Jul 20, 2011

Proudly UC Beyond Our Borders: Rachel Kohler

As a student, UC alum Rachel Kohler had the opportunity to study abroad in Grenoble, France during the fall quarter in 2010. Rachel, a double major in French and English shared her experience with us.

How did you decide to study abroad and why did you choose that specific place?

As a French major I always knew that I wanted to study abroad in France to increase my fluency of the language, but to also become more culturally aware. I wanted to experience a foreign country and  I’ve always been attracted to the allure of France.

Where did you stay during your trip abroad?

I lived with a host family during my stay in France. I absolutely loved staying with a host family. It allowed me to observe a dynamic that was very different than mine and offered me a better immersion experience in both the language and the culture. Living with a new family in a completely foreign setting was hard to adjust to at first, but my family was very warm and welcoming. In my particular situation I had five host siblings, four of which lived at home. I come from a small family with just one brother, so having the opportunity to have sisters was wonderful.

What were some highlights of your study abroad experience?

What really made my experience was the friends that I made during my trip. I studied abroad with a program that wasn’t in direct affiliation with my home university, meaning that I didn’t know anyone in my program prior to arriving in France. This forced me to be outgoing and make new friends. I made friends within my program (of about thirty people) who come from all over the United States, from Alaska to South Carolina. I also made friends within my host university from all over the world. It was easy to form a connection because we all share the same passion for French.

I firmly believe in the quote “Wherever you are it is your friends who make your world,” by William James. Without friends your experience won’t be as worthwhile. When I arrived in France I didn’t have any attachment to home, no sense of comfort, so I was forced to find friends and make a connection in France, which along the journey teaches you a lot about yourself.

I also liked the change in atmosphere and the new environment. Coming from Ohio, the terrain is much different from Grenoble where the city is encompassed by the Alps. The city is fairly large, but still has a quaint feel to it, and is a much older, historical town adding to the charm of it.

Why was this trip so important to you and your education?

Being a French major I felt that it was my duty, my responsibility, to go to France and learn. It is important to experience the French language in France because it contains a certain richness that can only be found in its country of origin. To fully comprehend the language on a deeper level and gain a true sense of the culture, it is necessary to study/travel abroad, without it, you’re missing out on so much.

How do you see your experiences abroad helping with your career and future?

I think studying abroad definitely gives me an advantage when it comes to career opportunities. Having the experience of living in France for an extended amount of time may open doors for me to work abroad in the future. Studying abroad in France for almost four months says that I am capable in the language and am able to get by and may open up possibilities within my career field. I hope that I find a career involving my French abilities since I am very passionate about French, and I think studying abroad is a stepping stone into my future and where my career may lead me.

Anything else about your experience you would like to share?

It’s hard to have expectations going into a study abroad experience. At first, it’s overwhelming, then it’s exciting, and then it’s frustrating, but once you get over all the logistics of it, you realize that all the effort you put into planning is entirely worth it, because any expectations you may have had are blown away with excellence. Studying abroad was absolutely the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Not only did I have the time of my life, but I learned a lot and now hold this unique experience close to my heart.

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