Major: Food Science
Type of experience: Faculty-led study abroad program
Experience: Cathedrals, Castles, Culture and Cuisine-sustainable, Safe, & Nutritious Food in France
Experience website: http://isuabroad.iastate.edu/?go=FranceFSHNABE
I think I learned as much, if not more, from the actual experience of traveling abroad and meeting new people as I did in our classes, both before and during the trip. While the intended portion of the trip was about food processing and sustainability, we got to learn so much by experiencing French culture, meeting people from all over the world, and having discussions over dinner.
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad before I graduated from ISU. When I received an email about an information session about a food science study abroad program in France, I knew I had to check it out. I had always wanted to study abroad in France, so I went to the information session and got excited about this opportunity.
An impact to my life...
I think I learned a lot about the difference between Americans and the rest of the world. It showed me how much work people from other parts of the world put in when they travel to learn the language and culture before they go somewhere, while we rely on the fact that someone has got to speak English in the country we are visiting. I also got to practice my French, and gained an increased desire to practice speaking and conversing in a language that isn't second nature to me. I think I have a desire to go back to France, or another country abroad to work or study for a little longer, because I loved experiencing a culture that was so different to the one I grew up in.
My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience for me was meeting people from all over the world during "The World Comes to Dinner." I spoke to people from Australia, Ireland, Germany, France, and the US, and it was amazing to see how where we come from shapes our different points of view. I learned that Americans are not always as educated about the state of the world as I would like us to be, and that there are always opportunities for learning and cultural sharing if you just take the opportunity to start a conversation.
Advice for others...
For future students looking to study abroad, my advice would be to do it! Definitely learn the host language (either through formal or non-formal learning), because it will make bridging the cultural gap that much easier. Be flexible with your plans and expectations, because something will change, and your attitude will define the outcome of the situation. Most of all, take the opportunity to meet new people and start conversations with strangers. It's definitely weird, but you will learn a lot!