Erin Sandberg - 2006 Program Participant

Erins living room in Nantes, France. Photo by Erin Sandberg
Erin’s living room in Nantes, France. Photo by Erin Sandberg

Why did you decide to study abroad?  

I had been taking French since 3rd grade, and wanted to finally put it to use. My mom also studied abroad in college, so it was something she strongly encouraged me to do as well.

Why did you choose IES specifically? 

My French professor strongly recommended the program for its language immersion focus.

Describe a typical day at IES in Nantes.

I'd usually wake up, get ready, and either walk or take a short bus ride to the Center, grabbing a little breakfast along the way. Once I was at the Center, I'd either go to class or would head to one of the study areas to catch up with friends or do homework. I'd usually be at the Center for most of the school day either in class or doing homework, and would either make lunch there or would go out with friends for lunch. After school I'd usually head back to my host family's house where I'd play with the kids and help them with some homework. We'd eat dinner as a family around 7 or 8, which was always the best part of the day. After dinner I'd hang out in the living room w/my host parents, or would meet some friends out for a drink.

What was the most unusual or unique experience you had during your program? 

Going with my host family in their minivan to the kids' swimming practice. The kids did their lessons while my host mom and I just swam and hung out. We took the minivan home and had homemade pizza for dinner. It just felt so normal--like something you'd do the in the US--but it was all just a little different.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in Nantes? 

The language aspect. I'd been taking French for a long time, but wasn't that great at it. Especially in the beginning, I felt really overwhelmed, especially having to still speak French when I got home from school. It was exhausting. But before long I got used to it, and it greatly, greatly improved my language skills in a way that wouldn't be possible if I had stayed at home.

What was your favorite part of the program? Least favorite? 

My favorite parts were the IES Abroad staff in Nantes and my host family. You basically have two groups of locals there who are excited to have you there, who want to make sure you're having a good experience, and who are there to support you. I'm still very grateful to all of them. I honestly don't have a least favorite part of the program. Some days are hard, for sure, but you get over it. Overall it's a great experience.

Looking back, what advice you would give future participants? 

Step outside your comfort zone and get involved in activities with the University, even if you're not very confident in your language skills. I wish I would have done that more.

What about Nantes would make you want to return?

I'd go back to Nantes because it's just a great French city without too many tourists (hardly any Anglophones at all). Not to mention the food and the museums are awesome!

What students would you recommend this program to? 

I'd recommend it to students who want to improve their French and get a taste of the everyday life of the modern French family. You'll also meet some amazing friends from all over the US.

How has your experience abroad impacted your career afterwards? 

Well, I eventually went on to work in the study abroad field--at the IES Abroad office in Chicago--so I'd say it impacted my career significantly. I don't work in study abroad anymore, but even in a job interview for a copywriting job, study abroad came up and was a great tool to leverage in my interview.