Category Archives: French

inspirNational Mindset with French Influence

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Why is it that every time I study abroad or a travel, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulder? Literally and figuratively. I tend to always lose weight despite indulging in the local cuisine. I tend to fell less stressed and more free spirited.

Is it an escape from reality? No, I am still studying, working, paying bills, socializing, and working on my health and fitness.

Is it a lifestyle that is incompatible with my lifestyle at home? No, having traveled to 27 other countries, there are many similarities and transferable lessons I can learn from other countries and bring back home.

Is it the fact that I can speak new languages with new people to learn new perspectives? Yes and more importantly, it is a shift in a perspective. A new mindset. An inspirNational mindset as I have described over the past few years. My inspirNational way of thinking began during my study abroad in Spain. It became a true test when I was in Cleveland, not studying abroad, and had to choose every day whether I wanted to live like a traveler. I applied the mindset to my daily life, seeking opportunities to learn about the world by visiting museums, attending concerts, exploring the city, meeting people from around the world, and teaching English to foreigners to enable them to experience America as I have experienced other countries throughout the world.

As I have always said, having an inspirNational mindset means that you seek new opportunities, try new things, meet new people, think global and act local. It enables you to become more worldly, less stressed, and more open-minded to new opportunities.

Now having lived in France for 3 months, I would like to broaden the mindset and provide more food for thought on the topic. Here are some of my most significant life lessons that I plan to live by upon returning home:

Live simply: Life does not need to be complicated. Eliminate all waste in your life that does not serve you, such as unnecessary stress, negativity, overcommitting, overeating, and dust in your home. Prioritize what matters most to you and focus, rather than trying to do everything or please everyone. With easy access to photos and news from our peers, it is easy to feel “fear of missing out,” but remember that your life is your life. Only you can determine the difference between prioritizing what you want, eliminating excess, and missing out.

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Organize your life: Organize your room, your kitchen, and your plans. Don’t forget to give yourself free time to allow for spontaneity. Related to eliminating clutter, organizing yourself will allow you to find more space for all things creative, for all things that will expand your mind and welcome new ideas and opportunities into your life.

Live in the present: Enjoy each moment and each part of your day. Try to avoid multitasking, especially when you are with loved ones. When I visited my host mom in Salamanca, I noticed that she has little notes throughout her home to remind herself to enjoy each moment, from brushing her teeth to showering to listening to music. By feeling the water and imagining cleansing, her spirit feels cleansed as well.  By listening to music, her mind is at peace and her ears are enjoying the sounds.

Live in faith, not in fear. This study abroad experience has challenged me with threats of terrorism, and fear of not knowing the local language. I only had 6 months of  French preparation before the language immersion, rather than nearly 10 years of Spanish language preparation before my Spanish study abroad. Living in fear brings negativity into your life, and takes energy from what keeps you moving forward. Being cautious is different than being fearful. Watch your surroundings, take care of yourself, take risks within boundaries, but don’t let your nerves overcome you. Have faith, have a vision, work hard, and anything is possible!

I hope these French-influenced insights inspire you to continue to live with an inspirNational mindset!

 

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Overcoming Living Abroad Challenges

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We often learn about all the adventurous and joyful stories of studying abroad. But what happens when life gets in the way? Studying and living abroad are very exciting life experiences, but they come with challenges. Below are some of the common challenges I have faced and insights about how to overcome them to make the most of your time abroad.

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Source: expatexchange.com

Insomnia: Time differences and foreign beds make insomnia a likely occurrence when moving abroad, especially when you first arrive to the destination. I experienced this intensely when I studied in Spain a few years ago. It took me almost a week to adjust to the time difference! Now in Paris, it took me no time whatsover to adjust to the time difference. My secret this time was to not take a nap when I first arrived on a Thursday morning, and to instead go to bed early that evening. I have experienced insomnia in recent days, likely related to doing too much (e-mails, studying, blogs, social media, chatting with friends) before bed. This is common for me even at home so I need to remember to give myself time to disconnect and unwind before bed.

Adapting to food: With a new destination comes new cuisine and dietary habits. I like to call myself a fish for the large quantity of water I prefer to drink. In Europe, I have felt like I have been living in a dessert because of the small portions of liquids and tiny cups to fill with water. In class, I bring two cups of water to make sure I stay hydrated throughout the day. I encourage you to bring a water bottle that you can easily refill (assuming that water is sanitary in your destination). It is also challenging to adapt to the timing of meals, quantity of food, and food content. For example, in the United States, I am used to Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast at around 8am, a salad or sandwich for lunch at around 12pm, a protein bar at around 3pm, and meat/carbs/vegetables for dinner at 6:30pm. I have learned to let go of this expectation, as it is common to not eat snacks in France and to have dinner at 8pm (or 9pm for my host family). Despite Americans having a reputation for eating poorly, I have learned that I actually have access to more fruits and vegetables in the United States than in France. I have learned that Parisians often eat fruit as a dessert rather than a staple food for meals. Vegetables are often cooked or are prepared in soups rather than in the form of a salad. I have adapted to this custom, but also make sure to purchase salads and fruit when I eat at restaurants. Enjoying the local cuisine is part of learning process of living abroad, but make sure that you maintain a balanced diet to keep your digestive system in check!

Living with a host family and cultural differences: This is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into a new language and culture! However with that immersion comes the expectation that you will adjust your routines and adapt your behaviors to mesh well with your new family. It is sometimes difficult to let go of everything you know. Before moving abroad, I encourage you to research your new destinations and customs. For example, it is an adjustment for Americans to get used to the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek, rather than a handshake. The more informed you are about the new culture before arriving, the more mentally prepared you will feel. However, don’t be afraid of the unexpected – this is part of the adventure! I am still trying to figure out why my host family closes every door of every room in the house – but I am starting to realize it is a habit of privacy, which is less common in the United States and respectable in some ways. Adaptability is one of the most important life skills, especially in the ever-changing global world where we live.

Keeping in touch with loved ones: Time differences and new schedules make it difficult to contact our loved ones. However, modern technology has been a God-sent in our mobile world. My favorite communication tools are WhatsApp (free international messaging and calling) and Facebook messenger (which now allows international calling). I also plan Skype dates with friends and family to have an “as-close-as-possible” experience to chatting in-person. Postcards also seem to be a more thoughtful approach to staying in touch, since they take more effort and are a flashback to the past of international communication. I encourage you to use all the new applications, but don’t forget to be a little old-fashioned and send postcards, letters, and packages to stay in touch with your loved ones!

Making friends: This is often what intimidates people the most when moving abroad, especially because of language and culture barriers. A university setting caters to social networking with planned activities and field trips for students. For those outside of the university setting, check out http://www.meetup.com which provides networking groups related to any and all topics (local events, sports, arts, dating, etc.). I have enjoyed attending expat events in Paris, which includes expats from around the world. We can all relate to the adjustments involved in moving to Paris! Also, for those hoping to learn local languages, check out conversation circles. Especially if you speak English, many countries have conversation exchanges between English and the local language. I look forward to trying this in Paris. It is a win-win for me to practice French and help others practice English!

For those of you considering or in the process of moving abroad, you may face these challenges like I have, but I hope that you remember with any challenge comes a solution. Now that more and more people are moving abroad, there are more advice articles than ever before. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about moving abroad!

United by the Circle of Life

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After traveling across three continents and studying intensively in three countries, I am realizing that while it is easy to focus on differences between cultures, it is even more interesting to focus on similarities.

Religion, culture, language, and customs may divide us, but we are all connected by the core purposes of life: milestones, values, relationships, careers, memories of the past and hopes for the future. I am going to combines these core purposes of life and describe them as the circle of life. We are all united by the circle of life.

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Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

I have been reminded of this unity recently while living with my host family in Paris. Almost every evening, we enjoy dinner together and have interesting conversations about life

The Joys of Being a New GrandparentOn Friday, my host family welcomed their first grandson into the world. My host mom discussed how excited she was to share in the “new grandparent” experience with her husband. She described that when women deliver their own baby, mothers and fathers cannot relate. The mother already knows the baby after nine months of carrying it. The dad meets the baby right when it is born. However, grandparents can share in the experience of just meeting the baby because it is new to both of them. This is an exciting time for my host family, which is relevant to any family throughout the world with new grandchildren.

Celebrating 33 Years of MarriageI had a dinner with my host dad one night and discussed the secrets of a lifelong marriage. He and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in December, beating the odds of only a 51% marriage success rate in France (very similar odds in the United States as well). He said, first of all, there are no secrets. You have to make your marriage work in your own way. He also described that communication is the most important part of a successful relationship- catching up on each other’s days, discussing successes and failures, and overcoming conflicts. He said he follows his dad’s advice to never go to bed angry. With the challenges of marriage throughout the world, I was intrigued to learn insights about successful marriage in France.

The Purpose of Strikes: Last week, Paris experienced another strike with taxis blocking the streets and requesting higher wages. I learned from my host family how common strikes are in Paris and how they are always related to money. My host family was frustrated with the strike’s disruption to the city and the corruption of Paris’ tax and immigration policies. While our conversation remained politically neutral, it was interesting for me to learn that debates related to social change, taxes, and immigration are present no matter where we live or travel. We are united by our societal challenges, and diverse in our responses and reactions to these challenges.

Stop Striving for Perfection: One of the most insightful life conversations we had was how people are striving for perfection in their careers and relationships. My host family emphasized that perfection is not realistic. There is no perfect job or perfect spouse. People are “job hopping” more now than ever before, assuming that the “grass will be greener on the other side.” In reality, there are no greener pastures, just greener perspectives of the situations we face. In the past, my host family said that they were just grateful to have a job and a steady wage. If they didn’t enjoy their job, they would focus their energy outside of work rather than letting their job consume them. My host family also described that people are also getting divorced too soon, giving up before giving it their all. Now people are expecting so much more and rarely feeling satisfied. I can attest to these sentiments from my own experience and that of my friends, especially those of us in our 20s. The post-college decade is full of uncertainty, change, and striving for the perfect life rather than focusing on the good in today. I posed a question to my host parents, asking how they think we can all stop striving for perfection. They said they didn’t know, but knew it was possible. My proposition is to first stop comparing our lives to others (which is easier today with access to friends and family’s life updates on social media). After, we should create our lives as we see fit, combining our upbringing with what we learn as we live and travel throughout the world.

Each of these circle of life conversations sparks thoughtful insights that we can learn no matter where we are in the world. What life conversations have you had during your travels?

Suivez votre bonne étoile

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“Suive votre bonne étoile” = “Follow your lucky star”

The tagline of my new favorite parfum, Étoile, from the Fragonard Parfumeur really resonates with me and describes how I have been living in Paris. While I generally have goals, a basic itinerary and places to visit each day, I am allowing spontaneity to direct me. In some ways, I feel that living spontaneously has been my lucky star.

Every day after French class, I leave in a new direction to explore the surrounding neighborhoods of Paris. My adventures started in L’Opera district, Notre Dame, and Montmarte last week. I also spent the weekend on a Seine River cruise, wine tasting at O’Chateau (I highly recommend this to you!), and trying tapas in the Montorgueil neighborhood. This week, I have had no official plans and have stumbled on some very intriguing areas and interesting experiences.

Starting on Sunday, I went on a run from Pont Mirabeau along the Seine River towards the Eiffel Tower. I stumbled upon dozens of tents selling antiques.  It was amazing to see antiques (furniture, paintings, jewelry, trinkets, and more) that were from as early as the 1500-1600s. I was most struck by letters written from the last two centuries, capturing brief moments in Parisians’ lives throughout history. I knew that antiquing was popular in the United States, but not in Paris! I told my host family about this and they said that antiquing is a trend in Paris, and you can actually find pretty affordable items at these markets. While at this point I am not ready to buy antiques, I will remember this when I am decorating my future home.

Yesterday, I planned to walk to Champs d’Elysses after class. En route, I found several cute boutiques and luxury stores and let myself get distracted. With the soldes happening until the beginning of February, it is the ideal time to shop and plan what you will need in the coming months, because soldes only happen twice a year in Paris. I shopped for clothes for my nieces at Chocolat et Tartin (couldn’t resist the most stylish toddler clothes I have ever seen) and had some luck at Zara.  I bought the cutest, most Parisian party shoes that I could find, along with a new black top and washed jeans. I then came across Chaise Longue, which has become one of my favorite places to buy cadeaus for family and friends. The best word I can think of to describe it is quirky, with interesting and unique gifts that are destined to make my loved ones chuckle. I bought an adorable Parisian umbrella and gifts for my parents, which I can’t reveal in case they are reading this :). One of my new expat friends, Chen, stopped by to show me Parisian highlights near L’Opera district. We walked along the Seine River to Pont des Artes, Place St. Michel and through Quartier Latin, which was so lively and welcoming. I was inspired to have a sunset picnic like the locals when mon copain visits me in March. It was interesting to learn from a Chinese-turned-French citizen about living in Paris and previously studying at the University of Lyon. Brag moment: we spoke almost the entire time in French! Imagine a native Mandarin-speaker and a native-English speaker communicating in French; I’m sure the locals were confused if they overheard us! With all the walking, I was starving, so I stopped for une tarte de framboise and un verre du vin rouge. It was the perfect way to end the day and people-watch in Quartier Latin.

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Today after class, I again planned to visit Champs d’Elysses. On my way there, I came across the Musee de Parfum, Fragonard. I learned that there were free museum tours and was intrigued.  I entered the museum, and without realizing it at first, joined a tour group of French senior citizens (mostly women) for a French tour of the museum. I am sure I was out of place, but no one said anything (despite a few glares), and it was interesting to learn about the museum in French to test my comprehension. The tour guide explained the history of the creation of perfume, and specifically Fragonard parfum starting shortly before the First World War. I learned about the olfactive triangle, which was fascinating to discover that a parfumeur is like an artist, combining different levels of scents that appeal to the nose. It was interesting to learn that the founder, Eugene Fuch’s intent was to encourage tourists to take home a “scent of France” from their travels. I was easily convinced to be one of those tourists. At the end of the tour, we were able to sample several fragrances, and I fell in love with the first one, Étoile. I purchased eau de parfum and body lotion. Upon leaving the store, I noticed a crowd of women near stems of what looked like yellow flowers or pines on the ground. One of the ladies informed me that the museum was throwing away extra sprigs of mimosa and we were free to take them. I left the museum with new parfum and a bouquet of mimosa. I’m sure I looked silly carrying freshly cut mimosa flowers as I continued walking throughout the streets of Paris towards Champs d’Elysses.

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My next discovery was a beautiful park near the Grand Palais (which is another site I hope to visit soon). I sat on a park bench and enjoyed the fresh air. I was reminded of the importance of pausing and reflecting – it is easy for me to forget to do this in my daily life in the U.S.

Alas, I reached my desired destination of Champs d’Elysses. At this point I was starting to feel exhausted and was carrying a bouquet of mimosas, which limited me from doing a lot of shopping. I did, however, walk by the Renault store, which sparked my curiosity, because I have studied international business strategy cases about Renault in my IMBA program. I decided to enter the store. Right away, I noticed that their front display included Michelin tires, which was exciting for me as they will become part of my daily language this summer. The next displays showed the latest electric cars and highlighted that Renault sells the most electric cars in Europe. I was impressed to see that the store had a restaurant for customers to relax and recharge while shopping for new vehicles.

Who knew that one afternoon in Paris could combine learning about the history of parfum and the future of mobility and electric cars? C’est la vie de la spontanéité! I truly believe that I have had such diverse and exciting experiences because I have enabled spontaneity in my new Parisian life. I am going to continue follow my lucky star, which is a spontaneous, cheerful, and grateful path to being inspirNational in my daily life.

Enlightenment from Living in Paris

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Approaching my first two weeks abroad, I already feel that I have had substantial time to reflect on my adventure in Paris. As expected, I have learned a great deal about the French language and culture while in class, living with my host family, visiting tourist sites, and exploring the city. More significantly, though, I have learned about myself and how I can apply my Parisian mindset to my daily life. Below I have captured some of the key lessons that have enlightened me while living abroad in Paris.

  • Eat to enjoy, not to indulge. Many Parisians eat bread and cheese at every meal, and chocolates or pastries after every lunch and dinner. Most of our waistlines are saying “no fair! How is that possible?” This seems contrary to all diet rules we have heard. I eat sweets almost every day now, including crepes with Nutella, creme brulee filled chocolate, coconut cookies, and chocolate waffles. One significant observation is that the portions are a quarter of the size of those in the United States. The smaller portions are encouraging me to enjoy each morsel, rather than feel full after eating sweets. My host sister told me that the average French woman’s BMI is 19, which is on the verge of being underweight.  This reminds me that portion control is key. Rather than restraining ourselves and then indulging too much, we should allow ourselves to enjoy small portions and satisfy our cravings.
  • Look to appreciate, not to just see. Notice differences between your new destination and your home, and learn from them! Tourists are often better at looking to appreciate than locals, especially because tourists experience a series of “firsts” when traveling: “first time seeing the Eiffel Tower,” “first time cruising on the Seine River,” etc. For those living abroad, it becomes easy to overlook our surroundings. We may walk past monuments without appreciating their history. Or we may drive home from work when the sun is setting without noticing the beautiful sky. With the opportunity to visit Paris a second time, and now fully engage with the city as a student, I am focused on appreciating all of my surroundings. I am taking several photos to capture memories. I am reading every sign and researching the significance of the buildings, monuments, and streets around me (centuries of history I should mention). This appreciative outlook is helping me become more understanding of the French culture. I also feel more grateful for the small things that bring me joy and empowered to face adversity in my daily life.
  • Listen to understand, not to judge. While traveling and especially while living abroad, we are constantly encountering new people, which means new perspectives. In various conversations, we will likely hear things that enlighten us, surprise us, or even enrage us when living abroad. I’m surprised by home many expats in Paris I’ve met who have said, “You’re American, why do you need to learn French?” Or “Why are you traveling in Europe? I thought Americans only stayed in the U.S.” I have chosen to listen to their questions respectfully and respond with my genuine interests and goals about learning French. I realized that according to this stereotype about Americans, I might be rare for having the travel bug, eager to learn new languages, and explore new cultures. Rather than judging their assumptions, I am working to be an American ambassador, demonstrating that many Americans do in fact enjoy learning about other languages and cultures.

On a separate but similar note, traveling often forces us to take the role of listener. Particularly when we are learning a new language,  we are still learning how to formulate words to contribute (confidently) to a conversation. This intensive listening is a good exercise particularly for those of us who often voice our opinions. Without having to (or being able to) speak, we become more understanding and less apt to make quick judgments in a conversation.

  • Speak to communicate, not to fight. The world is full of hateful words, and it is easy for us to engage in a fight. We can be more effective by having the objective to communicate and foster understanding in a conversation. This became more apparent to me when I visited the Place Republique in Paris, which has a monument with a memorial for the terrorist attacks in January and November 2015. The memorial speaks volumes about the pain the French felt when attacked over the past year. Hundreds of candles, photos, poems, and letters surround the monument, voicing the Parisian’s sadness, values, and dreams for the future. The memorial has a way of communicating powerful words that inspire the world, rather than engaging in a fight. If we truly want to end the war on terrorism, we need to disengage from the “dirty fight,” respect each other, and not fall victim to the endless fear that terrorists are hoping to provoke. I have faith that goodness will prevail, especially if we can effectively communicate with eachother throughout the world.
  • Live to experience, not to achieve. Every year, I have come closer to the realization that life is a series of experiences, and not necessarily achievement milestones. With the expectation that we will have a series of experiences (and not just accomplishments), we will no longer fear failure. One of my favorite quotes that I recently read was by Nikola Tesla: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We will go through ups and downs, all of which combine to create the experience of life. My time in Paris has been a great example of this “experience” mindset. My first weekend in Paris I went the wrong way on the metro a few times, but it made me learn the “ins and outs” of the metro before beginning school. My phone died a few times and I didn’t have a charger, but it reminded me to pause and look with my own eyes rather than the eyes of my iPhone camera and social media pages. Despite all the changes and new beginnings in 2016, I have a sense of calm within me, solely because I am enjoying considering both positive and negative moments as life experiences.

I hope these inspirNational lessons I have learned while living in Paris can inspire you too. What other enlightenment have you experienced while living abroad?

Best Places to Study French in France

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Check out my latest feature on One World 365, with a sneak peak below!


 

As 2015 nears the end, I cannot help but think about one of my most exciting life adventures ahead. In January, I will be living in the heart of Paris, France as part of a language and culture immersion in my International MBA Program at the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business!

Preparing for the adventure, I have researched the best places to study French in France, which I have shared below. I look forward to hearing any other ideas from you and adding insights when I live in France this winter!

Paris: As the most famous, cosmopolitan, trend-setting, and romantic city in France, you will fall in love with Paris while studying French. Paris provides you with the perfect combination of history, art, fashion, food, politics, and culture to keep you engaged and learning every minute of every day.

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

My first trip to Paris, August 2011

Nice: The French Riviera provides some of the most scenic views in France, with beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean coast. You can easily travel to other French Riviera cities, including St. Tropez and Cannes. Nice is one of France’s most visited cities, attracting four million tourists per year.

My trip to Nice, August 2011

My trip to Nice, August 2011

Lyon: Famous for being the gastronomic capital of France and the world, Lyon provides great opportunities for students to learn about French cuisine. Lyon is also one of the business capitals of France, providing excellent internship opportunities for students.

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Lyon Bridge, August 2011

Aix-en-Provence: With a central location, Aix-en-Provence is popular for students looking to be close to the Alps, the coast, and Mediterranean countries. Aix-En-Provence was once a European Capital of Culture, with several museums, theaters, and rugby clubs to entertain the locals and tourists.

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

French musician in Aix-en-Provence

I have also written more details about Rennes, Bordeaux, and Grenoble, which I look forward to visiting when I study in Paris! Read my full article on OneWorld365.

Where else do you recommend that students go to learn French in France? Feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.

What is it like to learn a new language?

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I have had a lot of people ask me lately, what is it like to learn a new language? For the past three weeks, I have embarked on the journey of learning French. The last time I learned a language “from scratch” was in seventh grade Spanish class. To be honest, I was a little nervous about whether I was still capable of learning a new language. I have always heard that it is easier for children to learn languages, and it becomes more challenging as we grow older. Regardless, I decided that I have always wanted to study the French language and culture, so I decided to challenge myself in my international MBA program.

What have I learned from studying a new language?

I’ve described to my loved ones that I feel like a baby. I am absorbing every word I hear and every sentence I read. I smile when I recognize French words that people say or write. Just like a baby, I’m starting to “coo,” or say a few words and phrases here and there. Soon I am confident I will be able to say full expressions. The advantage of being an adult, though, is that I can learn to write quickly. I have been able to memorize vocabulary and grammar in order to write brief letters and blog posts. I am looking forward to the day that I can speak with correct grammar and vocabulary without having to write!

I am also reminded the importance of patience in my studies. Learning a language requires repetition and there is no getting around the time required to study. Every homework assignment helps with comprehension and every test ensure that I am continuing to develop my language skills.

The most interesting aspect is that learning a language teaches us culture simultaneously. As a travel bug and culture enthusiast, it has been very interesting to learn about French culture while studying the French language. One-quarter of my heritage is French, so I have enjoyed being able to understand why some of my family traditions occur as they do. For example, I learned that Christmas Eve is the most significant time for the French to celebrate Christmas, which explains why my French family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve (rather than Christmas Day). The deeper cultural understanding help us be more accepting of and interested in the diversity in our world.

Overall, my French language studies have been a positive experience so far. I am relieved to know that I am capable of learning a new language again and excelling in class!  I look forward to applying my new language and cultural knowledge when I study in Paris next winter.

For all inspirNational readers – don’t be intimidated by learning a new language. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that our lifelong education can provide us!

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