When I signed up for the program in Montpellier I knew that I was in for a challenge but I honestly underestimated the impact this experience would have on me personally, mentally, and emotionally. The Service-Learning Program is such a great way to learn a foreign language and culture. Not only did I learn French by speaking every day but I also became a working member of the community, I became a Montpellieraine.
While working at the L'Institut Saint Pierre and also with the l'Association des Paralyses de France, I was challenged mentally, emotionally, and physically everyday to be just me. Not only did I have to struggle to use the language but I also struggled to deal with situations that I never imagined, situations that were different from what I was used to. I learned real French. I learned real life in a foreign country. And I am coming home with the most real education that I could have ever hoped for. I could not have asked for anything more.
Last April I decided that I wanted to study abroad in France. I researched numerous institutes in search of the perfect program for my needs. Programs in Paris and Lyon were two alluring options but something about IMLS’ program in the south of France appealed to me. Being a Trinidadian, the idea of being in a warm climate drew me in and the fact that the IMLS’ program focused on a full French immersion program held my attention. I had found my program and I was excited to begin this new journey.
The months preceding my departure were a blur of paperwork and trying to anticipate what it would be like to live in France for 4 months. Throughout this time the IMLS team kept in constant contact with me and ensured that I was meeting all my deadlines. I arrived in Montpellier on the 31st August 2013 and my host family greeted me in the airport with a poster with my name on it. I was immediately struck by the warmth of Montpellier and the people. Montpellier is a student town, with beautiful outdoor areas where you can enjoy the sun and lots of activities.
The IMLS team worked tirelessly to ensure that transition into French life was as easy as possible. Lise, Anne, Veronique, Chantal and Virginie quickly became my friends and I would often refer to IMLS as my second home. I would go there for advice or to print last-minute travel tickets for a trip. I loved the full-immersion aspect of this program. I experienced French life in a very authentic way—living with a French family, going to French university and navigating everyday French life. Additionally, I was able to go on two planned field trips to neighboring cities and volunteer at French schools as an English assistant. Volunteering enriched my experience by allowing me the opportunity to interact with French students and help them with their study of English.
It felt great to add to their experience with my native language and give them something I wish I had when I studied French in secondary school. The IMLS crafted careful schedules that kept us busy but allowed enough time to travel. I was grateful for this because it ensured that I made the most of my time in France. I made many great friends from all over the world at the university and spent a lot of time with my French family going to the beach, the opera and learning how to cook traditional French dishes. France has always been a dream of mine and I could not have imagined a better way to be introduced to such a beautiful country than through the IMLS program.
I am grateful for everything and everyone who added to my wonderful experience. I can honestly say that this was the best 4 months of my life and I owe it all to the IMLS and their dedication to enriching students’ experience in France.