This past summer of 2017, I participated in a study abroad program that took place in Quebec City, Canada at Université Laval. The program was an intensive French immersion program.
This program was something that really shed light on the kind of person that I am. It also revealed to me some of the things that I need or lack in my life. Firstly, the program made me realize the importance of continually trying in anything you want to accomplish no matter what may happen or what obstacle may be in your way. I learned that where talent may fail or be non-existent, determination and persistency always win. Secondly, I learned that I am too much of a serious person especially when it came to academics. I realized I need to let loose sometimes and just have fun, which eventually made me realize some of the things that I enjoy doing. Lastly, I learned how to appreciate and celebrate others, especially those who help or strive for us daily.
Upon my arrival in Quebec City, I was immediately expected to communicate only in French. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise as it was the very purpose of the program, but I however found it challenging as I often struggled to find the words to express myself in speech with others. Also, through my academics, I saw these same challenges as I struggled in my French grammar class. I came short when it came to speaking and vocabulary, but was good enough in writing. I realized that my learning of the French language only in class and from a book wasn’t enough. I rather should have used what I learned and built on them. Despite these challenges, as I was forced to speak French continually, a space was created for me to make mistakes.
The more I made mistakes and the more I was corrected, the more I was learning even though I didn’t realize it at the time. From the onset, I wanted to speak and write perfect French without errors, but I later realized that wasn’t the point. Through extracurricular activities and academic assignments, I came to the realization that the point was in me trying even if I made mistakes. The most important thing was in trying and not giving up. This attitude translated to my academics as I started off rough, but I ended up doing very well towards the end. At the end of the program, I realized how much I have learned and improved learning from the mistakes I made upon my return.
As part of the program, there were extracurricular activities that were designed to give students another opportunity in practicing their French and also serve as an encouragement to continue trying to learn. These extracurricular activities took place every day after classes and we were required to sign up for them if we wished to participate in them. I didn’t sign up for a good member of these activities as I thought my academics were more important, which was true but not always focused on studying. My host family quickly took notice of this and they sat me down one day and had a talk with me about how I need to go out and have fun and not spend a lot of time studying. They explained how it was unhealthy and unproductive for me. I thought about this for a good week and realized not only were they right, but how my entire life had been like that. How I had forgotten the things I enjoy and how I wasn’t even making time to have fun. This dawned on me for a while as I figured out this missing and important piece in my life. I realized how important it is for me to rejuvenate and enjoy life at times. With that, I started participating in activities and going out more to enjoy myself.
I was fortunate enough to have a host family who were very caring and kind. They cared and communicated with me as if I were their own daughter and not a stranger. I really felt at home in their home. In their house, I lived with three other students who would easily give the same testimony about the host family. The host mother went from cooking us delicious meals, helping us with our homework, and trying her best to make sure we had the best experience in Quebec City. It then came her birthday and the other students in the house wanted to do something special for her for they felt very appreciative for all that she had done for them. Though I agree that she is a wonderful woman, I didn’t feel this was really necessary. I felt the thank yous and birthday wishes would be enough. I, however went ahead and participated in making her birthday as special as we could. At the end, I realized how happy and thankful she was when she saw her birthday gift. I felt proud of myself and happy when she thank me. Although thank yous and wishes are good, I realized how thoughtful and beautiful it is to actually take time to celebrate and do something for the ones who adds meaning to our lives.
These things that I’ve learned from my experience have translated to my personal life and academic life. Upon arrival from my program and just realizing how much I have improved my French, has increased my confidence both academically and personally. I now have more confidence in myself in approaching a problem or difficulty and have developed a persistence character as I’ve learned to always give a try even though I might make mistakes. As for my command of the French language, it has increased dramatically. I am now able to speak and write much better. Lastly, the experience has enriched my love for the language and I am even more eager now to continue speaking in order to preserve it. This study abroad program fulfilled my desire of enabling me to better speak the language and also helping me take a step of perfecting my French as I aspire to become an international trade specialist in the near future.