BY CASEY ROEPKE ’21
Lainie LaRonde ’20 just returned from a semester abroad in Montpellier, France. As an anthropology and French double major, she focused her studies on French language skills.
What was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Adjusting to a new culture was harder than I thought it would be — learning to navigate life in a new language was very hard, of course, but in ways I didn’t anticipate; doing things that I take for granted here, like running simple errands, became really difficult. It seems simple, but adjusting to public expression[s] of emotion was very strange to me. French people, in my own experience of course, tend not to emote very much in public and almost never smile at people they don’t know. However, they also kiss on the cheeks as [a] greeting (three times in the south where I was) which is much more intimate than I was used to! It seemed very contradictory and took a while to assimilate to. And, of course, getting used to the disruptions from strikes from the gilets jaunes [“yellow vests,” a group of political protestors advocating for economic justice] became a part of daily life.
Was there anything that happened that surprised you or struck you as unexpected?
I was surprised by the difference in architecture and transport — I rarely saw what we would think of as a ‘real house’ and most people lived in apartments that were all Mediterranean-style. There were many more motorcycles and Vespas as forms of transport, as traf c was more convoluted than it is here. People on motos drive very fast and weave constantly — I thought it was really scary, but it was normal to everyone else!
What was your favorite new food that you tried?
I tried Brussels-style mussels and fries (moules frites), made by my host mom, for the first time and it was amazing.What advice do you have for someone who wants to study abroad?
I would say to ask people who have gone, especially those who are not necessarily representatives of the program. I wish I had a better picture of what experiencing culture shock would actually be like, and talking to people who have gone through it helps! Also, if you want to travel, save up! I can only speak for Europe, but it’s actually fairly cheap to y to nearby countries and de nitely worth it to experience more cultures.
Any other stories or experiences that you want to share?
Not a story, but I made some absolutely amazing friends abroad. The experience will bond you to people in such a unique way, which may be one of the most important things to come out of it!