A bison abroad | Interview

Q&A with Alex O’Reilly

A photo of Alex in France looking over a seaport.

Q: Where are you studying and what are you majoring in?

A: Im currently studying abroad in Montpellier, France. My majors are Political Science and International Studies.

Q: What is some advice you would give to future students thinking about studying abroad?

A: I would say, if anyone is thinking about studying abroad just go for it. Don’t go into the experience with too many expectations of what it will be like (the good and the bad). The experience of studying abroad in a place different to what you’re accustomed to will challenge you but, will also be a lot of fun. Try to maintain a positive attitude throughout your entire time abroad and remember to go with the flow.

Keep in mind, depending on where you choose to study abroad and when, you might be escaping the coldest part of winter in Fargo, that’s a huge positive!

Q: What did you find to be the hardest adjustment you’ve had to make whilst studying abroad thus far?

A: It has been by far, getting out of my comfort zone (I came here being the only person in my specific program and didn’t know anybody else, which was incredibly intimidating). Another hard adjustment was learning how to become more of a self-advocating, independent individual. While they were hard adjustments for me to make initially, I’m grateful for this study abroad experience for impelling me to grow as a person!

Q: How would you describe your experience abroad in five words?

A: Exciting. Confusing. Learning. Worthwhile. Grateful.

Q: What is your housing situation like?

A: The program I chose to study abroad with, ISEP Exchange, placed me in a student dorm. Each student here gets their own room, and I share a communal kitchen with about 25 other students who are on the same floor as me.

Q: What is your average day like?

A: Each day here is different, but on a day where I have class I’ll go to campus which is conveniently a three minute walk from the dorm I’m staying in. In class, I sit with students from all over the world (they all speak French). I’m usually with classmates for three hours out of the day.

All the classes I attend here are taught in French. Having all the classes instructed in French presented me with the opportunity to further learn French, quickly. After my cinema class, I have a hour-long break for lunch, but what I have learned is that an hour for lunch is actually quite a short amount of time to the French, and in fact, many businesses close for a couple of hours during the time lunch would typically take place in France. After lunch at the university’s cafeteria (where every student can pay €3,30 for a three-course meal including bread). After lunch, I attend my last class for the day, which is Phonetics. This class is also three hours long, and most of it is spent learning and pronouncing the French phonetic alphabet!

Afterwards, I usually walk back to my dorm to make dinner in the community kitchen. I often times, practice my French speaking skills with fluent French speakers who are usually cooking recipes with a lot more intricate and delicious steps than the typical pasta dish I find myself making! And finally after dinner, I will either get together with the friends I’ve made here or go explore more of Montpellier!

Q: What is one thing that you’ve learned that’s interesting about the culture?

A: One interesting thing I’ve learned about the culture is that the French have a different relationship to time than we do back in the US, specifically as it relates to financial systems and accomplishing tasks. For instance, having a meal with friends or family might be an hours-long affair with multiple courses, and on the topic of financial systems a bank account may take months to be approved by the bank. There is definitely a much more laid-back attitude towards time, which I am slowly learning to appreciate more and more every day.

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