Alumni Spotlight: Mary Kate Carter


Mary Kate is a people lover, hard worker, and an adventure seeker who took full advantage of her study abroad experience in Lyon, France.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to study in Lyon because I wanted to be in a city I had no preconceived notions about. I was also looking for three specific criteria: a Francophone country, French language immersion, and a homestay.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

USAC was very helpful throughout the entire abroad process. They led us with specific step-by-step instructions from the application period until we stepped onto the plane. I got my flight and my visa, but USAC was there to help and answered any questions I had.

Additionally, the on-site staff were great and were always there for students. I am more independent, so I didn't feel the need to go to them too often, but when I did, they were great resources and super helpful. They also organized fun field trips and volunteer opportunities for us!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Don't be afraid to mess up, make mistakes, and fail a little bit! Going abroad in its entirety is a learning experience; no one expects you to know the language, city, or culture perfectly.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Students will be in class for 4-5 days per week, but there is also plenty of time to explore the city! Depending on whether a student is in a homestay, dorm, or apartment, they will eat dinner with their family, cook for themselves, or eat out. There are also opportunities to volunteer to teach English to French students, so most participants will engage in that experience at least once per week.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

In all honesty, I was terrified to live with total strangers in a city I knew nothing about while speaking a foreign language. However, my family made me feel right at home and let me control how much time I spent with them. I ate dinner with them and watched the French news almost every evening.

How do you feel your language skills progressed throughout the program?

I definitely feel more confident in my speaking, though I am still by no means fluent. It was fun though, because everyday speaking is slightly different than what you learn in class, so you just have to roll with it, not be afraid to mess up, and have fun! Two tips to improve your speaking the most: live with a host family and make French friends!