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Lacy McKee

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Double major in Media and Journalism (AD/PR track) and Communication Studies/French Minor
Program: UNC in Montpellier
Location: Montpellier, France
Term: Fall 2022


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
When I first started studying French in high school, I had no idea I would be fluent today, taking classes alongside other French university students. I didn’t take French seriously at first and thought of it only as a graduation requirement, but the summer before my junior year of high school, I participated in a summer exchange with a girl my age from France. Being in France for three weeks, I fell in love with the country and developed a passion for improving my language level. When I got to college, I did not intend to keep studying French but decided to take some classes for fun. Eventually, I got to the level where I could seriously consider studying abroad in a French-speaking country. I had always wanted to go back to France after the last time I visited, so I thought studying abroad would be the perfect opportunity for me. Studying abroad allowed me at a critical point in my college career to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, gaining new language skills in the process. I chose UNC in Montpellier because it was marketed specifically to French majors and minors and because the program emphasized full immersion, something I knew I needed to continue to improve my French. I also was really intrigued by the idea of living with a host family and taking a combination of classes at French university and with other UNC students, providing me with the extra support I needed living in a foreign country for the first time. All in all, I chose to study abroad with the UNC in Montpellier program because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand my knowledge of French language and culture!


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned many things about myself through this experience, especially when learning how to get out of my comfort zone, both in interacting with others in French and in traveling alone. One big thing that I will mention is that I learned that sometimes I get more enjoyment out of doing things by myself rather than with a group. Before deciding to study abroad, I was someone who sought other people’s company for enjoyment and would hesitate to go to activities by myself. Making the most of my study abroad experience required me to stop always relying on others to say yes to opportunities and just go for it, even if I am by myself. For example, I was supposed to go to Barcelona with some of the other people in my program, but I unfortunately got Covid-19 and was not able to go. However, an opportunity arose the last weekend of my study abroad, and I ended up being able to take the trip to Barcelona. Because the other members of my program already have gone there, I decided to take the trip alone, something I had never done before. I was scared to be in a new country by myself with a language I did not know, but after an amazing weekend, I learned many things about myself. I learned that sometimes traveling by yourself, although daunting, can lead to a better experience because you only have yourself to hold responsible. Although experiences with friends are important, taking some alone time is vital to learning new things about yourself and becoming more confident. Another thing that I learned is very simple, but I think it is very important. I am not good at cooking at all, and I do not come from a family of cooks either. Because of this, I have not had a lot of sit-down meals in my life and tend to eat alone in front of my computer or on the go. Living with a host family and having long sit down dinners really taught me something very important in French culture that I really enjoyed: sitting down with the goal of nothing other than the simple pleasure of enjoying my food. I learned that having distinct parts of my day and letting go of my American “productive” multitasking meals allowed me to live more in the present and focus on important moments, such as appreciating a shared meal with my host family.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories is going to the beach with members of my program the first weekend of our semester. Living in Montpellier, we were all really excited to have easy access to the beaches of the south of France by public transport. After picking up some food at a farmers market in the area, we headed off to the beach together. We listened to music, ate baguettes and peaches, and got to know each other for one of the first times outside of the classroom. Although it is a very simple memory, it is one of my favorites! It was before our university courses began, so it was a memory of us full of excitement and wonder about being in France before the stress of classes set in.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would tell students that no matter how much they plan, there will be situations that come up that they do not expect. I would consider myself an anxious person, especially when it comes to planning trips and experiences, so one thing I really had to learn through this experience was to let go of some of that fear and realize that not everything can be predicted in a situation. Learning how to accept uncertainty with confidence was a hard journey, but a very important one as well. When a situation arises that one does not expect, it is easy to let emotions get in the way and be upset, but it is very important to keep a cool head and not get too caught up in the stress of the situation. Things happen, and although stressful situations are tough, they are also great learning experiences! I would also say a big thing when facing uncertainties, whether it is university-related, travel-related, or beyond, is to reach out early. Although you are leaving Carolina, Carolina never leaves you, and resources are still here that you can use throughout your study abroad experience. Additionally, not being afraid to speak to your professors when an issue arises is very important. Don’t be daunted if they may not understand your question at first! Being communicative about any issue that arises will ultimately serve you better than waiting until it is too late to seek advice or help. Everyone wants to make the most of their study abroad and have an awesome time, and learning how to navigate through uncertainties is essential to achieving this!