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Evans ’13 Growing with Each New French Experience

Edward Evans ’13 – The train stops in Montpellier.  The lost foreigner leaves the station with incorrect MapQuest directions in hand.  With no confidence in his French comprehension, he walks up and down the same streets without asking anyone for directions. After three hours of bewilderment, he hobbles to the right hotel. This is where I began, constantly lost, confused, and incapable of talking to people.

Ed exiting the Pont do Gard.

For the first couple of weeks, the Minnesota program arranged an intensive grammar course to help students find a French groove and to determine our level of the language. My grammar was decent; however, it was apparent that my speaking and comprehension were well-below average. The advisors suggested that I follow an easier Language Studies track as opposed to the Integrated Studies one. (Honestly, I don’t blame them; I was struggling and among the least-experienced in the program.) Wanting to get an authentic French experience and being a little stubborn, I threw myself to the wolves, registering for courses in which I would be among French students.

In the beginning, I had major doubts. The French lectures were killing me. My notes entailed random, unrelated words that I managed to recognize. Later, I would go to the library and try to draw some relation between them. This was extremely inefficient and tiring. My brain felt like a whooping cushion. Each week, however, I have noticed that my notes are more cohesive. Now, I can actually ask questions regarding the subject matter after class. Most importantly, I am no longer eyeing my teachers with this bizarre mixture of confusion and malice. I attribute this lingual enhancement to multiple reasons, one of which is my host family. My host mom is from French Guiana, and she used to be a teacher. She has been EXTREMELY patient when talking to me and has been great in providing tips to improve my French and to speak properly. My host brother, who averages 100 words a second, keeps me balanced with his slang. I don’t think I would be scholastically successful here without them. Host family: Highly recommended.

Aside from school (which I could go on forever about), I have truly immersed myself into the culture. I have noticed great differences between France and the US. The school system, politics, and even the mentalities towards everyday living are just different, not necessarily better or worse. Furthermore, I have a greater appreciation for history. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a chemistry and math nerd. I love it. However, I also realize how easy it is to be consumed by the sciences. When you walk along the ramparts of Carcassonne or across the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct built twenty centuries ago, you have no other choice but to appreciate the incredible ingenuity of the Romans. It’s unbelievable.

An evolution has occurred. Come mid-December, a Frenchman will return to his native country. He will go to the very same train station around which he was completely lost less than four months ago. He will high-five security and will hold a conversation with a woman about the upcoming presidential election and her dislike for Nicholas Sarkozy. He will return to the US with new perspectives, new insight, and a new appreciation for what he is going back to. With a little more than a month left, I already deem this study abroad experience a complete success. Thank you, Wabash.

Floyd ’13 Enthusiastically Embraces Oxford

Riley Floyd ’13 – Greetings from Oxford!

I’ve just finished the fourth week of my study abroad experience at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), and I can say without reservation that Oxford is one of my favorite places in the world! I’ve made some great friends here, and we’ve had a ton of fun — including the inevitable embarrassing moments as typical Americans abroad. What’s most captivating about the place is everyone’s story. Everyone I’ve met here has had some amazing life experiences, and the difference in their academic interests is fascinating too — from astrophysics to the Cold War — the options are endless.

LMH is a really friendly place. And it’s beautiful—complete with gardens and Georgian architecture. It’s a little removed from the City Centre, and it’s one of the newer colleges — founded in 1878. I say “new” because Oxford’s oldest building was constructed in 1049. It’s quite small too; there are only about 450 students here. But it gives you a great chance to get to know some of the British students — particularly if you take on a sport. And the tradition here is awesome. Formal, three-course dinners take place every Friday in the college’s dining hall — a wood-paneled hall with austere portraits of all of the College’s principals. And there’s quite a sense of hierarchy. The tutors and principal literally sit at a table on a higher plane than the students. But once you leave the hall, that hierarchy disappears; everyone here is really accessible.

And the town itself is great! There are so many pubs, restaurants, and historical sites that it will make your head spin. I’ve been here for four weeks, and I still haven’t seen everything. In fact, I only went into the Radcliffe Camera for the first time last weekend. The kebab carts are really good too — think of it like the Brit equivalent of late night Taco Bell runs in C-ville — which, by the way, the British are incredibly jealous that our fast food joints are open 24 hours. Everything here closes early; even pubs shut the doors at midnight.

Academically, Oxford provides a uniquely individualized setting. There are no “classes” — unless you’re a science student. Instead, there are tutorials. I meet once a week with my Modern Literature tutor and once every other week with my Jurisprudence tutor. For each meeting, I complete a reading list and write a 2500-3000 word essay on that week’s reading. And then we discuss the paper and the readings in tutorial. It’s tough. And the week is easily consumed with reading, writing, and preparing for tutorial. But the social aspects are great too.

I’ve started rowing crew, and it’s a ton of fun. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sports — and not just because of the crew dates (dinners and club nights where guys’ VIIIs pair with women’s VIIIs from other Oxford colleges). We’re gearing up for the Christ Church Regatta in 7th Week — a race for novices only. With weekly outings and gym sessions there’s plenty to keep me busy. And it gives me a needed break from all the reading.

I’ve heard people talk about their study abroad experience — the nervousness associated with being in a new place, the new people they met, the traveling they did, and the amazing memories they had. And I thought it was just hype.

But they were on to something. There’s something to be said for leaving everything you know and everything with which you are familiar behind and starting entirely from scratch. That’s exactly what studying abroad forces you to do — particularly at a place like Oxford. And I’m having the time of my life. I can’t explain why, really. I think it’s mainly due to the incredible variety of experiences you can have here. It forces you to look back on everything that brought you here and everything that’s yet to come. And that’s vastly rewarding. I’m exceptionally grateful to be able to have the experience. As great as Oxford is, I’ve also come to appreciate Wabash even more by being here. And I have to say thanks to everyone at the College and to my family for preparing me for this experience. I can’t believe it’s nearly over.

London Helps Wang ’13 Understand Cultural Differences

Bo Wang ’13 – I have been in London for about two months so far, and I pretty much enjoy my life here. I want to say thank you to Wabash that give me such a good chance to explore the education system in British.

Actually, my college, Queen Mary, University of London, runs quite differently compared with Wabash. First of all, I haven’t been assigned with any homework yet, which took me some time to get used to. I have two major courses and two distribution classes here, and one of them has a quiz or a unit test, nor do they have any homework to turn in. In Wabash, I am always doing my homework for most of my day, and there is quiz almost every week that I have to review my class notes every night in order to digest the knowledge in time. There is a boy living besides my room who is a local resident, and he told me that the fall semester could be divided into three small parts, and most of the British student only begin to study after the second part, which is around the Christmas.

They just concern with a “pass”, not the GPA in the U.S. I think their action and altitude then make sense because there is no exam or homework to push them to study in time. Besides, it is hard to catch your professor after lecture because they are always in a hurry to rush to the next classroom. And often their office hour is no more than two hours a week. In other time, their office door is always locked. None of those professors knew my name, and they don’t care. There is a lack of a communication of between the students and professors — the same problem that lies in those state universities in the U.S.
After education, I want to talk about my life in London. London is a great place for everything but study.

One of Bo’s night time shots of London.

I have to admit this three month is the most colorful time in my life. You can do whatever you want to do in this city. Maybe you want to argue that New York City is also a choice in this purpose, however, London is much safer. I often carry my tripod and my Nikon DSLR camera to walk on the streets at night. I love to spend my night time alone, only with my camera. I have explored most part of this city on foot, with hundreds of pictures taken. I love the historic feeling that this city gives to me. The buildings in central part of London are all of hundreds of years in age, and they are so beautiful and graceful. I sometimes even have a delusion that I was going back by the time machine when I hang around Oxford circus or Regent Street, surrounded by those old buildings.

The price level is very high, because of the exchange rate. I can often hear the other students from the states complain about the expensive price of the food and transportation fee. A cup of Ben Jerry’s is about five pounds. A day’s tube fare could be around ten pounds.

As an international student, I feel lucky to study both in the US and in the UK. I thus have a deeper understanding why Chinese young students prefer the US. Because US have a much competitive and stressful education system which can give the student more during their study, both mentally and physically. On the other hand, UK is a better place to travel and spend the holiday.