhat adult conversation that showcased how I did have a higher intellect than a 5 year old. The January that I spent in Paris was also the time that the American primary presidential elections were taking place. From January to March, all the major French news channels were covering what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. Who was running? Who did the Americans think had a chance of becoming the next Chef d’état? It was during this coverage that the world first came across Barack Obama.

 President_Barack_Obama(President Obama. Photo by en.wikipedia.org)

The French heavily covered this relatively unknown senator from Illinois, particularly his family history. Since my French was at a more advanced level at this point, I was able to answer some of Tatie’s many questions on the American political system. But one night, she had a question that was very difficult to answer for linguistic and cultural reasons. She asked me about race. The French reporters were pulling their information about the presidential candidates mostly from the American news stories. So they kept translating that Barack Obama would be the first black president if he won. But, then they would show a story about his childhood and photos of him and his white mother. After a few nights of watching these news stories, Tatie turned to me and asked why Americans refer to Mr. Obama as black when he clearly had a white mother. It was a valid question. From the eyes of a French person, this person is not of one race, but of two.

mom

(One of the photos that started this whole new conversation topic. Photo by www.metabunk.org)

I thought back to all my French lessons in college but not one of them covered race. How do you explain the social construct of race and its context in American history in French? With no real knowledge of what expressions or vocabulary to use, I trudged through what would be the next forty minutes of explaining the one drop rule. For those of you that are a little rusty, the one drop rule was a discriminatory law that denied rights to people who weren’t 100% Caucasian. Essentially, if you had one drop of any other race’s blood than Caucasian in your body, you were no longer white and could be denied freedom, the right to vote, property, jobs, etc… The far cultural reach of the one drop rule appears to be why Americans do not use the term bi-racial. Instead, bi-racial individuals are culturally coerced to choose one race over another. But how do you explain than in a 2nd language? Just as I was getting comfortable with this new, advanced French, here I was back at the beginning again. Tatie had other questions now that her curiosity was piqued. I did my best to answer them, but I can assure you that I didn’t do well. It’s not something that any French class covers and I’m positive that I wasn’t accurately or even adequately expressing myself and the subject at hand.

man-quote(When you’re feeling stuck in a conversation. Photo by www.pimsleurapproach.com)

My time among the French, I can tell you that they like to discuss race. Or maybe more accurately, they like to discuss Americans’ view of race. In some ways, French views are very different, in some ways they’re the same and in some ways they’re worse (by American standards). France has had a different history with race than the USA which is why you’ll find French people are interested in discussing it with an American. And with some of the current news stories, I’m positive it will come up in conversation. I know in the USA that most people feel uncomfortable discussing race but it most likely will come up at some point in a conversation. Since French textbooks aren’t going to cover race anytime soon, you’ll need to do your own research. Start by reading recent American news stories on French news sources such as Le Parisien or Le Monde. This will give you a glimpse into vocabulary and expressions. If you want to go the extra mile, look on Amazon France for books on American history. Download the Kindle app to your smart phone and you can get it on your phone for a read whenever you have a few minutes. To get you started, here’s some key words for a discussion on race in French:

La race – race

Le racisme – racism (I’m not sure why race is feminine but racism is masculine.)

L’esclavage (masc) – slavery

L’esclave (neutral) – slave

Un noir/ une noire- a black man/woman

Un amérindien / une amérindienne – a Native American man / woman

Un chinois/ une chinoise – a Chinese man / woman

Other notes

The word “bi-racial” doesn’t exist in French. A word that is more commonly used is métis (masc) / métisse (fem), meaning mix.

 Cheerios MeMe Biracial Commercial(A beautiful bi-racial little girl. Photo by minnesotamiranda.com)

Another thing that has appeared in recent French language use is the word un black. This used to describe a black male, typically American. I’m not sure why it’s used but I think it’s strange. I’ve never used and you don’t have to either. If you want to talk about someone who is from Mexico/ Central America or other parts of Latin America, do not use the term hispanique which refers to someone from Spain. Just describe where they are from (ex: mexicain/mexicaine or vénézuélien/enne).

The French love to discuss the news and this is a topic that has been a key point in recent US news stories. Knowing a few key words as well as the fact that you may be asked to speak on this delicate topic as a delegate for your country are ways to prepare yourself for this conversation. Remember, you never have to talk about anything that you aren’t comfortable with but at least now you can recognize when you may want to leave the room.

Bonne chance!

-Andrea

  
french revolution

My battle with My Comfort Zone

(ok so Lady Liberty wasn’t rushing in and there weren’t hundreds of French soldiers but it’s still a battle. Photo by www.tiki-toki.com)

There is nothing more intimate and personal than our comfort zone. It is a place where we feel safe, where we are safe. It is a place that, as its name suggests, makes us feel comfortable. It is a constant in the ever changing variable that is life. Despite its comfy-ness and safety, I’m always recommending you to leave it when you’re preparing for your study abroad. Since studying abroad is all about doing everything in a different way, it only makes sense to get uncomfortable by leaving your comfort zone so that you can become comfortable with constant change once you arrive abroad. I can tell you from personal experience that if you go abroad not expecting to change, it can be quite jarring to realize that you’re going to have to do it whether you want to or not. So it’s better to be at ease with changing by leaving your comfort zone. But it’s not just for studying abroad. I didn’t realize it when I was in college but once you leave your comfort zone, you find out there is a whole new arena for opportunity and experiences. When I was in college, I was Queen Bee of the Comfort Zone. I only ever rarely left and when I did “leave” it, I was never completely out as there was always a toe still in the line. Studying abroad not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, it brutally forced me out. For that I am grateful as it gave me the courage and determination I needed to do other things and branch out in life. But that doesn’t mean that I live outside of the comfort zone; rather, it means that I have adjusted my comfort zone parameters.

Leg_restraint01_2003-06-02(Restraint so good…sometimes. But it’s best to not be in them in the first place. Photo by en.wikipedia.org)

I got a reality check on my comfort zone boundaries over the weekend at a post Christmas bash. It was a pleasant enough soirée chez le chef of my better half. Maybe it was due to hunger or a drop in estrogen due to my impending regles but what I can tell you is that when I saw a new face, I ran away. And since I only knew a few people there, I was running away most of the evening. Sometimes, someone would stop me to say hi and introduce themselves. I returned the introduction, smiled and then scadoodled away. I was completely overwhelmed. The boss’ house was a decent sized home but it felt awfully cramped with 70 people in it. Everywhere I looked there was an unfamiliar face. I had plenty of opportunity to strike up new conversations but I didn’t. I was out of my comfort zone and I wanted nothing more than to be back in it. This party was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and I didn’t take it. The entire time at the party, I wished that I wasn’t letting myself be restrained by my old friend CZ (that’s the comfort zone).  But I didn’t go with the right attitude to this party. I didn’t go with an inquisitive and open mind; I went with an empty stomach and fatigue. Leaving your comfort zone is great practice not only for studying abroad, but for life. You never know what opportunities can come your way. That’s why it’s best to be prepared to put yourself out there, way outside of the comfort zone, at any time, anywhere, by practicing. Practice makes perfect and if you’re always doing something new than you can never truly be comfortable. And that is when you find true success.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter   so that we can stay connected between posts.

Bonne chance!
-Andrea

  
NZ4

Navigating the Rocky Waters of my Kiwi Study Abroad

(featured photo by www.aspiringguides.com; All post photos by Justine)

“Oh my god—what is Magnolia Bakery like?”

“New York in the winter seems so fabulous. All those fur coats!”

“Wait, you said you’re from New Jersey? Do you know anybody in the mob?”

These were the questions I faced on my second day of school in Auckland, New Zealand, thousands of miles away from New Jersey. They may have been the same questions as my first day, only I couldn’t quite understand the accents just yet, comprehending requests to state my name and directions on where to sit in my classrooms.

I had recently moved from an uncertain life in Jersey to an even more unknown chapter in New Zealand. Back in the US, I had just started my sophomore year in a new school, only to be told in December that my mom wanted to go on an adventure and take my younger sister and I to New Zealand, where she had family. Leaving our father, I found myself a few months later in February unpacking my single suitcase in a new apartment, new city, new country, new time zone.

Looking back on it now as a recent college grad, I could have—and should have—handled the move differently. I mean, who would have been unhappy if they woke up to this view at their grandparents’ house?

NZ1

..or to walk up these steps every morning and be taught by Oxford-educated instructors?

NZ2

…or to know that this scene, free of any magical Instagram filter, would only take a quick hop on the freeway?

NZ3

But those condensed two years in New Zealand—I was deemed bright enough to skip a year and spent my junior and senior years there—were probably the darkest years of my life. Part of it was due to personal struggles in not being strong enough to handle such a move. Since my dad was back in America, I had to be the one my mom relied upon around the house, be it gardening, making sure our utilities were taken care of, or keeping track of our finances. However, one reason for my unhappiness in the Land of the Long White Cloud is because I expected too much.

Now, even though I had visited NZ as a tourist visiting family, a visitor’s experience of life in a country abroad (although they share your common language!) is still drastically different than calling it home. As an American teenager, I had simply waltzed through my school doors on my first day expecting people to like me and to want to get to know me. I’d expected that things people would be “like Americans, but different”—straight-shooters who were warm and open.

What I found instead was a society where people were friendly, but reserved. In fact, I had a teacher later tell me, after I had confided in her that I felt like I wasn’t making close friendships (something that everybody wants in high school, am I right?), that Kiwis were people who kept their inner feelings and even personality traits a secret, even to their oldest friends of decades. After a semester at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, I found this very similar to the British way of life as well.

And in hindsight, the slightly disappointing experience I had could have been completely circumvented if I had come through those arrival gates at Auckland Airport with an open mind, free of expectations. I should also have done more research instead of assuming everything would work itself out seamlessly. To my credit, some of the discomfort I encountered was due to college preparation stress: my classmates were coasting on their assignments, aiming to attend the local Auckland University, or if they were really ambitious, maybe overseas at an Australian institution. I had the additional obstacle course of navigating a new curriculum in addition to taking the SATs overseas with zero outside help like tutoring.

Most importantly, I should have enjoyed the great moments that did eventually happen. I am incredibly, deeply grateful to my parents for the opportunity of such a life experience. Once college actually rolled around, I felt infinitely more prepared than all the other freshmen, knowing that I now had the strength and grit to face whatever was coming my way. Because of college, we all ended up moving back to the US, but fortunately as a permanent resident, I have the freedom of returning to NZ whenever I like.

Thanks to this episode in my life, it pointed out what my career aspirations could be like. This international experience opened my eyes to the importance of communications and public relations that could resonate with a variety of markets. As such, it led to my interest and subsequent internships at places like the Senate and even Al Roker Entertainment, helping develop reality shows. This drive to succeed and attention to fostering relationships has awoken my interest in pursuing a career in PR, consulting, or possibly even diplomacy–it’s true, the struggle you’re in today develops the strength you need for tomorrow.

  

Justine Yu

Justine is a recent graduate of Rutgers University looking to get started in the public relations, diplomacy, or entertainment industry. If you don't want to keep up with the Kardashians, you can join her journey in navigating the post-graduate world at justineyu.com.

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Studying Abroad – The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Program

(photo by: www.supergamedroid.com)

Choosing a program can be a bit like selecting a college; there are way too many options to choose from and the process can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. Never fear, here’s a quick guide to the different options available to you, some of the pros and cons associated with them, and some topics to consider when selecting your program.

Program Lengths:

Option 1: Semester or Academic Year

These programs are exactly what they sound like – you study abroad for either a semester or a full academic year. Some students even choose to study in two separate locations for the academic year and spend the first semester in one country before moving on to a different country for the second semester.

Pros: more time abroad = more time to learn about the culture; can usually use financial aid to pay for a portion (if not the entire cost) of the program; easier to find classes that fit your major or requirements; more time to travel on your own (weekends, day trips)

Cons: you miss a whole semester back home (clubs, activities, etc.); can end up spending quite a bit of money on extracurricular travel; if you choose a program that doesn’t offer your courses, you may be behind a semester or term

 

Option 2: Summer or J-Term

These programs are considerably shorter than the semester or academic year options. Many summer programs will run for anywhere between 3 and 10 weeks, and January programs tend to be just a few weeks over the winter holiday.

Pros: shorter travel times means you are not away from home as long; easy to find electives so you could take a couple of general elective classes rather than major courses; can be more affordable overall; more traveling/multi-country programs tend to be available during the shorter time periods; good for those with limited travel experience

Cons: many international students do not take summer classes, so there’s less of a chance to meet local students; many students are unable to take financial aid on summer programs so costs would be out of pocket; limited opportunity to explore the country and become acquainted with the local language and culture

 iStock_000017906987Small(Which program type will you choose? Photo by: michaelhyatt.com)

 

Types of Schools/Programs:

Option 1: Direct Enroll

These study abroad programs allow students to enroll directly within the overseas university, meaning that you will live with local and other international students and take classes with those same students. These programs tend to be for students who are on the more independent side and are more open to learning about the local culture rather than sticking with the Americans. Since you interact daily with the locals, you will pick up the local traditions and lingo and will be sure to make friends from many different cultures

Pros: more independent; more chances to mingle with the locals; more variety of class topics not found in an American school; often more affordable than other options

Cons: need to be proficient in the local language; immersion in the local culture can be challenging and requires a high level of student maturity and flexibility

 

Option 2: American Centers/Island Programs

These programs tend to be heavily American in the sense that many of these centers are schools established just for American students or are satellite campuses of U.S. schools. Often because the schools are more American, you are more able to find classes to fit your majors and transferring credits back home may be easier

Pros: live and study with other Americans; the language of the program is usually English;

Cons: not a lot of opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about local customs or language

 

Option 3: Faculty-Led and Traveling Programs

Traveling programs are options that allow you to visit multiple locations on one program. These can take the form of programs like Semester at Sea (which allows students to spend the semester traveling the globe by ship and docking at ports for several days at a time) or faculty-led programs where students travel for a small amount of time (anywhere from 1 week to several months) with a faculty member from the home school.

Pros: good for those with a rigorous course load; can be more affordable; you get to see more sites on a traveling program

Cons: you might feel overwhelmed or rushed due to the often busy schedule; little time to adjust to traveling; less of a chance to really learn about the locations you’re traveling to and to learn the local language and customs

 

Option 4: Study Abroad Providers

These programs are organized by a company versus your school. They are usually some combination of a direct enroll program or an American school/island program. Often providers will put together a package for you that can include housing, tuition and fees, excursions, possibly meals, insurance, among other items, that may not be available with a direct exchange or direct enroll program.

Pros: more support during the process and on the ground; offers students some type of program package; you meet students from all over the U.S. who are on the same program as you

Cons: can be more expensive than your school tuition and other program options; there are a ton of providers – make sure to research the company and programs before selecting one

 

Option 5: Exchange Programs

With these programs, students exchange places with a student from overseas; for example you would go to the University of Auckland in New Zealand for a semester, and one New Zealand student would spend the semester at your home university.

Pros: your school already has a partnership set up with the overseas school; because of this established relationship, it can be easier to find classes and transfer credits back home; you might be able to find more upper level classes in your major; huge level of cultural immersion; cost of the program is usually very similar (or the same as) the home school tuition and fees

Cons: sometimes very competitive to get into; language of instruction may not be English

 

 

  

Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.