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Alumni Spotlight

Jessica Pasa
France Year 2004-2005
French Literature major, European Studies minor

"Taking classes in a foreign country in the target language is the best way to become fluent in a language"

"My year abroad taught me tolerance: to respect differences in other individuals and cultures. What Americans may think of as strange is normal in many countries, whereas many things we do in the U.S. seem bizarre to people in the rest of the world.."

"After my study abroad program, I got an MA in French Studies from NYU and spent a year in Paris writing a book about my study abroad experience! The book is called Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France. I wrote this book in order to delve into the nuances of actually living in a foreign country as opposed to spending a few weeks there on vacation."

Why did you choose your particular study abroad program/location?
I have always been passionate about speaking French, so I knew that studying abroad in France would be the perfect way to become fluent. Having already travelled to France a couple of times while staying with a host family in a small town in the North, I was interested in trying an immersion program in a larger town in the South. I chose Toulouse, “the pink city”, after doing some online research and talking to French friends. I learned that Toulouse was a lively student city with lots of sunshine and a beautiful river running through it. 
 
What types of activities were you involved in while abroad that were meaningful for your learning?
First of all, taking classes in a foreign country in the target language is the best way to become fluent in a language. Taking French Literature classes in French with French students pushed me to polish my language skills. Tutoring in English taught me about French culture through the one on one conversations I had with my students. I also learned about French cuisine during Sunday dinners with the host family I was paired with, as well as going to the outdoor markets with all of the fresh fruits and vegetables and local breads and cheeses. 
 
How have you changed or what have you learned due to studying abroad?
My year abroad taught me tolerance: to respect differences in other individuals and cultures. What Americans may think of as strange is normal in many countries, whereas many things we do in the U.S. seem bizarre to people in the rest of the world. I also had several experiences where people made assumptions about me simply because I was American, and other situations where I made assumptions about other people simply because they were French. This can be very untrue. I have learned to keep an open mind and try something before I make a decision about it. Who knows, sometimes the “foreign” way turns out to be better! 
 
What are you doing now as a result of studying abroad?
After my study abroad program, I got an MA in French Studies from NYU and spent a year in Paris writing a book about my study abroad experience! The book is called Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France. I wrote this book in order to delve into the nuances of actually living in a foreign country as opposed to spending a few weeks there on vacation. During a longer stay, a person is exposed to the country on a deeper level, and is faced with many cross-cultural differences that can ultimately lead to better cross-cultural understanding. I am currently a French teacher, and I encourage all of my students to study abroad. 
 
What advice would you give to a student considering studying abroad?
Go for it! College is a rare time in life when you have most of the independence of adulthood with only a fraction of the responsibilities. This is a time of self-discovery, and one of the best ways to get to know yourself better is to immerse yourself in the culture of a foreign country. Most people I know who studied abroad say it was one of the best experiences of their lives, and it's the people who didn't go who say they regret not doing it. You've got nothing to lose. 

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