Name: Annelise Dahl
Type of Project: Study Abroad
Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
Through the Office of International Affairs, I studied abroad for three weeks in Montpellier, France with the “Teaching Internship in France” program. For the first week, I took classes about plurilingualism in Europe and received ESL education training. The following two weeks, I interned in a local elementary school, teaching English to French eight-year-olds.
What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
I use the opportunity of studying French to learn and understand another culture, hoping to widen my world perspective. Although I have traveled abroad previously, the “Teaching Internship in France” experience was especially immersive. Situated between mountains and the ocean, the town of Montpellier is a “university town,” filled with young adults developing their self-identity. Similar to Columbus, Montpellier is a smaller city, offering a plethora of experiences, but also feeling small enough to run into a friend or chat with a local.
Throughout the study abroad, I began to understand the uniqueness of the French perspective. Comparatively small, France has an atmosphere that promotes leisure and creativity. Although still hard-working, I witnessed the French mentality of enjoying the moment. Work weeks are roughly thirty-five hours; children spend about twenty hours in school; and long weekends are frequent. While at first confused, I began to understand that this contrast between Americans and French is truly a response to the same fear: mortality. Americans see this fear and want to do everything; however, the French instead hope to take life slowly, breathing in each moment. Neither perspective is incorrect, but it allowed me to reflect on my own values of hard-work and ambition. Thinking long-term, I began to recognize the balance of work and enjoyment.
What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
During my teaching internship, I lived with a French host family, speaking only in French while home. This homestay allowed me to fully integrate into a French living style. In many ways, language is the door to culture, influencing how people interact and share. Above, I shared the France’s different living style, and I primarily experienced it through the homestay. Meals lasted three hours; the television news ran vastly different stories; shops closed early; workdays were short. All these small instances contributed to my discovery.
Moreover, I spent two of the three weeks in a primary school, teaching eight-year-olds. This aspect held a different meaning for me. While the students sometimes struggled to understand me and I sometimes struggled to understand them, we eventually communicated, laughed, and learned. It added a strangely humanizing factor to the study abroad: across cultures, people were people.
Finally, the interactions I had with other Ohio State students were insightful. Most of the other students were Education or French majors, and as a Finance major, I communicate occasionally with other departments. It was interesting to take a course focused on education, giving a new perspective on how we learn. As a student, I spend arduous hours over textbooks, but rarely think of the flip-side of education: the teachers. Moreover, I loved simply forming new friendships with a diverse group of students.
Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
This change was valuable to my life because it gave me the chance to reflect on my own habits and perspectives, comparing them to the French. Especially thinking about taking life slowly to enjoy the moment, I realized, although perhaps I always secretly knew, that the “little bursts” of life are as important as the “big bursts,” such as graduation, weddings, and so on (to quote Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge). As a twenty-year-old, this transformation of perspective is important to find and form a fulfilling and contenting life.
Below, I have included a video of the trip, filled with laughs and amazing experiences.