My RRIF Story: Studying in Paris
The following post was written by Staci Shelby, JRF Scholar Class of 2019.
I began my French studies in the fourth grade and I have been taking classes ever since. This summer, I decided to spend a month in Paris to improve my French and learn more about the country’s political system. Currently, I study French and Political Science at Louisiana State University (LSU).
I absolutely love the French language and this trip was a great way to expand my vocabulary and use my skills outside of a traditional classroom setting. Although many of the people in Paris speak English, I challenged myself to only use English when talking to other LSU students on my trip and speak French with everyone else. This challenged me in several ways and improved my confidence. Only speaking in French was mostly a positive experience. However, I sometimes found myself not knowing the correct word to use or asking people to speak slower so that I could understand. It could get rather awkward, but without the uncomfortableness I wouldn’t have learned. I did my best to embrace the awkwardness in order to grow.
My French class provided a way to practice my language skills and a way to get out and see the city. In class, we studied the history and culture of Paris. When we read about a certain monument or building, we got to see it with our own eyes. For me, those unique experiences are irreplaceable and why study abroad is so important.
In addition to my French culture class, I also took a French politics class which greatly expanded my view of politics. After I graduate, I plan to go to law school. Although I have a passion for politics, change, and justice, I am not certain what path I will take. Nonetheless, this trip showed me options that I didn’t even know existed. I was able to visit the United States Embassy in Paris, the European Union headquarters in Brussels, and the University of Brussels to talk with political experts about their jobs and solutions to global issues. These experiences vastly expanded the way I viewed certain issues and exposed me to several opportunities to consider post law school.
Beyond learning about French and political science, it was truly interesting to study abroad in Paris and observe the similarities and differences between our political systems, school systems, and views on prominent issues or figures.
This trip taught me new ways to solve issues and to communicate. Seeing how the French government and European Union addressed problems that still face my country and community expanded the way I view these problems and how I think they can be changed. For example, the way the French deal with gender inequality in politics is very progressive and gives me hope for the future of women in politics.
Overall, the language barrier and being with a new group of LSU students sometimes forced me to change the way I communicate and I became a more effective communicator as a result. Both a new perspective and improved communication skills will help me as I further my education and beyond.