This is it, guys! In approximately one week, around 50 IES Abroad students, including myself, will be taking the leap out of the U.S. towards Nantes, France! Now that I’m so close, however, I’m almost terrified that something tragic is going to happen before I can get on that plane. Like a lost visa, or worse: my latest nightmare (this is real) comes true, and I wind up taking the wrong plane to my college in Ohio instead of the one to France! Ok, ok, that’s probably not going to happen. I know these fears are irrational, for the most part, but it’s going to be hard to get them to quiet down until I’m physically in France, living my dream. In the meantime, I’ve come up with a list of activities to help myself and others (if they are struggling with similar emotions), forget our pre-departure panic while simultaneously helping us get a bit more prepared before the big step.
The nature of YouTube makes it a great resource for language learners. First off, as Hugo Cotton states in his video Les films français... incompréhensibles?, it is hard to understand a new language if multiple people are talking, and YouTube videos normally only feature one or two speakers. Hugo also explains how it is easier to learn from people who we feel emotionally connected to; on YouTube, we can find like-minded people who upload videos regularly, allowing us to remain invested in their life events. Furthermore, the shortness of YouTube videos makes it easy to replay them over and over in order to translate the YouTuber’s dialogue. Finally, by translating each YouTuber's facial expressions and utilizing the images they use in their videos, language learners can understand their content without entirely understanding their speech. Subtitles are also available on some videos to turn on when needed.
Here are some of the YouTube channels I’ve been watching throughout the summer:
InnerFrench is the channel of Hugo Cotton. His videos and podcasts are focused on French instruction, but instead of explaining grammar topics he talks about relevant French cultural topics and world news at an intermediate French level that makes learning French fun.
Cyprien is another native speaker. His channel features short, humorous videos and longer, thought-provoking court métrages. He is one of the most popular YouTubers in France with over 14 million subscribers.
DamonandJo is one of my favorite channels, featuring two American YouTubers who use their videos to inspire others to learn languages and explore the world. They are very entertaining and have videos in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and yes—French!
Several other great channels include Easy Languages, which features interviews with everyday French passersby, and Patricia B, who does interesting America-France comparisons.
If you already know a bit of your host country's language, watching some of its YouTubers may be a great way to improve your language skills and cultural knowledge.
If, like me, you’ve always wanted to work out more but feet like things are too crazy with school, summer’s the perfect time to break out your running shoes or yoga mat. No one wants to deal with an unexpected health issue while abroad. We can do our best to prevent any problems by keeping up our fitness before and during the trip.
A nice side-effect of my weekly neighborhood runs has been being able to get quality time with my home town before leaving it for the whole academic year. The comfortingly familiar roads and the endorphin-releasing act of running have helped to calm my mind in the face of the widely unfamiliar aspects of the upcoming trip.
Furthermore, while running, it doesn’t hurt to listen to some upbeat French music! Any kind of auditory practice helps to improve French understanding.
Sometimes, the excitement to travel is too strong to be distracted by French YouTube videos or exercise. In that case, I break out the next best thing—virtual traveling! Simply look up Nantes on Google Maps, then lift and drag the small yellow human figure on the lower right-hand corner of the screen and drag it to your desired location. Voila! You can walk around the streets of Nantes weeks before even setting foot in the city. Even better, look up the IES Abroad Center address or the address of your host family in order to explore pathways to and from both locations.
Learn about traveling in your host country
If you haven’t had much travel experience before, or just wish to hone your knowledge of your host country, there are many resources available. I, for one, could definitely benefit from travel tips surrounding, say, how to not embarrass myself when having dinner with my host family, what to wear so that my clothes don’t scream TOURIST, or what in the world to do during my horrifying 12-hour layover. Here are some of the places where I’ve found good information:
Public Libraries generally have a good collection of travel and language books.
YouTube once again stands as an all-around great resource for travel information. Personally, I’ve been using the channel “Walter’sWorld” to access information on what to wear, how to act, and how to avoid boredom in France and at the airport. Walter breaks tips down simply and efficiently in each video.
IES Abroad Blogs are probably the best first-hand resources we will get for traveling to and around our host country as IES Abroad students. I’ve breezed through many of them already and have found that they have answered many of my questions on food choices and possible activities while abroad.
As time speeds up, I find that with each YouTube video I watch or travel book I read, I feel a little bit more confident and comfortable with the idea of traveling halfway across the globe. This feeling of preparedness is allowing me to relax, take deep breaths, and enjoy spending the next couple of weeks with my friends and family at home.
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<p>My name is Miah Chu Won Tapper. I come from a large family with two younger brothers and three younger step-siblings, whom I live with on the small island of Oahu, Hawaii. I’ve always had a passion for traveling but until now I’ve only traveled the world in books. As a French major, I’m so excited to be able to continue the adventure in Nantes, France. </p>