Alison Bidjarano - 2013 Program Participant

Female friends lying in a grassy area

Alison lying in the grass with friends on a break during their tour of Paris after a seven hour flight

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad for two main reasons. The first was that although I was good at reading and writing French in my class at school, I needed to work on my pronunciation of French words. The second was my love to travel. I particularly love going abroad with a program over the summer, since it permits me to go without my parents or friends. In turn, this makes it easier to branch out and form new friendships since everyone is in the same boat: no one knows each other.

What were your housing arrangements like in Biarritz?

My roommate Maddy and I stayed in a small apartment with a lovely family. They family let us stay in a room with two twin beds. The apartment was a five-minute walk from the school and a fifteen-minute walk from the beach (great exercise to eat all the ice cream on the boardwalk).

Describe what a typical day was like for you in Biarritz.

My roommate and I would wake up at 8 a.m. and kick-off the day with some brioche bread and a jar of nutella, or stop and get a chocolate croissant at a small bakery on the way to class. I’d have class for three hours in the morning. During the break, I would make myself a cup of tea. After class, I would either have lunch packed by my host family or head to lunch with a group of friends. In the afternoon, I would either go shopping or go to the beach. At night I would have dinner with my host family before walking to the beach. Sometimes I would play rugby on the beach.
La Grande Plage in Biarritz, France

A lovely day at La Grande Plage with Alison’s friends!

What did you enjoy doing on your freetime? What is your more memorable moment from your time in Biarritz?

I loved going to the beach at night. What made going to the beach at night special there was the fact that many groups of kids from different countries were doing language immersion programs in Biarritz, France. It seemed as if everyone had the same idea to go hang out at La Grande Plage. So I would go with a group of my friends, and we would meet a group from Ireland, for example. The most memorable night, despite being in France, was the fourth of July.

What are the top reasons you'd go back to Biarritz if you had the chance?

  • Foreigners. I made friends from Spain, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Italy. I still keep in touch with them and it was great to meet people from other cultures, both at the school and on the beach.
  • Food. The bread and pastries are top notch. The classic chocolate croissant was one of my favorites. There are ice cream carts located by the beach with delicious flavors. Additionally, there is a delicious chocolate shop located in the center of town.
  • Location. Biarritz is a lovely coastal town. The architecture makes it seem like a quaint little city with small winding streets and such. It’s also pretty easy to navigate; with a map and a day or two you should be fine.
  • Beach. Surfing is fun! Biarritz is a large surfing area, so there are plenty of places where you can rent a board and get a lesson; this is actually where I first tried surfing. Additionally, taking a dip in the ocean is always fun. There are a few beaches you can go to, La Grande Plage being the main beach.

How has your experience studying abroad impacted your life?

Glimmering experiences are often scattered along foreign shores.
Hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains in France

Feeling on top of the world in the Pyrenees Mountains!

Aside from language classes, I spent most of my time at La Grande Plage, the main beach. The beauty of traveling without any acquaintances, friends, or family, is that it allows me to rely on myself and form new friendships. As the sun descended into a beautiful sunset, the beach came alive with people from around the world, leaving footprints in the soft sand. It was here I mastered the art of throwing a rugby ball with my Irish friends. I even learned how to say a few sentences in Spanish from Nico, in Italian from Ilaria, and in Irish from Sam. 

Needless to say, I returned home with many new memories and friends. I still keep in contact with some of these friends, and will remember Travis Stryker whose life was cut short shortly after.

If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?

For one, I would make the trip longer. I know that’s probably the classic response (I mean who wouldn’t want to be in Europe longer?), but it’s true. I did the two and a half week program as opposed to the month, since the month program started before school ended for me, and by the end of the two and a half weeks I was sad to go.
Second, I would allow the second session kids to have the option to go on the same trips as the first session. For example, my session didn’t go to San Sebastian since first session went there.
Whitewater rafting in France

White-water rafting on a hot day!

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would go to a different part of France or a French speaking part of Switzerland. I feel like it would be a great experience to see a new place while getting more adept in the language.