Arianna Pouzar - 2014 Program Participant
Why did you want to study abroad?
I wanted to study French more intensively because, firstly, I adore the language, and secondly, to apply my knowledge of French and sharpen my listening comprehension and conversational skills before pursuing a bachelor’s in French in the fall.
What was a normal day like as a student in Biarritz?
I woke up around 7 a.m., ate breakfast with my roommates and our homestay mother, then set off to class around 8:45 a.m. I loved walking to the language school each morning; the city was always so quiet. Class lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Everyone ate lunch together afterwards, and then (on most days) separated to spend the afternoon as we pleased: going to the beach, surfing, exploring the city, just experiencing Biarritz.
What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?
We went on an excursion to San Sebastian on the day of the music festival, so there were people singing and dancing in the streets, walking around with instruments, etc. On the way to the town square we passed through one extraordinarily crowded street; there was a group of children with violins and people holding songbooks. All of a sudden, the whole crowd went silent. Then the violinists struck up a melody, and everyone started singing something that sounded like a hymn. It was surreal, witnessing collective action like that.
What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?
It was a bit difficult to follow the discussions in class at times. After several days, though, one feels more accustomed to the cadence of French, to hearing it and understanding it, even if it still takes a moment to respond. Baby steps, I guess.
What advice would you give to other students interested in studying abroad in high school?
If you have the opportunity, do your best to make it happen and don’t underestimate your ability to navigate a new environment!
Why would you want to go back to Biarritz and study abroad again if you had the chance?
The community was just so welcoming (I still miss my homestay family), and the town offers a different experience of French culture, courtesy of its location in the Basque country and close proximity to the Spanish border. Not to mention, the ocean and the abundance of hydrangeas kind of stole my heart.
How has studying abroad impacted your life back at home?
Going abroad allowed valuable time to reflect on life back home. It has given me a clearer sense of direction and boosted my confidence that, with a little effort, I can go just about anywhere and be alright. This was especially helpful with transitioning into college last August. Leaving home for a new place with new people was suddenly much less foreboding.
Where would you study abroad if you had the chance again?
I really want to study French in Morocco or take some anthropology classes in Finland (along with some Finnish courses). It would be fascinating to study French again, but in a completely different cultural context: how does the language differ in Morocco as opposed to France and how do European influence and Arabic culture interact with each other? As for Finland, I think the Finnish language is ethereal, unlike anything else. I would love to learn more about the culture, especially the culture of indigenous groups, such as the Sami.
Did you experience reverse culture shock after you returned home?
Somewhat. Compared to the peace and quiet of Biarritz, the noise and busyness of American life has a newfound pointlessness. I can also no longer justify driving to places within a reasonable walking distance.