One of our recent graduates, Adam Tyler, is a major in Civil Engineering and French. A recipient of the prestigious Gilman International Scholarship, Adam spent the 2010-2011 academic year studying in Grenoble, France, where he took courses at the Grenoble Institute of Technology (Grenoble INP), Stendhal University, and Pierre-Mendès France University (UPMF). Below, Adam shares some memories of his trip to Grenoble that – he says – has become his second home.
Having the chance to live with locals, speak their language and experience another culture breathes new life. Its uncharted waters, everything becomes completely new and it opens your perspective; no matter where you chose to travel.
My year in Grenoble was as unforgettable an experience as I have ever had. Nevertheless, it’s hard to convey how much studying abroad means to me, how much joy the experience gave me, and how proud I am to have completed such a journey. Living in a foreign country, I was given an invaluable opportunity to branch out and transform what I thought was possible. I would have never dreamed that I would parasail across the Swiss mountaintops of Interlaken. I would have never thought I would travel the famed French Rivera and take a plunge into the Mediterranean. And, I would have never thought I would celebrate as a participant in the Night of Fire; during the festival feast of Sant Joan (Saint John), in the heart of Barcelona.
During my stay in Grenoble, it was quite surprising to see how interrelated learning and applying another language has helped my engineering ability to use critical thinking to problem solve. When I was in France, I constantly had to find different ways to explain myself; to communicate in an effective manner whether I was buying a fresh baguette from the boulangerie or whether I was playing a game of pétanque with friends. With a second language it is very hard to say exactly what you are thinking and you are always having to find an alternative means of either rephrasing or expressing yourself in another way.
Living in another culture you become immersed quite fast. It’s encouraged and exciting at the same time. Even after my first week in Grenoble, my French proficiency had skyrocketed. I was improving everything from pronunciation and intonation to learning everyday expressions; continually expanding my vocabulary. It was incredible. Being able to talk to someone without a language barrier is extremely gratifying as you see the appreciation in the eyes of someone from another culture as they realize you have taken the time to learn about who they are and where they come from. At the end of my 11 month adventure in France I knew French had become a significant part of who I am.
In one year, I have made friends that I will keep for a lifetime. My French roommates, other students, and international acquaintances have all made a profound impact on my life. With email, Skype and even Facebook; staying in contact has never been easier. Technology has broken down these spatial borders and to this day, I am still in touch with all of the friends I met abroad.
It wasn’t easy going to France to take engineering courses all taught in French. All of that was very difficult, but being able to adapt and obtain a more open perspective is something I would never trade for in a million years.
Studying abroad was never something I had to do; it was not a mandated requisite for the WLC program. Nevertheless, studying abroad has made me more passionate about what I do, who I want to become, and where I would like to go from here.