Monday, July 6, 2009

Experience Travel Abroad

When I was in high school I had the opportunity to travel to France through the American Field Service (AFS) Program on a summer abroad program. I spent two months with a family who opened their home to me. They fed me, did my laundry, took me on road trips around France and gave me accommodation free of charge. The experience was so positive I wished that I had opted to spend the year and so I have always encouraged students to seek and grab all such opportunities.

The experience helped me in several ways, for eg:

  • Being fully immersed in a non-English speaking country (especially when your hosts don't speak English pretty much forced me to find creative ways to communicate even though I was studying the language at school. Certain phrases just escape the text books.

  • Since I was taking French at school I found that my comprehension improved significantly even though my speaking ability didn't develop as quickly.

  • As to the speaking I didn't become fluent but my accent and my pronunciation (oh that sexy french "U") became decidedly less anglicized.

  • My exposure to foreign cultures helped me to appreciate differences, embrace unusual lifestyles and become more open to and accepting of people. It is true that les Francais ne se baignent pas aussi souvent que nous and they have no problem with that. Hey we had a pool! More interestingly, my host family bred dogs and raced and showed them. It was different, exciting and unfamiliar to see the extent to which the dogs were a part of the family.

  • Living away for two months, I had to eat and grilled chicken was not a typical meal. It was interesting to hear the teenagers say how they loved their meat "almost raw" - not a problem as they were willing to apply more heat for me; but frog legs and fish roe weren't typical dinner fare in my home, neither was wine for that matter. Yes I lost some weight.

  • I learned to articulate on matters related to my background, family, country and culture in general. In other words I learned to represent my country in a positive way.

  • I made lifelong friends with whom I am communicating more now - thanks to modern technology - that I did when I just returned home.

Overall it was a fantastic experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and so I recommend these programs. However one caveat is that the program should be accredited. Make sure that you do your homework and if possible get feedback from previous beneficiaries.

In the video, President JFK is addressing AFS students, so you see that program has pedigree.


Quiskaeya said...

I had two opportunity to study abroad - one during college and one post college - and missed the boat on both. I totally agree it's such a worthwhile experience that will impact a student for life.

BTW - love the new look :) Welcome back to blogging lady!

CEOmum said...

Bet you love being bi-lingual though and French no less. My favourite foreign language.

Melanie said...

if i would not have to fly, i would love to visit and explore america and/or sweden that way...
and if you every come back to visit europe... austria is great ;-)

thank you for commenting on my blog btw :)

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Windyridge said...

When I lived in Ireland our school took a cruise to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Leningrad Russia. It was a blast. I've also been to Swansea, and London, and various places in Scotland. Now I need to see more of the US.

Cathy13 said...

I wish it was mandatory for all students to travel abroad for 1 year either pre or post university/college. It really helps put life into perspective.