It wasn’t Madeline and her yellow hat, poodles and their fancy haircuts, or berets and French fashion statements. It wasn’t the promise of baguettes and Nutella, fresh cheeses, or even chocolate moose. It wasn’t about the La Tour Eiffel, La Louvre, or Moulin Rouge. It wasn’t even about the fact that I couldn’t write the upside down question marks for Spanish class in middle school (okay, maybe a little). It was about the culture, the language, and the lifestyle—it was about discovering what I knew was a part of me and what I knew always would be.
I’ve loved everything about the French language since second grade, but it wasn’t until August of 2008 that I was able to learn it. I still remember my first day of French class. My teacher had given my class a list of French words and phrases to memorize. I became overwhelmed at the daunting task of memorizing a foreign language, but also delighted at the challenge of finally learning what I’d been waiting years to discover.
My junior year I took French History and French Art History. We spent the days learning about Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Voltaire. I fell in love with the works of Monet, Cézanne, and Degas. It was through this year in my French education that I realized I wanted my experience with French to be more than just grammar exercises and oral exams. I wanted to understand France, the history, culture, and what it means to be French.
Since that moment, I’ve soaked up every bit of French imaginable. Whether it’s subscribing to a daily French instructional email, watching Disney classics in French, or enjoying a simple conversation with MU’s French Club, I’ve learned to make French a part of my everyday life.
I came to MU uncertain of where my passion for French would lead me. I grew up in a Chicago suburb, and I made the move to Missouri specifically for the journalism school. I started taking French during my first semester and fell in love with the program. I knew that MU would provide me with the resources to become the best possible French speaker, so in the spring of 2013 I officially enrolled as a dual degree student in Journalism and French, and haven’t regretted my decision since.
This past September I applied for a study abroad exchange program in Paris, France. I submitted my application and hoped for the best.
But just four days later, I received an email informing me that the program would no longer be in Paris. It had been moved to the city of Reims, the place where most of France’s kings were coronated and the champagne capital of the world.
While I was excited at the idea of popping some bubbly in such a historically rich city, I couldn’t help but wonder if this city was the right place for me.
But then I did some research and this is what I found:
And I realized that this surprise plan would be even better. It would be a challenge. I didn’t know much about Reims, but as the first group from MU to study there, we will have the opportunity to pave the pathway for future students. We’ll be able to seek out the untold stories, and write about this cities intricacies. And isn’t that what journalism is all about?
There are many different places and events that might impact me the most during my time in France. It may be an early morning stroll, a late night class, or the coffee shop where I’ll study for my first exam. And it quite possibly could be the baker at the local boulangerie, the neighbor upstairs, or one of my professors. But it will definitely be the experience. It will be the memories, the life lessons, and the friendships. It will be knowing I found a part of myself, knowing that I found a second home.