Learning to Speak a New Culture

The fact that I had to change the language back into English in order to type this is a testament to my attempt to truly integrate myself into the French culture and language while I’m abroad in Paris. Although my computer may be set to French, it is still a daily struggle to communicate with my professors and host family, although I do notice my language skills improving. Writing my papers in French and trying to take notes in lecture is more difficult than I could have anticipated, but one of my favorite things about my abroad experience has been learning outside of the physical classroom.

One of my courses “Nineteenth Century French Painting” has a component where students meet once a week at the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay to interpret the paintings we learn about in class in person. I aspire to work in a museum one day, so the ability to be in front of the works while discussing them is not only a great cultural experience, but also it is also helping me in developing my skills of visual analysis.

Another one of my classes called “Castles and Gardens” also has an excursion component, and each week we spend half of the seminar in lecture and the other half going off into the city to tour the historical buildings and landscapes we have learned.

Being able to explore museums, galleries, and historic buildings in Paris both as part of my classes and on my own has been one of the most valuable parts of studying abroad for me. Although I am used to living in a major city like Philadelphia, I too rarely take the time to wander and get lost when I am so busy at Penn. 

-Hannah Fagin