Adrianne Owings - 2014 Program Participant

La Grande Plage in France

Everyone hanging out on La Grande Plage after a full morning of French classes

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because it has always been my dream to use my language skills in a so-called "real world" setting - it doesn't get any more real than living in that country! I wanted to expand my horizons and see a different side of the world while using the language I had already learned for three years in school.

Why did you choose Biarritz, France as opposed to other common cities in France?

I actually didn't know much about Biarritz before I went, but I liked the sound of a Southern French beach town. It was NOT a disappointment! Biarritz is a beautiful little beach town in the south of France that perfectly blends three cultures: French, Spanish, and Basque. It is extremely friendly, and the language school is exceptional.

I couldn't have asked for a better location to adjust to immersion in French culture.

Why did you select SPI Study Abroad over other high school study abroad organizations?

SPI offered the most excursions and opportunities while allowing me to be with other students my own age. They were helpful and organized. They also offered the best location with the most opportunity for French classes with college credit. I'm happy I chose them!

Study abroad students in Biarritz, France

Adrianne and her American roommate ended up having Irish roommates from Dublin. She met people of all nationalities in Biarritz and made lifelong friends!

How did you like your accommodation?

I LOVED MY HOST FAMILY!! They were awesome people who did everything they could to make us happy and comfortable. They took us on extra excursions and really helped me improve my language. I write them all the time!

What was a normal day like as a high school student in Biarritz?

Go to school from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., head off to lunch with a group of my friends at the Beach Garden next to La Grande Plage, maybe go on an excursion to a nearby town for some shopping, come home to an amazing home-cooked French meal, and finish the day up with live music festivals with locals.

What did you enjoy doing most outside of your scheduled program activities?

Surfing!! It's a must, especially with your friends while the sun is setting. I have done a lot of scuba diving, but nothing quite like this. The waves are huge, but it is a beautiful environment with great instructors. And climbing La Rhune - or any of the nearby Alps. Two completely different experiences within a drive of each other! Also, I recommend a trip or two into San Sebastián - a very different energy but a beautiful place!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in France?

Language! But, it was a healthy struggle and my family and roommates helped me adjust. It is difficult not being able to "casually communicate," so to speak. However, you get out what you put in. So, if you approach it with a positive and open-minded attitude, which can be harder than expected, you'll have a really memorable experience.

Sunset on Côte des Basques in France

Watching the sun set on Côte des Basques after a fun surfing session

What advice would you give to other high school students interested in studying abroad with SPI Study Abroad?

Do it! Even if it seems scary, do it. You'll be in love within the first week. If you've never lived away from home, this is a great place to start.

What makes Biarritz such a great place to study abroad?

A great blend of culture, social life, activity, and access to neighboring towns!  The people are used to study abroad students and are ready to help you with anything you need. It is small enough to be friendly but big enough to provide an opportunity to branch out. On a random side note, the aquatic museum is incredible!

What has studying abroad taught you about yourself?

It has let me know that I can overcome any challenge I set my mind to. I wasn't sure if I could do it; that is, be in a foreign environment where they don't speak my language and I know absolutely no one. After conquering this fear, I am sure I can go anywhere in the world and get the most out of my experience.

Would you recommend SPI Study Abroad to others high school students?

Yes. It is great for first-time students going abroad - especially for their parents' sake. They were extremely helpful and available for anything we needed.

What is one thing you wish you could change about your program?

More freedom, I felt like our schedules were a little too rigid, and we were watched a little too much. I would've liked a little more time to explore on my own.

If you could study abroad again, where in the world would you go?

Actually, I am studying abroad this summer in France in Amboise because I liked my experience with SPI so much. If I could study abroad in another French-speaking location, I'd go to Switzerland, Belgium, or French Polynesia. I'd even love to go to Spain to pick up some Spanish or Italy to pick up Italian. My host dad spoke Spanish and told us how the languages were very similar.