Paris Semester Testimonials
Check this page for weekly updates from Asbury University’s Paris Semester — a life-changing opportunity for students to immerse themselves in another culture, earn credit toward any major and complete an international internship. Learn more about Asbury University’s Paris Semester!
The Paris Semester’s Lifelong Impact
Paris Semester Program Assistant Alexa Goins ‘16 reflects on her involvement with the Paris Semester
When I signed on to be Asbury University’s Paris Semester Program Assistant, I had no idea how God was about to move.
Two years after completing the Paris Semester as a student, it’s still changing my life in ways I never expected. I’ve returned to France twice since then. Four months after graduating from the University in May 2016, I found myself boarding a plane to Hyères, France for an eight-month stint teaching English at a vocational high school through the French Ministry of Education. It was terrifying, exciting and the perfect post-graduation plan for someone who wasn’t completely ready to jump into the nine-to-five life. Upon arrival, I had to open a bank account, find an apartment, start a new job and learn how to be a functioning adult all in French — a language I’d minored in, but was far from fluent in. With no familiar faces in this foreign little city, each day felt like an accomplishment. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it had I not first experienced the Paris Semester.
Before coming to Paris in the fall of 2015, I was always on edge, a definitive Type A personality who was afraid to do the smallest of unfamiliar tasks and always had a plan. I was also a workaholic with terrible skills in the work-life balance department. The Paris Semester forced me to slow down, to do many unfamiliar tasks and reminded me of what was truly important in life (hint: a perfect career was not).
I owe so much of the person I am today to the Paris Semester. So you can imagine my delight when I was asked to be the Program Assistant for the Fall 2017 semester. A third year in a row, I found myself boarding a plane to France — this time with much less anxiety and much more excitement to be part of something bigger than myself. I was excited to see how God would work in the lives of the 15 students that made up the 2017 cohort. And boy, did God work in their lives in Paris.
From the nervousness and culture shock felt by most at the beginning of the semester to the newfound independence and confidence had by all at the end, this program is truly a catalyst for change in the best way. It was so rewarding to witness students go from being afraid to go out or take the metro alone to creating a daily routine, truly embracing French culture, excelling in language classes and getting exciting opportunities to do things like photograph Paris Fashion Week and model for Franck Provost’s salon. Most of all, I’m so thankful that I got to witness this new group of students experience the same deep personal growth that I experienced just two years prior.
Now as the students adjust to life at home in the U.S., I know the Paris Semester will continue to impact their lives. Some will undoubtedly return to France to live again. Others will use their newfound independence as a launchpad for whatever God has for them after they graduate from the University. The Paris Semester is something that made my education at the University truly special and prepared me for life after college. It’s a gentle nudge into adulthood and exposure to other cultures. It’s starting here at Asbury and impacting the world. I can’t recommend this program enough.
Students Return to Campus After Paris Semester
Ellie Watkins ’19 contemplates personal growth and returns to University campus after completing Paris Semester Program.
Returning to Asbury University’s campus after 12 weeks studying abroad with the Paris Semester Program taught me one final lesson — dealing with change. I loved living in Paris; it was the most defining three months of my life. I learned a lot about what I wanted out of life, and discovered even more about myself than I have ever before, but I also missed being on campus. I missed homecoming, I missed hall traditions and I missed our tri-weekly chapels.
When I visited the University after settling back into a more American routine for a week at home in Florida, I was excited to be back at my second home. As I pulled into the semi-circle, I let out my trademark, excited squeal while I clapped my hands looking around my cozy campus.
I ran into some of my hall mates as soon as I turned the corner of my Second Glide home. It was exciting to see those familiar faces, but the unfamiliar faces of freshmen on our hall reminded me that, while my life changed in Paris, so did everyone else’s on campus. Reality really set in when I came into my dorm room. Room 220 has become more of a home to my roommate, who has spent this semester in our room alone. We both learned how to settle in without each other, while our lives went on to grow and change away from our norm of living side by side.
While multiple friends ran in to greet me, I noticed myself feeling emotions that I had not prepared for. I quickly realized that every person I would run into would ask the same questions, “How was Paris?” and “What did you do there?” I loved that my friends cared, but I didn’t know how to answer them. I could never quite figure out how to sum up the significance of the past 12 weeks in a 15-second response. I was stumped by these unusual feelings of wanting to be alone. My extraverted tendencies seemed to disappear when all I craved was an independent walk alone in order to clear my head.
While returning to my favorite spot in Wilmore on my walk, I sat and reminded myself of the changes I have gone through in order to grow in the ways I had in Paris. I have become a new person. I am a different Ellie than the Ellie who thought that the move from Florida to Kentucky was a big transition. I needed to accept that the person I brought back with me from Paris has evolved.
I like the girl I brought home from Paris. I think she is smarter and I like her newfound independence and self-love, but now I have to figure out how that new girl fits in on the University’s campus that changed while she was away. Change is hard, but it forces us to grow into the stronger people we all strive to be.
The Paris Semester was truly a catalyst for growth and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to experience the University in two different contexts that have both shaped me into the person I am today. I’m ready for the changes that will come and for the new girl I will become along with them.
The End of The Paris Semester and Lessons Learned
Lauren Lyons ‘19 reflects on completing Asbury University’s Paris Semester.
Friday, Dec. 1
Three months ago, I came to Paris with Asbury University’s Paris Semester program, not really knowing what to expect. Coming from a small town and having never left the country, this trip has really been a life-changing chapter in my life. This has been a major blessing that I didn’t think was even possible. But here I am. In Paris. Living life completely different in a place I’d never thought I’d go. This semester really has been my favorite at the University. The people who came on this trip became my family, and I have learned so much about the French culture, art and myself.
It’s one thing to imagine life outside of the U.S. but it’s another to completely immerse yourself in it completely for three months. This semester has flown by so quickly that it sometimes feels like it was just three weeks. While I still don’t speak French, the experiences and spontaneous opportunities translated into memories I hope I never forget. I have learned so much from being here. I learned how to budget and forced myself to learn how to splurge a little without feeling guilty (no regrets, am I right?). I learned how to wake up at 8 a.m. not because I have to but because I want to have an early start to the day. I started writing this blog in Paris and I’m finishing it at the University and it still feels like a dream but my heart is so full.
I’m so thankful to God and the University for blessing me with the opportunity to do things I never thought I’d have the chance to do, like going to Comic Con Paris, being a hair model for Franck Provost’s fashion show, attending the Paris Photography Convention and visiting Normandy with fellow students who are now some of my closest friends.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the experience to take in the University community in a totally different context than our Wilmore campus. It’s encouraging to know that you can truly start at Asbury and impact the world. The Paris Semester is over, and for that I am sad, but I am eternally happy for the experience. As I reflect on the past three months of rigorous academics, personal growth, beautiful architecture, delicious pastries and unforgettable friendships, my heart is so full. Thank you, Paris. I’ll never forget the experiences I had with you.
Great Community Distinguishes AU Program
Caroline Gates ’19 compares her study abroad experiences in France and Sweden.
Friday, Nov. 24
There comes a moment each day when I am stopped by the word “Bonjour!” and my brain doesn’t know how to respond. It’s not what you think though, I don’t want to respond with the American “Hello.” No, I want to answer with a proper Swedish “Hej hej!”
For many here, Asbury University’s Paris Semester will be their only study abroad opportunity, but not for me. In fact, I was blessed to be able to study abroad twice in the same calendar year, spending my summer studying language in Sweden — an experience I organized through an agency — and my fall studying art in Paris through Asbury.
Through the agency program, I arrived in Sweden knowing no one and having only the basics of the language. The first afternoon after flying in, I sat in my new dorm room alone, completely overwhelmed and overcome by tears. Throughout the first week, I quickly made friends, but it was still a struggle to navigate a Swedish town without a phone or language skills. Yet, I pushed through and was soon having the time of my life, feeling like an adult capable of making my own decisions. I learned to be everywhere on time, to not sit down until my host had and to get my shopping done before 6 p.m. I had so much fun that I sobbed on the airplane back to the United States, and worried about my semester in Paris. After all, despite the stressful start, how could Paris possibly be as wonderful as Sweden?
My arrival to Paris for the Asbury Study Abroad program could not have been more different than my arrival to Sweden. For starters, I ran into fellow University students at the baggage claim. Once we reached the dorm, I was greeted with big hugs from everyone and a selection of snacks and sandwiches. I didn’t have time to cry the first day because I was so busy catching up with my peers and getting my phone taken care of. And, I didn’t want to cry because I didn’t feel like I was all alone; I felt like I was with family.
Throughout the Asbury Paris Semester I’ve had to deal with the common culture shocks but, this time it was not much of a shock. I knew what to expect as far as jet lag, language barriers and differences in social cues. What I did not expect was how much stress is removed through having a strong support group. I love being able to come “home” to the dorm after a day in the city and share my experiences with my peers and leaders, being able to verbally process what I’m going through with people who are also dealing with the joys and struggles of being in a foreign land. During the first week here, I fell down the stairs and hurt my knee. In Sweden, this would have been incredibly stressful as I would have to figure out how to help myself. But here in Paris, everyone was eager to help me, both physically and emotionally as my friends offered me their arms in support and their hands in prayer.
The Christian support is the most important difference between the Asbury program and anywhere else. The University community that exists in tiny Wilmore stretches to the metropolitan city of Paris. It is hard to compare my study abroad experiences because they were so different, but I can say that I love my time in Paris as much as I did in Sweden and it was much less stressful. I know that in two weeks I will once again be crying on the airplane back to the United States.
Paris Semester Students Dive Into Normandy’s Deep History
Kate Harris ’19 is reminded that God’s light shines in the darkest of times on Paris Semester Normandy retreat.
Friday, Nov. 10
The home was lovely, and the surrounding area was even more so. There were hills of lush green grass spreading for miles and miles. The towering trees’ leaves were changing color and falling to the ground. I could see the stars shining in the night sky instead of the twinkling of city street lights. It added all the more to the cozy, rustic atmosphere of our home.
Our time spent there was filled with rest and fellowship. A majority of us caught up on some much needed sleep, while others traversed the surrounding forest and town. For each meal, which we cooked ourselves, we sat at a long, wooden table. Great conversation and laughter flowed through each meal, especially when Dr. Linda Stratford (Paris Semester Program Director) and her husband Michael Stratford regaled us with hilarious tales of their adventures.
After our stay in the manor, we headed towards Normandy’s cliffs and beaches, where the D-Day invasion took place in WWII on June 6, 1944. The cliffs stretched on for miles along the coast. Pocketed inside these cliffs are craters in the earth, caused by explosions from bombs and shells during the war. Among these gaping holes are bunkers, some still in place and others in crumbled ruins with grass and weeds overrunning their walls.
I felt a heaviness in my chest as I surveyed everything around me and was struck with the magnitude of war and its losses. It’s a surreal experience to learn about the invasion of Normandy and actually stand where the battle occurred. In history, we learn about the facts of what ] happened, yet it is so much deeper than words written on the page of a textbook. I thought of all the men from different countries and walks of life fighting in this war. Men on both sides had fought and defended, lost, won, and slaughtered on the very places I walked.
In the midst of the history these cliffs hold, I looked out towards the sea and saw a rainbow shining down from the clouds. It lightened my heart to see such beauty in a place riddled with ugliness. The storm clouds were chased away and the sun began to shine brightly.
Before heading back to Paris, we went to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Rows and rows of crosses stretched onward. I went down the different rows and read the names on the graves. Some of the graves were nameless and had the inscription “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms but known to God.” I was moved by the multitude of graves and the sacrifice these brave men paid. I lifted my eyes from the graves and looked outwards towards the sea and saw the rainbow once again. I held onto its reminder that there is beauty and light even in the darkest of times.
Paris or Paradise?
Stephen Kayser ‘19 shares his experiences as an art student in Paris.
Friday, Nov. 3
Paris or paradise? These two words go hand in hand when it comes to my experience on the Asbury University Paris Semester thus far. Here in this wonderful city of love there are numerous beautiful parks to go visit and relax in, infinite amounts of baguettes, a wide array of cheeses to choose from — ranging from tasty to smelly — and don’t get me started on the different types of crepes that they make here.
C’est fantastique! I could go on for days about everything I love, from the beautiful people and their culture to the smelly subways that are just simply invaluable. However, I am here to talk about my experience as an Art student in a city that is very rich in art, both historically and in modern society. You can see it from the way people dress to the way the city is arranged. People here care a lot about aesthetics, and it is rare to see anyone badly dressed or to visit an area in the city that does not have either a majestically classical look or some kind of edgy urban vibe to it.
All in all, it has been quite a visual fantasy for me as an artist. Paris is also home to some of the biggest art museums in the world, which include the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, to name a few. These have been quite a treat to visit. I am taking an Art History class while in Paris and for some of our classes we have gone on tours to both the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre.
It is absolutely crazy that you can spend one week in the classroom learning about various paintings and artists who were influential in the development of art today and then spend the next week visiting these museums and experiencing the art right in front of your eyes. These museums contain the likes of Van Gogh and Monet, classic paintings like ‘Liberty Leading the People’ and ‘Mona Lisa’— yes THE ‘Mona Lisa.’
It is bringing history to life and it has been quite an experience for me. The sightseeing has been quite satisfactory, too. However, despite everything, we are ultimately still here for learning, and the reality of things is that school is still a priority in the three months that we are here. I am taking a painting directed study that has been a very beautiful struggle for me. Every class seems to be a battle for me as I try to improve my skills as an artist.
Every time, I find myself questioning my worth as an artist and human being. Every time, I leave feeling like I have been through a war that has left me bruised, beaten and sometimes victorious. The most important thing is that I am learning and not all lessons learned are a walk in the park.
Despite the struggles that are faced, there will come soft rains and in this case I just have to remind myself that I am in the beautiful city of Paris surrounded by many awesome fellow Asburians. I am very happy with the group of people that have come along on this semester abroad, and I could not have asked for a better group of people or a better city to create these memories with.
Asbury Students Explore Europe Through Paris Semester Program
Paris Semester student Anna Renaud ’20 recounts her first inter-European weekend trip.
Thursday, Oct. 26
Before coming on Asbury University’s Paris Semester program, I had a pretty good idea of places I wanted to travel to outside of France. England, Ireland and Italy were at the top of my list, but instead, my first inter-European travel experience brought me to a boat in Badalona, Spain.
The original plan was to go to Italy that weekend, but after discovering that the land of my favorite foods was not cheap, our plans changed. A friend and fellow University student suggested we look into going to Barcelona. I was a bit hesitant at first, since Spain wasn’t on my list of must-see European countries, but after hearing about some famous sights and seeing pictures of the beautiful Spanish landscape, I decided I would go. The 60-euro plane ticket also helped with that decision.
The next step was to find a place to stay, so we checked out Airbnb and soon discovered that staying on a yacht was actually one of the cheapest options. Who knew?! After thoroughly looking into one of the listings and making sure my five friends and I wouldn’t get scammed by our host, we decided to book a yacht located in the town of Badalona, which is about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona.
The following weekend, we excitedly embarked on our journey at 3 a.m. After briefly riding on the wrong bus and then a quick prayer, we were really on our way. Two hours of bus riding later we got to the Paris airport, boarded our plane and landed in Barcelona early the next morning. We were met by sunshine, warm weather and our Airbnb host Alex, who kindly drove us to the yacht we would be staying on.
The next three days were amazing. We shopped and saw the sights in Barcelona, ate tapas and churros, swam in the Mediterranean and watched the sunset from the deck of our yacht. As much as I love Paris, it was nice to get out of the city for a weekend and experience another type of European culture. The people in Spain were very relaxed and casual, which we noticed mainly in how they dressed and interacted with us and each other. They seemed very welcoming and understanding of our language barrier, which was great since only one of us spoke Spanish. Overall it was a weekend I wasn’t expecting, but one I will never forget. I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to see Europe through Asbury University’s Paris Semester program.
Student Hones Journalism Skills in Paris
Sophie Saint Firmin ’20 attends a workshop with New York Times-published journalist
Thursday, October 19
When I came to college at Asbury University, I was sold on the idea of majoring in journalism for the sole purpose of becoming the next Oprah Winfrey. I was adamant in my decision, and if that dream didn’t pan out, a journalism degree was a safe option because it can open doors to a range of careers. When I thought of alternative career choices, freelance journalism never came to mind — but thanks to my Paris Semester internship at the American Library, I had the opportunity to meet with freelance journalist James Verini and attend his workshop at the library.
Verini has worked extensively for the New York Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker and other major publications covering war and foreign policy. Verini talked about the pros and the abundant cons that come with his “thankless career choice.” Now, don’t get me wrong, freelancing has its perks. No set schedule, time to travel and no boss sounds like everything I need in my life. Well, that and coffee. He mentioned that if you are not lazy, you are already winning.
I was automatically put at ease when he said “no one is born a good writer.” Just like musicians need to practice their instruments or athletes their sports, journalists need to practice their writing. Verini advised carrying around a notebook and writing one simple paragraph on a subject in your surroundings, because it’s important to learn how to write consistently and concisely.
I have only been in Paris for a little over a month, but my views on careers and work have already been altered. In the United States, the goal is to work hard until you retire, and in France the lifestyle is so much more carefree. The French have taught me that working is not all about making money, and that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Instances like this make me realize how truly blessed I am to be able to learn and discover new world perspectives. I owe all of my new experiences to God and the University.
Living Out My Photography Dreams at Paris Fashion Week
Chantal Barlow ’19 recounts her once-in-a-lifetime experience photographing a Paris Fashion Week show.
Friday, October 13
Fashionista is not a word I would ever use to describe myself. Yet, thanks to being in Paris for Asbury University’s Paris Semester, I was able to attend a Paris Fashion Week show, any fashionista’s dream. When I was presented with the idea of requesting press invitations to Paris Fashion Week shows, I went for it. I figured it would be an awesome opportunity as a photographer and blogger. Maybe I would even get some recognition in the online photography and fashion worlds.
I wrote more than sixty emails to different designers, and after four days of waiting, I received a reply from one designer that included an invitation. The show happened on the very last day of Paris Fashion Week. The designer Moon Young Hee is a lesser-known but extremely talented Paris-based Korean designer and has two shops in Paris. This show introduced her spring/summer 2018 collection.
I spent the week before the show finding an outfit with the help of friends here in Paris, and the day of the show, my amazing friend, stylist and fellow University student, Sophie Saint Firmin, did my makeup. I felt very glamourous that evening. Then, it was time for the show.
I headed to the Moon Young Hee show location, Paris Université Descartes. Rows of people dressed in all sorts of outfits sat on either side of the beautiful room, sunlight spilling through the beautiful, old windows. There were some women in dresses and heels and others in jeans and sneakers. Some men wore ties and suits, while others wore leather jackets and jeans.
I’ve noticed here in Paris that everyday street style is actually quite a personal decision. Comfort is key, and as long as you walk with confidence, no one really cares what you wear. It was the same with the fashion show attendees. Some wore makeup, other were au naturel. But every single person there held themselves in a very confident manner. Being among the press guests, I was directly facing the show.
Bleachers were set up for photographers and videographers to set up their equipment. I sat in front, on the floor, with a few other photographers and an excellent view of the show. Calm yet steady music began and one by one, models walked down the stairs and straight towards me. Some paused at the end of the catwalk for a moment to let us take photos and others just kept on walking. From the moment the show began to the very end, the sound of camera shutters opening and closing was overwhelming. The collection was simple in color, mostly shades of blacks, whites and greys. The designs were a deconstructed yet feminine look with many layers and fabrics.
After each outfit had its turn in the spotlight, the models filed out for the finale followed by the designer stepping out for a mere second. And just like that, it was over and swarms of people walked out the doors, pleased with the collection they had just seen. It may have only been fifteen short minutes, but my Paris Fashion Week experience is not one that I will forget anytime soon!
Finding Faith in France
Worship Arts major Emily Nelson ’20 deepens her faith in France.
Thursday, October 5
One of the most frequent responses I received when I told people I was studying abroad and living in Paris through Asbury University’s Paris Semester was, “Well, there aren’t many Christians there.” Although this may be true, this statement made me fear that Jesus would be hard to find here in France and that, during my three months studying abroad, my faith would drastically decline. However, I have found that the exact opposite is occurring. Jesus is present here in France and I find myself growing in my faith more than ever.
France is indeed a post-Christian culture. According to one online source, “Three percent (of French people) are Protestants, 64 percent are Catholic, but less than five percent attend mass each week.” That being said, Christ is alive and working here in Paris. Since I have been here, I have had the privilege to worship alongside many wonderful people at Hillsong Church. Each time I go, I am reminded that Christ is present here in France, and that He cannot and will not be bound to just one area, just one region or just one country. He is everywhere.
Not only do I have the privilege of attending church at Hillsong, but I am also a part of a connect group through the church that gathers every other Saturday at a local bakery. Jesus shines through each member in this group, and I can honestly say they are some of the most welcoming, genuine and loving people I have ever met. During each gathering, I am blessed as I listen to my new friends share their hearts with one another, build each other up through the word and lift each other up in prayer. What makes this so beautiful is the fact that these people go to church and connect group out of their own choice. They want to be there. It is not the cultural norm in France to gather in a bakery and talk about Jesus, but these people, out of their desire to be more like Christ, are willing to step out of cultural norms and pursue the Lord.
Christ isn’t limited to Hillsong, though — He is present throughout the entire city. I see Him glorified through the architecture of Notre Dame, Saint-Séverin and Sainte-Chappelle. I hear Him whisper to me through the paintings of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and Joachim Patinir in the Louvre Museum, and I feel Him as I stand awestruck in front of Michelangelo’s “Dying Slave” and “Bound Slave” sculptures. I have learned that no matter where you are, Christ is present, waiting and wanting to reveal Himself to you.
Although, at first, I was afraid that I would “backslide” in my faith during my time here in France, I have found that the exact opposite is happening. Being in France, in a country where Christianity is admittedly the minority, has made me take my faith as my own and figure out what I believe and why I believe it.
Internships and Learning Inside and Outside the Classroom
Josh Magee ’19 learns life lessons and hones his craft during the Paris Semester.
Monday, September 25
Whenever you read an article about visiting any new place, you’ll hear phrases like, “In America we do blank but in France, they do blank.” So to save you the redundancies, I’ll just make some quick notes.
1. Soda and snacks go in one vending machine and the second machine is purely for coffee.
2. Protests are not destructive or disorderly. In fact, they are civil and even push the economy forward.
3. Portions are smaller, forcing you to slow down and enjoy your food.
4. Restaurants are not for eating food. They’re for enjoying others’ company while being accompanied by food. And you leave, not when you’re full, but when you’ve had your fill of good company.
Classes here on Asbury University’s Paris Semester are going well. We’ll be completing our 60 hours of French class this week so I will be focusing more on my other studies as well as my internship.
Aside from interacting with the French culture firsthand and taking classes, some of us here on the Paris Semester are participating in internships with French and American companies based here in Paris.
My internship is with Bilingual Acting Workshop. It’s the only English-speaking, on-camera acting school here in Paris. I’ve been to a couple of the acting classes to do some media work for them, and it’s really cool to see people from Australia, the United Kingdom, Asia, and the United States take the course together. I even sat in on a teen class once. It’s inspiring to see young actors perfecting their art form.
The program has agreed to let me take a class in exchange for my work updating and polishing the theatre’s media, handing out flyers, setting up the venue and other odd jobs. Today, I have an audition to get into the Intermediate/Advanced class for film method acting. I’m excited to get back into my craft.
I’m looking forward to continuing to work more with my internship and see what experiences I take from it.
I’ve found that I’ve gained some very memorable and positive learning experiences not just in the classrooms but outside of them too, when interacting with French people.
Despite stereotypes, they don’t hate Americans. Everyone has a different experience, but from my own, they don’t care a whole lot about nationality as much as they care about manners. I met a Parisian on the metro once — we chatted a bit, and before we parted ways I said, “You’re very kind; I like that.” He replied, with gusto and pride, “All French men are gentleman! You will come to learn this.”
And you might wonder how the University students are being received while living within another college’s dormitory?
I was doing homework downstairs in the dorm late one night and the man working at the front desk said, “You are from Asbury University, yes?”
I asked, “How did you know?”
He replied, “Because you are doing your work. You are responsible. I have been here before and seen Asbury before, and you do your work. The kids from other schools go out and party and don’t do their work, but you do.”
So far, that’s the biggest compliment I’ve received!
Learning French and Life in Paris — It’s a Learning Curve
Christian Williamson ‘19 finds the humor in learning French and interacting with French culture.
Thursday, September 21
Wow. That’s about all that comes to my mind right now. Wow that we are actually here on Asbury University’s Paris Semester. Wow that all of us somehow raised the funds to do this. And wow that Jesus has each of us here for a reason bigger than we could ever fully understand.
We finished our first two weeks of classes and are into our third now — and let me just say that syllabus shock is a universal thing. This semester, I’m enrolled in a French class at a nearby French language school, an art history course taught by Dr. Stratford, an internship under a photographer in Paris, a directed study in photography and a class called the French Church in Context. My total class load equals 13 credits, but when you’re in another country, that can feel like 18 credits because of the pressures and demands of adjusting to a new culture and way of life.
Learning French in a school where the teachers only speak French is difficult, but doable. In my beginner-level class, we have people from the U.S., Germany, Brazil, India and Japan. It is very interesting that all of us can sit in a classroom from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. five days a week being taught entirely in French — and we can and are retaining it!
It is difficult to sit in a class for so long every day, but I do have to admit that being immersed in the French culture helps in learning and experiencing the language. Again, French is a hard language, but my Lord knows every language, and I know this is a part of His plan. So I’m trusting that He’s helping me with this seemly impossible task!
Living in a new culture brings its own challenges. In case you were wondering, yes — the French do kiss both cheeks when greeting even strangers. I learned this the hard way. On our first Sunday in Paris, a group of us went to check out the Hillsong Church. After the service, there was a get-together for young people, so we went with the hope of making some friends.
While I ate my cheeseburger from McDonald’s, a guy approached my friends and me. Everyone saw him walk over except for me. I looked over my right shoulder to see him attempting to greet me with La Bise (the double kiss greeting commonly done in France). I apparently made a disgusted face in response (Hey, I didn’t know he was there, okay?) and so he said, “Oh, okay. You’re American, you don’t do that … how do you greet again?” as he reached out to shake my hand. I continued to just stand there out of embarrassment. The other University students continue to tease me about this story often.
Just remember — there is still hope, even if you crash and burn during your first encounter with a European or struggle to speak the language perfectly. Paris is a learning curve.
Culture Shock, Social Cues & Learning From The French
Charisse Salladé ’20 ruminates on the process of experiencing French culture firsthand through Asbury University’s Paris Semester.
Friday, September 15
Now that I have been in Paris with Asbury University for almost two weeks, the jet lag has faded and has been replaced by a newfound confidence in this unfamiliar city. However, I’m far from feeling like a local.
I’m only beginning to learn how to navigate the metro—let alone cultural differences!
My head is constantly full of thoughts like, “Do I greet this person with ‘bonjour’ or ‘salut?’ A handshake or—NO I guess we’re going in for a kiss on the cheek. All right then,” and even the occasional, “Wait. Did I just flirt with that security guard? I … I don’t know.”
Subtle social cues like these make studying abroad a very humbling experience. I have the same everyday tasks I would have on the University’s campus but I’m learning to accomplish them in new ways (and in a new language). Even learning how to open doors took a bit of practice!
In the first few days it’s easy to become overwhelmed with this strange, new way of life. In Paris everyone is living according to instructions I’ve never read and the only way I can learn the rules is by observing how others play the game. At times, it’s a process of trial and error and there is not much time to recover in between errors. Studying abroad and living with a host family can be overwhelming, but when I feel culture shock setting in, I remind myself not to dwell on the differences but focus on the familiar.
In a very real sense, Paris is my home and mission field for these three months. Everywhere I go and with every interaction I have, my mission is to walk in obedience to the Lord and be a loving presence to everyone I meet. My purpose is not to change or shame the French culture but to observe. There will be some behaviors I won’t choose to adopt in my everyday life, but there will be some new discoveries made as well.
Okay, I probably won’t start greeting my friends back at the University with a kiss, but I do enjoy the French concept of eating everything with silverware (even pizza). I greatly respect how my host brother will serve everyone else their dinner before he fills his own plate. I love the concept of making friends for life rather than building a network of acquaintances.
I have a lot to learn from the French culture and I’m going to make mistakes along the way — but praise the Lord! He is so gracious to me. I’m thankful to have an entire group of Asbury University students to adapt to life in Paris with, too.
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 2:19)
The Great Unknown
Malone University student Sarah Elum reflects on arriving in Paris with Asbury University’s Paris Semester Program.
Wednesday, September 6
I never thought I would have the opportunity to study abroad in Paris, but thanks to God and Asbury University, I finally do.
Today is the day. No turning back now. After months of preparation, I leave my country, my home, my people, my language and set off for a ‘grande aventure’ through the University’s Paris Semester.
As I began to prepare and pack the night before, I realized it would be the end of something, my current life as I know it, but also the start of something new. Never would I have imagined that I would have an opportunity like this after so many years of what seemed to be silence. As I looked around my cozy, softly lit apartment, I realized that when I return to my home in only a few short months, it will seem as though an eternity has passed. Because, when God brings change (even in short spans of time), we are never the same. And I knew that when I woke in the morning, “life as I knew it” would fall away along with the sleep.
So morning came, and with it the frenzy of final preparation and the occasional “do I have everything?” My friend arrived to pick me up and after prayer, she took my hands, looked into my eyes and asked the much anticipated question, ”Are you ready?”
In my own strength, I would never be ready. It’s only by the grace of God that I am ever ready for anything.
The first leg of the trip was relatively uneventful; smooth flight, easy landing. Detroit is a beautiful airport with wide open spaces, high spacious, white rafters and lots of sunlight. With five hours to kill and an empty stomach, I explored the terminal and settled into my departing gate. “Excuse me, are you Sarah?” I looked up from my hummus to discover one of the Asbury University students who would be sharing my flight. It was so great to share the waiting hours talking and getting to know another student who would be sharing this experience.
As we boarded the plane, the emotions came, a flood of tears as I walked down that long ramp, stepped inside the plane and settled into my seat. I find this comical. Most people would die to go to Paris, and here I am crying about it! Tears of joy, of course. I am just amazed at what God has done to call me to this opportunity.
Eight hours later, we arrived in the magical city; 2 a.m. our time, 8 a.m. Paris time. After a relatively easy pass through customs, and retrieving our luggage, I was able to remember enough French to communicate our destination to the cabby.
One hour and much traffic later, we arrived at St. John’s University in the heart of Paris, tired, exhausted but ready to face the very long day ahead of us.
Dr. Linda Stratford, Asbury’s Paris Semester Program Director, greeted us at the entrance with her ever present enthusiasm. “Don’t take a nap” was repeated throughout the day to help us push through jet lag. The rest of the day was a blur of check-in, securing Navigo (monthly metro pass), and switching to a French phone plan. Then, orientation, a quick dinner back at the dorm, and the absolute must…our first quick stop at a French cafe for noisettes (a small hazelnut coffee). Then finally, bed.
I lay awake that night imagining the semester ahead…so much change, but so many wonderful things still unknown. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling like the unknown is a perfect place to be. I can’t wait to see how God will use the Paris Semester to grow my faith in Him.
We’re About to Leave!
As students prepare to leave for Paris on Aug. 30, Chantal Barlow ’19 reflects on her goals for the coming semester.
Tuesday, August 29
Almost 20 years ago, my parents resided in a town in the French Alps. I was born there and spent the first three months of my life there. Now, 20 years later, I am going to live in France for another three months. But, this time I will be in Paris, the city of lights.
I’ve been excited about going to Paris since the moment I applied for Asbury University’s study abroad program. After I got accepted, preparations began. First came all the paperwork, which took a while, but I am sure Paris will be worth it. Next came the shopping to make sure I had everything I needed for three months in a different country. And finally, the packing, which I still haven’t finished and may still be doing the night before my flight! Getting ready for Paris all summer has been so much fun. Now, only days remain until I leave and a new adventure begins. It still seems surreal. I am very excited to have the opportunity to be immersed in the French culture and language. I spent part of my childhood in Quebec, Canada, so I learned French there and still speak it pretty well. I have also been studying French, which is my major here at the University. While I am confident with my skills in understanding French, my hope is to improve my knowledge of the language and be able to speak more easily and naturally. I am going into this new adventure with a goal of always trying to speak in French and pushing myself out of my language comfort zone.
Something unique and exciting that I get to experience is living with a French family. Since I am a French major, this option was offered to me instead of living in the dorms with the other Asbury University students. I feel as though this will be an incredible way to be immersed in the culture even more than I could have imagined. I am so excited to meet the French couple that I will be staying with for the next three months!
If anyone knows me, they know that I absolutely love making lists. This summer, when my time wasn’t spent shopping or packing, it was spent making lists of things and places I want to see in Paris and the country of France. Some of the things I am most excited for are the art museums that I will get to see alongside my fellow Asbury University classmates. I am also very excited about the French food I will get to enjoy, from the bakeries and cafés to the outdoor markets full of delicious food and beautiful flowers. I am also looking forward to using the photography skills that I have learned while being at the University to capture the beautiful streets and people of France.
There is a quote by author Jacqueline Luckett that captures my goals and hopes for this fall semester in Paris. It reads, “Be wild. Dance in the streets. Take French lessons. Walk the wrong way home. Don’t play it safe.” I want to get out of my comfort zone and have an adventure, even if it may be scary sometimes. I want to live life, explore and have an amazing time in Paris. I’ll be back on the University’s campus soon, but until then, au revoir!
To learn more about Asbury University’s Paris Semester, visit: asbury.edu/Paris.