It’s 8:00am on August 22nd 2019. I’m taking the tram to the RER B train, direction Massy Palaiseau, to meet up with three friends at the station La Croix de Berny. We then take bus 379 and walk for a few minutes until we finally arrive at our destination.
Le metro parisien
Our destination is a computer systems firm that has a unit concentrated on automatic translation systems. This unit, which is composed primarily of applied linguists, utilizes generative grammar rules to create its translation systems. During my day-long visit to the firm, I listened to a presentation on the system’s theoretical framework, practiced drawing syntactic tree structures in the same manner as the firm, and saw the application of these structures in demonstrated translations. This visit confirmed my interest in pursuing studies in Applied Linguistics and taught me much about natural language processing technology.
This incredible experience would never have happened if I had not studied abroad last fall. While in Paris through Emory’s EDUCO program, I took Linguistics courses at Université de Paris VII Diderot. In my classes, I was delighted to meet students from all over the world who share my passion for the discipline and are doing a myriad of interesting research projects to further knowledge in Linguistics. I became close friends with my classmates Mélissa, Eric, and Chinatsu, who are from Laos, France, and Japan, respectively. Even after my program ended in December, we stayed in touch and kept each other up to date about interesting Linguistics research and classes in which we have been involved. When I returned to Paris in August, they were kind enough to invite me to this incredibly enriching visit to the computer systems firm.
The academic growth that I achieved through study abroad also allowed me to return to Paris in August. In the fall, I conducted a study on methods for assessing spoken proficiency in French as a second language. This research founded the proposal that I submitted for my application to the Halle Center for Global Research and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry’s undergraduate research fellowship. I fortunately received the fellowship and spent August in the city of light collecting data for my honors thesis. As I had used many of Paris’ resources for Linguistics research in the fall, I had no trouble planning which libraries and resource centers I would visit in August. My French proficiency also greatly improved during my semester-long stay, which greatly assisted me in streamlining my research process over the summer.
While my story is rather particular to my academic interests, I believe that study abroad can provide a formative academic experience for students in any major. I know a student studying public health who was able to shadow health professionals in clinics on three different continents while completing the SIT IHP: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care program. These opportunities allowed her to form a unique, global perspective about healthcare, which served as an asset to her application when she was hired for a competitive consulting position. I know another student studying Economics and International Studies who studied for a semester at Sciences Politiques in Paris. The interdisciplinary knowledge and multilingual repertoire that she honed abroad led her to work for the French headquarters of a UK-based business in the summer after her semester at Sciences Po. These examples demonstrate that the skills students develop while studying abroad can considerably assist them in accomplishing their academic and professional goals.