About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Biology B.S. major; French & Chemistry minors
Program: UNC Biology in Grenoble- Université de Grenoble Alpes
Location: Grenoble, France
Term: Summer 2022
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I always knew I wanted to study abroad at some point during my years at UNC. I believe that studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for students like myself to get immersed in a foreign culture, explore the local area, and learn in a new environment so different from the usual classroom setting. I specifically chose the UNC Biology in Grenoble summer program, where I took the immunology course taught by the UNC professor and a French language & culture course. As a biology major with a minor in French, this program was perfect for me! I wanted to broaden my interest and understanding of the biology field by taking the immunology course and wanted to take the class abroad with smaller class size and thus more interactive learning environment. As for French, I’ve been learning the language ever since middle school in Canada but never truly had the chance to apply my knowledge outside of class. I wanted to be IN France where I could challenge myself and communicate with the local French!
What did you learn about yourself?
"Imagine you’re standing in one of the many aisles in a supermarket. You look around and see brand names that you’ve never seen before. You find produce and food items but the label is not in English nor is the currency in US dollars. You try to look for milk and egg cartons but fail and ultimately resort to asking where they may be. “Bonjour! Excusez-moi, est-ce que vous savez où est le lait? Et les oeufs?” My first time at Géant (the local supermarket), I was astounded and overwhelmed by the size of the supermarket as well as all the food items labeled in French. Even more surprising were the milk jugs and egg cartons that were kept unrefrigerated in the aisles. Shopping at a grocery store is just one of several examples where I experienced culture shock in France. Along with the culture shock was a slight longing for familiarity and home, but naturally over time, I grew more independent and more open to exploring and adapting to the new environment. Oftentimes, adapting to a whole new country meant meeting new people and encountering obstacles such as culture shock but I realized that I enjoy actively speaking French with others and how my French knowledge has helped me a lot throughout the program. The experience made me appreciative of the fact that I’ve been learning the language for many years and it encouraged me to learn other languages as well in the future. Moreover, during my own travels following the end of the program, I found myself to be more independent and mature than I have been prior to studying abroad. During my solo travel in Belgium for instance, I was able to put myself out there and communicate with fellow travelers from all over the world, which was such an impactful experience! With the confidence and independence I’ve gained through studying abroad and traveling in general, I am excited to explore the next destination in my life, wherever that may be!"
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
Oh, every moment I’ve spent abroad was memorable but if I had to pick my favorite, it would be the class trip to Annecy! All 15 of us and our professor Dr. Cramer took the 2 hour train ride to Annecy, a city just northeast of Grenoble. We all had lunch together, which was delicious, and we were free to explore the city. Some of the fun things I’ve done there were walking around the local city market, sitting by Lac d’Annecy and trying to feed the swans and the ducks, and renting a boat for a ride! It was great we got the day off to relax and have fun with everyone!
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would say building a good support and communication system is important, whether that be with the other UNC students, professor, or even local people at the place you’re studying abroad in! For instance, we had a program group chat that included the students, our professor, and a program coordinator in Grenoble. Whenever we had issues arise, such as with the apartment wifi, we were able to openly and collaboratively communicate in the chat and it was good to have the professor and the local point-of-contact acknowledge the issues and try to help resolve them as well.