After experiencing Commencement, I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about W&M. One experience that I kept stumbling upon was studying abroad in Lyon, France in the spring of my junior year. After spending high school in England, I had no desire to study abroad. I had decided that I would spend the entirety of my college years in Williamsburg, Virginia. Thankfully, all that changed after a chat with a very wise French professor.
So, during the spring of my junior year, I studied abroad in Lyon, France through UVA. In a city with almost half a million people, I was able to experience the French way of life. I lived with a French family right in the center of town. In the mornings, my host mom would prepare spreads of homemade jams and leave out fresh bread (and sometimes croissants!). Every morning I would walk past the Rhône on my way to class, vaguely aware of traffic and the sounds of sellers at local markets persuading onlookers of the deals to be had that day. My dinners were spent at home, trying the delicious French dishes my host mom, a chef, would prepare. And sometimes, when she thought I was homesick, she would prepare sometime more “americaine”. Although, I was thousands of miles away, they made me feel at home.
Some of my fondest memories in France were tied to the most ordinary moments: eating a fresh baguette on the quai with my new American and French friends, watching my host mom perform in one of her guignol performances, or laughing with my host dad about my inability to explain a story in French. Living in France was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I cannot imagine my college experience without it. I am so thankful that W&M actively encourages students to study abroad. Without the encouragement of my French professor, I probably would not have seriously considered study abroad.
Something that always struck me is that this couple I lived with in France always requested W&M students. In fact, as I later found out, every W&M student before me had lived with this French couple. And later that year, when I would meet another former tenant, I was shocked by how close I felt to someone I had never met. W&M tends to do that, connect the Tribe in ways that seem to make no sense. Yet, what struck me more is that this couple discerned the W&M sparkle that we don’t often notice ourselves. As W&M students, despite our diversity, we seem to be connected by our united identity as part of the Tribe.
For those of you entering college or those of you in the midst of your time at W&M – consider studying abroad. Believe me; you’ll be glad you did!