Jillian is from Chicago and studied Global Studies and Biblical & Theological Studies in college. She studied abroad in Angers, France with World Endeavors.
How do you feel looking back on your experience in France?
I realized once I got back that I learned more than I thought I did—not that I didn’t think I learned a lot, already. Three of my goals were to make more international friends (check), amp up my French comprehension (check), and expand my worldview (check).
Did you have any reservations before leaving for France?
I had never been abroad before and I really had no reservations. Nearly six months before, I had been preparing to study abroad in Madagascar (that trip fell through at the last minute) and when I asked some friends who’d already been abroad what to expect or prepare for, many said to just go with a clean slate and open mind. They said I should be prepared to feel confused at times and that I should be ready to learn a lot. Since I’d been preparing for Madagascar, a country many “outsiders” have never been to, I didn’t even know what to think—my mind was literally blank short of pictures I’d seen online. So, that being said, I was already a clean slate for France!
How was living with a host family? Do you have any interesting or special moments to share?
My host family consisted of one 80-year old woman and her 30-year grandson, and shortly after an Irish girl, who became a good friend during my stay. It was actually quite a modern family, in the fact that the family was so fluid, because literally around the corner from us were her daughter, the daughter’s husband, their daughter and another host-student. In that one month, we had at least three get-togethers that were full of equal parts idle and serious talk, dinner and dessert and usually some form of silly, albeit infectious and entertaining diversion. I grew to love crème fraîche, petting Oshka the family dog that actually went between the 2 households, and hanging around the backyard garden complete with a chaise lounge and fruit trees.
In that short time, I can recall three particularly special moments. While I was there, my host mother celebrated her 80th birthday for which I gave her a bracelet and a pair of earrings. After she opened it, she put it all on immediately and promptly kissed me on the forehead amongst “merci beaucoup” (many thanks). The second special moment was a surprise family dinner that we had. I can home from class one day and my host mother met in the hallway and asked if I had eaten already. I said no and she smiled then quickly ushered me into the dining room where both host-girls were seating at the fully decorated table. The final special moment was during the Irish girl’s 22nd birthday dinner. It was my first time having escargot—and it wasn’t bad!
How did you get around in Angers?
My school was within walking distance from my house and most other places I needed to go. Plus, I am from Chicago, where we are certainly not strangers to public transportation and walking. That part was a cinch!
Did you get to do any traveling?
CIDEF [The International Center for French Studies – the academic program at the Université designed for international students] led excursions for the students. Although I didn’t buy a ticket, one of the CIDEF students was invited on a getaway with her host family that same weekend, so she gave me her ticket! We traveled to Mt. St. Michel in Normandy and after that to St. Malo. Those places were amazing, there’s no other word for them. I took tons of pictures, because the place was good sized. Mt. St. Michel was this old monastery build on an island that would disappear and reappear during alternating high and low tides. We visited during low tide, so the connecting skinny land bridge was visible.
What are you doing now? Any travel plans for the future?
Right now, I am currently in the process of finishing up my last semester of college and I’m beginning to apply for grad school where I’ll pursue anthropology—my first love of all academic interests.
In the future, I’d like to be the director of an immigrant/refugee or other humanitarian aid program/organization and even a U.S. ambassador to a francophone African country. I have a sincere passion to improve people’s lives and help them reach their potential and I’ve always been drawn to Africa, ever since I was little kid. I love history, cultures, people and languages.
Would you recommend World Endeavors to other interested in studying abroad?
I would totally recommend World Endeavors to others interested in studying abroad—and I’m not just saying that because the staff at WE has been fantastically understanding about my particular financial situation. After visiting the site numerous times, I’ve looked at other programs, especially those in Africa, and I want to participate in them so badly. They sound amazing and I know I would learn so much and hopefully give so much in return. Also, the staff seems to get really invested in the individual applicant they’re working with. Every time I spoke with someone on the phone, they always addressed me by name in the kindest manner—it was exceptional and tremendously appreciated.