Noel leaning against a railing with the Eiffel tower in the distance

Shela Pierre-Noel, 1st Place

Senior, French, Semester Abroad

University of Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France

My study abroad trip was a memorable experience. At first, I did not think it would be possible for me to go to France for a semester because of many obstacles I went through with paperwork and the visa interview. I did not think it would be possible that I would go because I couldn’t afford it, but I wanted to go. I remember having multiple conversations with Dr. Courtney Sullivan, right before and after class regarding the possibility of studying abroad. There was one time, she asked, “If you could go any place, where would it be?” I replied, France even though my probability of it happening was slim.

After multiple conversations, she motivated and encouraged me to apply for the study abroad program and the scholarships they had. I received a great deal of scholarship, and I was able to travel to Europe. Without the generosity of the donors, I would not have been able to study and live abroad for a semester.

When I arrived in France, I experienced quite a bit of culture shock there, I was also dealing with being jet lagged and trying to understand the transportation system. It was all very overwhelming, yet I was motivated to maximize my experience. It was interesting to learn about French culture because it is different from my experience. For example,

  • Cuisine
  • Hospitality
  • Clothing
  • History
  • Values/morals/manners

I was glad to have arrived there when I did. I was grateful for Paul and Allee’s hospitality. They are fellow Ichabod graduates, they met at WU and now live in Saint Quentin France, so going from point A to B with them was very nice. I stayed with them for 3 days then I headed to the school down south. One thing I will forever cherish is the great experience of being at college.

One thing I will forever cherish is the great experience of being at college. I built lifelong friendships while in Clermont Ferrand (CF). I met lots of Erasmus students from around the world and Erasmus students from all over Europe, Erasmus is a European Union student exchange program which provides students the opportunities to study throughout Europe including France. Additionally, I created relationships with all my classmates. We built a community among ourselves. We went around France together, discovering incredible historical monuments and dining at delicious restaurants. We helped each other out whenever we could and provided support to our fellow international students in whatever ways possible.

For such a big group to be able to see many historic sites and frequently hangout, much organization had to happen. International Exchange Erasmus Student Network (IEESN) provided transportation to sites such as Murol castle, Puy de Dôme, weekly hangouts at coffee shops, and the volcanic site, and Rocamadour, France. World top Erasmus Student Network (ESN) also provided tours to teach the students facts and information about wherever they were.

Clermont Ferrand (CF) is about 3 hours away by train from Paris. It is a college town, and the population is approximately 141, 398 people. It is known for the famous 80 chains of volcanic site of the region of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes. The town is well known for Puy the Dôme. Most of the buildings in CF are built with the volcanic rock known as “Volvic Pierre ''. An example of one of these buildings is the beautiful Church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption. CF is also
known for 5 cheeses: Saint Nectaire, Cantal, Salers, Fourme d’Ambert, and Bleu d’Auvergne

One of the best parts while studying abroad was my family coming all the way to Paris from Kansas to visit me. On the first trip, my aunt, uncle, and cousins came to spend the American holiday, Thanksgiving, with me. When they came, I got to see Paris for the first time. In Paris we went to Sacré-Coeur, the Louvre, Orsay, The opera ‘house (Palais Garnier), gallery Lafayette. some restaurants, and the Eiffel tower. The second trip was my sister visiting for Christmas. I showed her most of the places I went with my cousins, and we attended the Christmas Mass at Sacré-Coeur, and we went to the Palace of Versailles.

I will never forget the things I experienced in Clermont- Ferrand nor anything I did while in France. I am so thankful that I got this experience and it helped me improve my French greatly. I would absolutely love to go back to France and might even have a better time, knowing what to expect.

Group of students pose with a ESN sign
students smile while wearing rain gear and holding umbrellas
Students pose for a photo
Group of students pose and smile at a museum at Mont-Ferrand
Selfie with a friend at Bordeaux Lucia
Noel taking a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa
Noel smiling in front of Sacré-Coeur
Noel posing while wearing a mask
Noel smiling in front of lit up trees
Notre Dame de L’Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand
A group of students pose for a photo
Noel at Notre Dame de L’Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand
Petra with three other students studying abroad, standing on a beach

Petra Gay, 2nd Place

Junior, Business Marketing, Summer Abroad

The WU International Business Experience in Belgium, France & Germany

My experience abroad is one I will never forget and never regret. I was able to learn and see so many new things. Some of the things that stood out to me was the differences of public bathrooms and pricing of items, as well as food diversity and architectural designs.

Culturally, the Europeans prefer to flush their toilets differently and apparently it is more sanitary to have the button rather than the handle to flush. One thing about the toilets, though, is that if it is a public toilet, you usually have to pay to use the restroom, this was a huge cultural shock for me. I do enjoy being able to use the restroom for free in the U.S., but it was a small price to pay for the experience.

Money is different, as well, when you purchase something, the price tag includes tax whereas in the U.S. you expect an extra charge for tax at the checkout line. I couldn’t tell if it was the bustling cities or the tight schedule, but it always seemed as if we were in a rush to be somewhere. Being an introvert that wanted to sightsee, I was a bit disappointed with the rushing, but it was something I grew accustomed too.

I would look forward to meals, though, in France, you could sit for two hours eating and no one would question it, because that is simply a cultural norm there. Also, with dining out, a waiter will never drop off your check unless you specifically ask for it, you can be done eating and sit there for hours if you wanted too and they would wait to give you the check until you specifically asked for it. When we opted out of restaurants, we would normally go to a Carrefour or a Carrefour City, which is similar to grocery stores like Walmart or Dillon’s. This is where we would get on-the-go food like sandwiches and chips.

My absolute favorite part of being in Europe, though, was seeing all the old architecture and sculptures. Ever since I was young, I would love to pass by buildings and inspect every intricate detail and in Europe the buildings, especially the Cathedrals and Castles, had a lot of intricate details. I also enjoyed seeing the tiny cottages and connected housing while driving through the countryside.

This trip has taught me so many things and allowed me to see so much diversity that I normally would not have, had I only stayed in the U.S. It helped me confirm my career path and love of travelling and helped me figure out my limitations and opportunities when I do decide to travel for my career in the future. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given through this program and I look forward to using this experience as a pathway for future experiences as I continue my education at Washburn University.

washing machine
Petra smiles while eating a pastry
Carrefour market
Petra leans out over a garden
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