Do It Scared!

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Grace Heaton
February 13, 2024

Taking off on a new adventure always brings a strange dichotomy of excitement and fear. To outsiders watching me start my third study abroad experience in college, it might seem like I am fearless and very disconnected from my university. But, in reality, I am someone often riddled with anxiety and a profound feeling of missing my friends and community at my university when I am abroad. So, why go abroad again, you might ask? Because college is one of the few times in our lives where we don’t have to worry about certain responsibilities of adulthood, and also because it’s better to do something scared than not do it at all.

So, with that established, it begs the question, why Nantes? I have been studying French since the ripe age of 12 years old. There often comes a time in the study of any language where the learner tends to reach a bit of a plateau. When you reach this plateau, what typically needs to happen is an immersion experience that will really push the boundaries of your knowledge of that language and force you to learn more. That is where I was at in my French learning career. In terms of academic French, I had always excelled in reading, listening, and writing, but the skill I needed to develop the most to become fluent was my speaking, particularly with native speakers. Nantes was the perfect program to push the boundaries of this threshold, and even in the month that I’ve been here so far, I feel like I have made immense progress in all aspects of learning a language.

But that isn’t to say that it hasn’t been very tough at times. When studying in Vienna with IES Abroad, the adjustment period felt a lot easier for me, since I was living in an environment where we spoke English, and the majority of my classes were in English as well. I was living in a foreign country, but still had the comfort to fall back on speaking and getting to know others in my native language. In Nantes, the experience is a similar comfort of American customs in IES Abroad courses, but there are other aspects that are extremely different from that of Vienna.

For one, Nantes students have the privilege of living in host families during our time abroad. My host family has been very welcoming to me since the moment I arrived. We have made plenty of desserts together in my first few weeks here, and it has been extremely rewarding to spend several dinners with them every week, learning about French family culture, French culture in general, and of course French gastronomy as well.

Another difference about the Nantes program is that all of our courses are in French. The IES Abroad courses are in French and range in a variety of topics, including but not limited to phonetics, gastronomy, history, religion, and more. We also have the opportunity to take up to two classes at Nantes Université. The courses I’m taking are two of the countless options available for us, but I chose to take a German course as well as a sociology course centered on French society. Both have been fascinating so far.

I think the most difficult part of the adjustment to life in Nantes has been speaking French the majority of the day. Even for someone who has taken French for the better part of nine years, learning, conversing, and getting to know others in my second language has proven to be more difficult than I once thought. I think the adjustment has been more difficult due to the sheer amount of time that I am spending thinking and translating about what I’m saying next, as it can get very exhausting. This experience has given me an increased understanding and respect for all the international students at my home university, as it is truly not easy to acclimate to an environment where you are constantly analyzing everything that you are hearing, saying, and reading.

Despite the difficulties that living life in a foreign language can bring, it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I can’t wait to reflect at the end of the semester and think about all the progress I will have made in French. For now, I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all and giving you a true look into what your life could look like in Nantes. But, as always, my best advice if you’re on the fence about studying abroad is to do it scared! It will truly be one of the best experiences of your life.

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Grace Heaton

Hi! My name is Grace Heaton. I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Nantes in Spring 2024. I am a junior at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, PA studying Marketing, French, and German. I enjoy traveling, learning languages, and adventuring with friends.

Home University:
Duquesne University
Portland, OR
French Language
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