Imagine strolling along a river, almond croissant in hand, on your way to class. That was me, just a few short months ago. I always dreamed of living in France, fully immersing myself in the language and culture. USAC made that happen for me. I studied abroad in Lyon, France for five months in the spring of 2017. I had never heard of Lyon before, but after one interest meeting, I was on board.
Fast forward a few months and I was on a plane to France.I lived with a host family for the total duration of my stay, and it was one of the greatest decisions I made. My French dad was outgoing and goofy, always putting on a show, and my French mom was sweet and relaxed. I also had a 17-year old French brother, with whom I watched the newest Star Wars movie dubbed in French during my first week. We ate meals together almost every night, speaking entirely in French, which pulled me out of my comfort zone and significantly improved my language skills.
French professors at the university taught the majority of my classes, and my classmates were international students from countries in North & South America, Asia, and Africa. It was tempting to speak in English with fellow Americans, so the professors grouped the Anglophones and non-Anglophones together, making sure that we were only communicating in French. I worked on long-term projects with natives from Colombia and Ghana, which gave me an even greater intercultural experience.
USAC provided two field trips over the course of the semester. The first was a ski trip in the French Alps and the second was a tour of the Beaujolais wine region. Both trips allowed me to get to know students who were not in my classes and explore the beauty and various cultural aspects of France. USAC also offered opportunities to volunteer with English Clubs at French school. I ventured out to a French school once a week and organized activities for a group of middle school students wishing to improve their English.
Lyon was such a beautiful city to live in, with two rivers running right through the center of the city. The university’s campus is situated next to one of them, making it easy to enjoy a lunch or walk by the river in between classes. I participated in Lyon International events, which turned into some of my favorite memories in Lyon. In January we were hosted for a night of wine, cheese, and dancing, which is where I learned that these three foods are considered France's "Holy Trinity" of the table. In May, the group took us on a dinner cruise on the rivers, allowing us to take in the beauty of the city as day turned to night. On the evening before my flight home to the U.S., I attended an Olympique Lyonnais soccer game, realizing that while the French and American definitions of “football” might be different, our team spirits are one and the same.
My experience abroad was one of the greatest times of my life. I was challenged in ways that are not easy to explain, but I have returned to the U.S. with a multitude of new memories and a new perspective of the world. A small part of me will now forever be Lyonnaise.