I chose this program because I had already done the one French study abroad that was available directly through my home university, and I only needed a few more credits to get my French minor. After doing some research online, I found that USAC had the most affordable programs. I was back and forth between their Lyon and Pau programs, but I had studied in Grenoble the summer before (which is close to Lyon), and wanted to try a new region.
Avery graduated in summer 2019 from the University of Utah with a degree in International Studies and a minor in French. She is now living in Seattle preparing for law school to combine her interests in international issues, French, and advocacy.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The USAC staff organized a lot for us. They found our host families and gave us their contact information, organized the classes/placed us into appropriate groups, and organized outings like going to Bayonne/Biarritz, hiking in the Pyrenees, river rafting, cheese tasting, and so much more! They even took us downtown during the first few days and showed us where to get a bus pass.
The only thing I organized on my own was any extra travel that I did.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I wish I had known just how small of a town Pau was. The summer before, I had lived in Grenoble and went to the University of Grenoble Alpes, which is a giant research institution. Because of that, the city had an accessible metro and great nightlife.
Pau is completely different.
I lived in the suburbs this time around, and the only transportation system was the bus (and the last one from downtown to my house was around 5 pm, so I could never be out later than that). I enjoyed the quiet life in the suburbs, but if it was my first study abroad I would've been a bit disappointed at the lack of nightlife/convenient transportation.
Also, I wish I had known that PAU IS RAINY! I went for the summer session 1 and only had one jacket and one pair of long pants, and I had to wear those clothes every single day! Dress warm!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
I believe that I had to leave my house by around 7:45 each morning to catch the bus and get to class, but I didn't mind getting up so early. I was normally in class until around noon, unless we had our extra class (survey of art) in the afternoon.
After class, you can do whatever you want. Sometimes I went downtown after class, but most days I would head back to the suburbs and spend time with my host family.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Hmm. Again, because of my previous study abroad experience, my biggest fear was that this study abroad wouldn't live up to the last one. I overcame it by trying to make the most of every experience and by doing as much as possible with my host family.
It's true that I didn't experience as much nightlife/life downtown, but I still developed friendships with the other two girls in my area and with my host family. And the area is beautiful - the Pyrenees took my breath away. I still stay in touch with both of my host families to this day and said they would gladly welcome me back!
I left Pau feeling that, although the experience was different from the summer before, it was still fulfilling in its own way.
What was your favorite memory from your study abroad?
It's so hard to pick, but one of my favorite memories was going to the Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees. We took a bus and went to the zoo, and then drove into the Pyrenees and had lunch. The Pyrenees are misty, lush, and mysterious.
When we started our hike, I couldn't believe how green and lush these mountains were compared to any that I had seen. Getting to the top was incredible, as we saw dozens of waterfalls all falling in the same area.
I will definitely never forget that day!