by Chris James | EDUCO Paris, Spring 2020
When I first arrived in Paris I felt a bit lost. I was eager to meet new people and get to know the city, but at the same time, I was disoriented and felt out of place. As I set foot in my host family’s apartment, I had no idea what to expect. They showed me to my room, and we started talking about our backgrounds and the abroad program. Within a couple minutes, I could tell that there was a serious language barrier. My French wasn’t great, and they didn’t speak much English at all. I thought to myself, how am I going to take all my classes in French if I can’t even understand the people I’m living with?
My first few classes were no different than my experience with my host family. I felt as though I wasn’t retaining a lot of the material we were learning and that my French was much weaker than the other students on the trip. I started to feel even more discouraged and was worried about how much work it would take to make it through the semester.
As the reality of my situation started to sink in, I began to think about why I had decided to study in France in the first place. Didn’t I come here to work on my speaking skills? As I started to think about speaking French as a challenge to overcome rather than a barrier, my outlook on the trip completely changed. Every interaction I had in French was an opportunity for me to learn and improve. As the weeks went by, my French got a lot better and I began to feel much more comfortable. At the end of the trip, I was many steps closer to my goal of becoming fluent. Looking back, I’m glad I never gave up on myself.