Pilar Martinez - 2015 Program Participant
What inspired you to study abroad?
I loved to travel and enjoy experiencing different cultures. I always wanted to learn many languages and studying abroad in a country I had never been to before was the perfect opportunity for me. I wanted to exercise my independence and go somewhere I did not know anyone so I could prove to myself that I could do anything, and that everything is possible.
Why did you sign up for a program offered by the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS)?
One of the major points that made me choose AIFS is that they guaranteed a host family. I did not want to live in a dorm or apartment and, personally, it was important for me to live with a host family. I also chose AIFS because it offered a program in Grenoble, France. I wanted to study somewhere that was not so touristy.
What was your favorite part about France?
France was an amazing choice because I had never been there before. I loved experiencing the brand new culture learning about the art of food, wine, and cheese. My host city (Grenoble) was just big enough of a city to have always something to do, and it was in the valley, so I was able to take in the beauty of the French Alps surrounding us. It was absolutely breathtaking.
What made your experience in France unique?
I never missed a meal during the week with my host mom. Her and I sat down together every night, no matter what, and enjoyed our meal together. I worked hard to speak as much French as I could, and I simultaneously taught my host mom English too.
Beyond my host family experience, I was able to travel to 13 other countries with different people (and I did one of my trips by myself!). This solidified the feeling of Grenoble being my "home," so every time I came back from a trip, I felt like I was walking into my own house and being back in my "comfort zone"...which was interesting, because I grew to feel that way about somewhere I had never been before my study abroad experience!
How did local AIFS staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff always had open doors for students to come to the office to ask advice advice, to talk, or just to hang out. I mostly spoke to them about my travel plans, which was very helpful since they knew the best ways to move around.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
If I could have stayed longer after the program to travel, I would have!
What was your average day like studying in Grenoble?
My class schedule changed daily, but a typical week day with school involved me waking up to my host mom leaving me a note in French, telling me about her plans for the day and at what time she would be home from work. I would eat my bread with butter and jam, have some espresso (traditional French start to the day), and go on my six-minute walk to school. Our classes would be a few hours long, with a few 15-minute breaks, where all the students would gathered around the espresso vending machine. If we had classes in the afternoon, everyone in our class would go get lunch at various places. We would come back together and have class. After class, I would go home to eat dinner with my host mom. After dinner, I would hang out with friends from the program or classmates.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I loved going to the Bastille; hiking up it was so beautiful and rewarding every time.
Where did you stay in Grenoble?
I stayed with my host mom. It was amazing, and I would not have wanted to study abroad any other way. I loved being able to spend the holidays with her and her family, so that I could experience the traditions with them.
What’s one piece of advice you have for future study abroad students?
Do it all and don't take it for granted.
Have your experiences abroad with AIFS left a lasting impact on you?
Absolutely. It inspired me to travel, to learn, and to reach for the stars. I was able to keep in contact with my friends I met in France, who were also international from many different countries. I have seen and visited some of them, which has been incredible.
Would you recommend AIFS to others? Why?
Yes, without a doubt. My program gave me the tools and options to build my path to experience study abroad the way I dreamed.