Reality

"The Thinker" (Le Penseur), Auguste Rodin

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.”

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

–Honoré de Balzac

During the extent of my study abroad in France I was driven by an uncontrollable urge to discover. For four weeks my eyes, which had long become jaded from a repetitive lifestyle as a student in a small town, were glued to the wonders that seemed to spontaneously spring from the foreign drama that surrounded me. I was finally an explorer again: an active and attentive member of a tangible world. From within myself sprouted a new identity, one that broke personal boundaries, crossed borders, and traveled through history.  I had even managed to end up at the gates of hell. Quite literally.

"The Gates of Hell," Auguste Rodin

It was during a study abroad trip to Paris with the Art Department in 2008 that I had first set foot in the gardens of the Rodin Museum (musée Rodin). Enchanted by the stately blooms of the rose bushes and the massive, breathtaking sculptures, I developed an immediate admiration for the place, and vowed to return one day. On the final day of my recent study abroad trip I was able to return, and was just as awed by them as I had been two years before. As I walked through the maze of sculptures, I was overcome by a bliss that one can not help but feel when one is completely self-aware. As I came to stand in front of Caryatid, the woman who bears on her shoulder the weight of a stone, the very matter from which she was carved, I realized that, while my travels had allowed me to escape reality, I had also become reintroduced to it.

–Madeline Hunter ’11

http://www.musee-rodin.fr/

"Caryatid Carrying a Stone," Auguste Rodin

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hope

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.”

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

-Honoré de Balzac

The people I hoped to get along with and now hope we never lose touch.

My time spent in La Rochelle could be wrapped up in a box and labeled HOPE. When I first arrived and settled in with my host family I remember hoping things would kick into high-gear and that I could leave as soon as possible. I remember hoping that my family would cheat and speak to me in English and I said I hope there is internet so I can communicate to my world back at home. Hope is something that I used and expressed and though about in all ways from negative to positive. When I finally seemed to settled in after my first weekend I was hopeful that my first day would go well and my professors would be nice and hopefully english-speakers. I was wrong. Explanations were given in french and handouts and worksheets were too. yikes. By the end of my trip I found myself hoping to get an explanation in french and around every street corner I would hope to see new words on signs. I had always hoped to visit Paris and I got to on this trip. So many of my hopes and dreams came true on this trip. Having hope helped me make it through this trip and now that it is over I close with this; I hope to one day return.

AnnaLeah Chantry ’12

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Self

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.”

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”  – Honoré de Balzac

I have been away from home and on my own many times before this trip to France but all those experiences did not prepare me for what I was embarking on.  Living in a foreign country where I did not fluently speak the language was not the same as being away at college.  I had to get to know and trust myself.

When we got off the train that first Friday afternoon, I immediately became immersed in the French culture and language.   I did not expect that my host mom would not speak any English and that there would be nobody around that did.  I quickly realized that I was on my own and I needed to rely on myself to communicate in order function and to live with my host mom.  The first few meals were very quiet, but gradually we began to get more comfortable with each other and she began to talk more.  I was initially embarrassed by my slow response time as I took time to translate words in my head, but I quickly became comfortable with myself and my host mom was patient while I took my time and translated words in order to communicate.  I became more confident in myself as I saw my host mom’s responsiveness to my efforts.

I noticed that as my self confidence grew I began feeling more comfortable in my surroundings and was actually enjoying my time in La Rochelle, but I still had to get around town.  I used to feel that I was not very strong at following directions but because I had to rely on myself to get to and from school I realized I was not as bad at following directions as I thought I was.  When packing for France I almost did not pack my running shoes because I did not feel confident in my ability to go for a run and find my way home.  I am glad I ended up bringing my shoes because I saw some gorgeous sites I would not have seen otherwise.  From this experience I learned that I can do things on my own I did not expect I could do.

As my time in France came to an end I was impressed with myself for successfully being able to find my way around town on my own, order meals for myself, develop a relationship with my non-English speaking host mom, and try new things!  It is amazing to see how far I came from the shy girl who was scared to try and speak French due to fear of making a mistake to a confident  student who was now willingly speak to others and try anything!   I have learned the true meaning of relying on one’s self.

My amazing host mom!

- Monica Ware ’11

Leave a comment

Filed under La Rochelle

Stripes

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.”

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

- Honoré de Balzac

- Photograph taken by Vanessa Jackman during Paris Fashion Week SS 2010

On the surface I am sure that stripes escaped no ones notice in France, everywhere you looked there were women adorned in beautiful striped scarf’s, shirts, and even dresses.  Stripes were not only seen on older women, but on men, teenagers, babies and eventually tourists (I bought myself a striped sweater, scarf and shirt.)

The more I thought about the stripes I began to realize that it connected directly to my experience in France.  Some may say that their time in France was life changing, but for me it was more eye-opening.  It had taken me awhile to be comfortable being myself in France, there was not only was a huge language barrier for me, but a slight culture shock.  I soon realized France was not so drastically different than America, and similarities between began to stand out.

I realized that Americans and the French run on two different paths.  Two parallel paths exactly like stripes with two contrasting colors, different shades, both running, both moving forward and both with a past.  During my time in France I not only acquired a love for striped clothing and accessories, but I developed a greater understanding for a different culture.

- Claire Turck ’11

Leave a comment

Filed under La Rochelle

An Effort to Learn

J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.”  – Honoré de Balzac

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

If I had to choose a word or idea that was connected to my summer in France, it would have to be “effort”.  Whenever you go to a place where you do not speak the language well, it is important to put out an effort in order to enjoy anything.  Unless you truly make an effort to learn and enjoy yourself, you are not going to get the full experience and this was something that I recognized shortly after arriving in France.

When I first arrived in La Rochelle, I was very hesitant to try to speak any more than what was required of me because I did not want to sound like an idiot.  As a result of this, conversations with me early on were very short and awkward.  After a little bit, I realized that in order to really get to experience everything I had in front of me, I needed to try to become more involved in conversations around me.  I just had to embrace the fact that I was not going to be able to speak perfect French and no one really expected me to.  Once I realized that, it became a lot easier for me to ask questions and to get involved in discussions at meals.  Another thing that happened as a result of my making an effort was my spoken French improved.  By the end of the trip, my host family was telling me how much of an improvement they could see in my French and by making that effort, I enjoyed myself more than I may have otherwise.

My host family

~ Jordan Hammelman ’10

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Life in France

Listening is the Key to Understanding

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.” -Honoré de Balzac

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

If I had to sum up everything about my experiences during my summer in France into a few simple words, that word would simply be “listen”.  When I first arrived in France, I had only the most basic understanding of the language. I knew how to communicate well enough to get by living a fairly normal life; I could order food, get places I needed to be, and make small talk with the host family I was living with. As time went by though, I wanted to be able to have more than just the most basic, “Hello, how was your day?” types of conversations with my host parents. I wanted to get to know them on a more personal level, since I would be living in their house for all that time, so I began to make more of an effort to talk to them, despite how difficult that was in the beginning.

At first when I did not fully understand what was being said to me, my host family and I would resort to what was basically like a small game of charades in an effort to be on the same page with one another. However, I was quick to realize that was not the best way to learn the French language, which was the reason for my studying abroad in the first place.

From then on, if I didn’t understand a word or phrase my host family would say to me, instead of going back to our charades game, they would find a new way of wording what it was they wanted to say to me. I would do the same thing when speaking with them, as well. If I did not know how to say something I wanted to tell them, I would just find a new way to word it to get around it. That way, I was still thinking and speaking fully in French, because keeping in the French mindset at all times is important when learning it as second language.

Just giving my host family, and whoever else was speaking to me in French, my 100%, undivided attention while they were speaking taught me so much more about the language than any textbook or worksheet could ever do. Listening to them speak to me, asking questions if I did not understand things, and remaining focused on what they were saying to me was an excellent way for me, or anyone else in the same position, to learn. I left France at the end of my time there feeling proud of myself for knowing way more of the language than I ever thought I would.

This is my amazing host family that taught me so much while I living in La Rochelle with them.

-Brittany Dixon ’13

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Life in France

The Meaning of Meaning

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarque sur un mot”

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures”

            If there was a single phrase or word that could describe my summer abroad it would be “meaning” and its relationship to language and life.  By “meaning”, I mean the full spectrum of implications for this word.  The most obvious of these examples is how meaning relates to the study of a foreign language in a foreign country.  However, the real value of this word and the many wonderful adventures it has launched is far more complicated.

            Meaning is difficult to conceptualize.  Ultimately all meaning rests on definitions and assumptions about its underlying significance.  Individuals make initial assumptions about the meaning of something by attempting defining it.  This assumption, allows them to proceed on and ask the bigger questions.  If two cannot agree on a definition then they will always move in different directions.

            Putting this abstract explanation into practice one finds that the implications for meaning and its relationship to language and living are endless.  Whenever one meets a new person (as I did throughout my summer in France) the success of such a new relationship rests on the ability for these individuals to communicate clearly and effectively with a meaning that both parties can understand.  Depending on these people’s conceptualizations or definitions or understanding of meaning, these relationships can move into radically different directions.

            Throughout my summer in France I found myself having to confront this same problem again and again.  Meeting people and getting to know them in a language other than your first is poses its own problems.  The social and culture differences can lead to very different understandings of one another’s motives, beliefs, and intentions.  However, this same difficulty applies to meeting and getting to know people in one’s own language.  The same problems can apply and if there are people whose motives, intentions, or beliefs are misinterpreted by others, then it can take the relationship in a different place than the two parties wish (for better or worse).

            At the same time, despite these differences in language and meaning, there seems to be some universal understanding that exists underneath the surface.  It is important, I think, in navigating between all of these problems of language and communication to always seek out these universal meanings.  That is probably the greatest experience I have taken from my time in France.  Despite all of humanity’s differences in culture, language, politics, and society and all of the conflicts that it creates, there is some notion of a common human experience.  I don’t know what this is and may never be able to explain it intelligently but I do believe it exists and we should always seek it out.         

~Ollie Garland 2012

Leave a comment

Filed under La Rochelle, Language Identity, Uncategorized