Gail Yang - 2015 Program Participant

Chenonceau, France

A beautiful day at Chenonceau!

How did you decide to study abroad?

Ever since I found out that I could go abroad for a part of the school year in high school, I have wanted to do just that. Originally, I just wanted to experience a different culture, but as time progressed, I also wanted to improve my language and communication skills and completely immerse myself in a culture that is very different from the one I grew up in.

Why did you choose to study abroad with IES Abroad?

I actually originally chose to study abroad in Strasbourg using an exchange program from my home university, Northwestern University. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the partnership between the two universities fell through and my study abroad advisor presented me with two other options, one of which was IES Abroad Nantes. I chose it over the other program for a couple of reasons, one was the requirement that all students are with host families, not in international dormitories, for the duration of the semester. Another was the freedom to choose classes either with the program or at local universities.

What was your favorite part about Nantes?

Nantes is an absolutely amazing place to live! I'm not sure I could choose just one aspect that is my favorite, but I will highlight that there are not that many foreigners in Nantes (at least compared to Paris); this means that virtually everyone there speaks only French. I believe my French speaking skills improved and my French vocabulary grew because I was in an environment where I could only speak French in order to communicate with everyone.

View of Notre Dame and the love locks in France

Notre Dame and the love locks (before they were taken down)

What makes the IES Abroad Nantes program unique?

IES Abroad Nantes has a wonderful staff that supports you when you need it, but also gives you the freedom to take the classes you want, participate in activities with the other students and French students, and explore France and Europe. I will also add that most, if not all, of the students who studied abroad in Nantes with me wanted to improve their language skills, so if you are looking to do that, I highly recommend this program!

In what ways did the local staff support you throughout your time in Nantes?

The staff at IES Abroad Nantes are there to support you and give advice when you need it, but also give you the freedom to pursue what you want. They provided the perfect balance that I was looking for in a study abroad program, in terms of freedom, but also having a home base to come back to.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I had attempted to talk to more French students in the classes I was taking at the local university. From what I have heard from previous students and what I experienced, the French students have tight friend groups and it is rather intimidating to try and impose yourself into those friend groups.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Typically, I had two or three classes each day, split between the local university and the program. I would get up and eat breakfast at my homestay and go to class. Depending on the day (and the weather), I would do a number of things. I would go back home or stay at the program center to work on homework. Once a week, I tutored two French students in English. Sometimes, I would go out with friends and walk around Nantes or sit in a park until dinnertime. I would have dinner with my host mom and occasionally we would watch a film (in French of course!).

What did you enjoy doing outside of your coursework?

I absolutely loved the trips we took within France! My favorite was the trip we took to Normandy; it was so interesting to see the impact World War II had on France and the devastation that took place in such a short span of time.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I was in an apartment with my host mom. It was the perfect amount of space for me and my favorite aspect was actually that we went to see my host mom's best friend occasionally since she lived just one floor above us! I loved hearing her stories and all of her experiences with her study abroad students!

View of Nantes, France

A wonderful view of Nantes on a sunny sunny day!

How has studying abroad impacted your life at home?

I often find myself missing what I had in France. I didn't realize how much I missed it, until my Dad pointed out that I talked about France fairly often and that it was clear to him that I missed my life there. I also find I am more tolerant and willing to listen to other people's opinions after spending a semester abroad in a country where some of my opinions on certain subjects were not the most popular.