By Natalia Asis, Secretary

Linda Viraphondeth at Ponts Des Arts (photo courtesy of Linda Viraphondeth)

Linda Viraphondeth at Ponts Des Arts (photo courtesy of Linda Viraphondeth)

 

The opportunity to study abroad is quite unique and many students from the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) are able to experience it every year. Even though there are many pros and cons to consider, many agree that this is a life-changing event.

Last Spring four seniors from UMF, Meghan Fogg an english major, Tobias Logan  an international and global studies (IGS) major, Mathew Theriault an IGS major, and Linda Viraphondeth,  also an IGS major spent a semester at Université du Maine in Le Mans, France.

They picked that school for different reasons. Fogg explained that she went to France because she had never gone overseas before. Viraphondeth was interested in learning about different cultures, and Logan was looking for a new way of travelling. “I really like to go traveling but that was starting to get pretty old and I decided that it would be fun to travel but also get credit for it,” said Logan. “I knew I wanted to travel to French-speaking countries the most, so that’s why I decided to learn the language at UMF.”

Theriault enjoyed being a student in France. “In Le Mans, compared to Farmington, it’d be a rare day to have more than one class a day and, on top of that, you don’t get a lot of homework. It’s reading and studying; that’s what you do,” said Theriault. “It really lessened the stress so I was able to focus on the social aspect of being in France and meeting people. One of the best things is that there is no such thing as a research project,” said Theriault. “For me not to write more than a five-page paper was astounding.”

Students returned home with great stories to tell. “My single best memory from France probably was going to a concert in Paris,” said Logan. “It was really nice to go with Matt and Meghan because they’d never been in Paris before.” Viraphondeth highlighted that most of her favorite are connected to travelling and visiting Paris and Nice.

However, studying abroad means actually “living” abroad. While in France, they also came across  problems they had to overcome and solve. “Doing important paperwork and documents in French, like opening a bank account was hard,” said Fogg. Some students felt nervous in the beginning of their stay when communicating in French. “I was trying to speak it,” said Viraphondeth, “but at the same time I felt ‘uh, I don’t know the words.’”

Back in the United States, they all agreed that they miss the food the most, namely bread and cheese. “We’d go to cafés and we’d get those cute little tartes and the petits cafés,” said Fogg. She also stated that she misses all the street signs being in French. Logan also misses being able to travel and discover other places. “One thing about Europe is that all the countries are so close and there are trains and cheap planes,” said Logan. “If you have a three-day weekend, you could just go anywhere you want.”

What studying abroad comes down to is to be able to see things differently. “It gave me a more well-rounded understanding of this culture,” said Logan. Viraphondeth emphasized how being far away actually brings you closer to your loved ones. “You become closer to your family and friends because you talk to them all the time,” said Viraphondeth.

“I got to be really independent because no one is there to give you a handicap,” said Theriault. “There comes the time when you say, ‘I really wanna travel by myself,’ and doing it really opens your eyes and boosts up your confidence. I could take on anything by myself.”