Digging into Food & Culture in Nantes: Ambassador of the Month Iggy Takahashi

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Victoria Bruick
September 22, 2017
Our Ambassador of the Month, Iggy Takahashi, shares her experience studying abroad in Nantes, France


Meet Iggy Takahashi, our September 2017 Ambassador of the Month! She shares her appreciation for hands-on learning, what it was like studying abroad with a food allergy, her tips for making the most of the study abroad experience, and what it was like to study abroad in France.

Iggy is a Biochemistry and French Studies double major at the University of Portland. In Spring 2016, Iggy studied abroad on our Nantes – French Language Immersion & Area Studies Program. She’s currently finishing her last semester of college, and she looks forward to either teaching English in France, or going to graduate school for food science after graduation.

IES Abroad: What most surprised you about your study abroad location?

Iggy Takahashi (IT): Before arriving, I went on Google Maps and Google Earth street view to get an idea of the area I would be spending my time in. It was a little hard to tell that the IES Abroad Nantes Center is literally one or two blocks from a 'downtown' area. Shopping, tourist attractions, and restaurants are all very close by, and convenient. There were so many things to do in such a short amount of time!

IES Abroad: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before studying abroad, what would it be?

IT: Don't sleep in and stay in on the weekends! Go explore and walk around the city, even if it means going to events and locations alone. Don't let fear and being out of your comfort zone restrict your actions. Step way out of your comfort zone, do weird things, go see that museum exhibition. Just go do more things!

IES Abroad: What questions do you get about studying abroad in France?

IT: "How was the food?" Uhh, amazing, obviously! There are so many products that aren't available in the United States that are delicious and super unique. Also, "What were classes like?" They were Interesting and fun. I learned so much about French culture and history. Learning those things in French is a lot different from learning it in English. You get a more personalized lecture from someone who has experienced these things first-hand.

Iggy studying abroad in Nantes

IES Abroad: Did you feel that an element of your identity affected your study abroad experience?

IT: I am a lifelong vegetarian, and am allergic to walnuts, pecans, and shrimp. I've carried an Epi-Pen or other epinephrine injector since 2003, even though I've luckily never had to use it. At first I was a little hesitant about studying abroad, but I realized that as long as I was cautious and knew how to explain my allergies in French, I would be okay.

My dietary restrictions did affect my experience a little, since every restaurant my friends and I went to had to have some kind of vegetarian option. Thankfully it was fairly easy, but I still would feel like a burden when my friends really wanted to eat somewhere, but couldn't just because I couldn't eat there. I also wasn't able to eat some of the French delicacies like escargot or foie gras in my French Cooking & Gastronomy class (which was okay, but it was still a missed experience). In the end, it didn't have too much of an effect. If you have a dietary restriction, do not hesitate to study abroad!

IES Abroad: What advice do you have for other students on funding their study abroad experience?

IT: Definitely save up, but don't be afraid to splurge a little! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you should definitely take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Have fun, be adventurous, and definitely take advantage of any discounts you get from having a French visa (like free museum visits!).

IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?

IT: Study abroad is a means of expanding your education to a more global and international scale. It's a way of experiencing things from another culture's perspective and trying to fully understand that culture. The culture in which you study abroad will be very different to the culture that you were born and raised in. These differences could be as simple as how you address people, or as complicated as types of clothing worn in specific circumstances. Studying abroad truly lets you experience these differences first-hand, which, in my opinion, is priceless compared to learning these differences from a textbook.

IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

IT: Go! You will not regret studying abroad, but if you don't, you will regret not going forever. Studying abroad is one of the best options for travelling abroad, in terms of what you get for what you pay. You have the opportunity to be completely immersed in a foreign culture, allowing you to fully explore and discover everything in the area.

IES Abroad: Anything else you want to add?

IT: Studying abroad was definitely my favorite semester of my entire college career. Nothing can replace the food I ate, experiences I had, friends I made, and adventures I embarked on. Trust me when I say you won’t regret a thing if you study abroad. Every moment is worth it, the good ones and even the bad ones. The good moments give you memories to fondly look back on, the bad moments give you lessons to reflect on, and both give you the opportunity to change and grow as an individual. So, go study abroad, have fun, do wild and crazy things, travel, explore, and come home having learned about the culture, about you as a person, and having had one of the best semesters in your college career!

Thanks, Iggy! 

Do you have more questions about what it's like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. They're recent IES Abraod alums with a lot of study abroad expertise, and the volunteer to answer your questions. They're here to help!


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Victoria Bruick

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