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All blog posts are by University of Michigan students who have participated in a CGIS program. The following blogs are students studying abroad in France. 

Spring/Summer 2019

Emmanuel discusses racism and being Black in France

Being in Paris for three weeks seemed like it would be a breeze. It was simply three, short seven-day cycles, then I would be home again. This fantasy was shattered as I experienced my first instance of racism abroad. Being a Black man in the United State, I have experienced many occasions of racism, however the utter hypocrisy of French racism and their values baffled me and rattled me to my core. The French believe in Universal Republicanism. This means that they believe that everyone is equal, meaning that there is no difference between races or religions in their country. While this view would theoretically protect against things like racism and discrimination, it does not account for the inherent prejudices of some people. This actually results in even less protection for people of color in France as they have now been stripped of their platform to combat prejudice. In fact, they can even be sued if they speak out against a racist act as it is seen as being in violation with their “color blind” society.

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Angela discusses her life in France and her American identity

This program means so much to me, and by being able to fully embrace the city of Paris and get the cultural experiences of a host family, French classes, and just a regular daily routine in the city. I think the way I go about learning about and interacting with global perspectives will forever be affected. In terms of my future, this program solidified a goal of returning to France after I receive my degree to teach English, work in a gallery, or just in general find a way to be involved in the cultural conversations happening there.

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Tihnae discusses her Black and American identities

One identity that has impacted my time abroad was the fact that I am biracial, so half black and half white. I don’t think that my experience was the same as others just because of the program that I was a part of. I was studying abroad in Paris, France in a program called Black Paris. So the majority of the students were also black and we were studying Black culture in France. I feel like studying this topic with others who identify this way just enhanced the experience and we got to talk about it more freely. Since we all had things in common we could discuss what we were going through and compare situations.

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Faith discusses finances and mental health challenges while abroad

I am a First Gen student and the first in my family to leave the country for purposes other than war. Given my background and my family’s lack of money, I felt out of place with the other students, as I was in the minority having not traveled internationally before and not having the money to do some of the things other students were doing. The Study Abroad Scholarship did what it could to mitigate that issue--it gave me the resources I needed to enjoy my time abroad and in Grenoble. It just did not suffice when it came to the trips outside of the city that so many others were more interested in.

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Madeline addresses street harassment and gender roles in Rennes

When abroad in France, being a female was different than being a female in the United States. We were warned from day one that even making eye contact with a man could be interpreted as us females being interested in them. I was honked at by men in cars far more often than I’ve experienced before, catcalled, and approached in public frequently. The difference was prominent in France, and I could tell that the men who did these things thought this behavior was normal.

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Cecilia discusses positives and negatives of time in Grenoble

I have been able to progress in my language abilities and gain boatloads of confidence speaking during my time in Grenoble. I have never learned so much French as I have during my study abroad, without these programs I would not have been able to attain the immersion experience that is so critical to learning a language. Also, I have been able to try the French cuisine: I’ve enjoyed crepes, ice cream, croissants, and even pig foot. Learning the cuisine here was a way for me to grow closer to my host family and practice asking questions while learning new vocabulary (and trying some delicious foods!! Not the pig foot though).

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Jamie discusses the role of mental health in her abroad experience

My mental health has definitely impacted my time abroad. I was petrified to talk to French people the first few weeks because I was so nervous about how they would perceive me. I get extreme anxiety talking in French to other American people, as well as French people. I could not submit my homework assignments without checking a thousand times that it was perfect, and then a thousand times after that I actually submitted the right document. The time difference, schedule, and workload caused me to rarely speak to my family, and my mental health would’ve appreciated me talking to them more. I usually like being alone, but it is different being alone in a foreign country. I was not aware of how bad my mental health was until I felt myself breaking down. Over time, I learned how to adjust to these issues, such as through keeping a schedule to call my parents and working with friends to socialize with locals, and in the end I found a good balance.

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Spring/Summer 2018

Going Abroad: An Unparalleled Opportunity to Learn about Yourself by getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

The opportunity to study abroad this summer in Grenoble, France was a phenomenal experience that had a profound impact on me. Articulating (as best I can) the origin and subsequent impact of this perspective-shift was important to me so that I would not forget all the things that I learned, could appropriately acknowledge what I experienced, and hopefully convince (or at least reassure) people who are either already abroad or considering travelling abroad that it is 110% worth it.

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Winter 2018

Ryan reflects on his semester in Paris

Everyone has a dream vacation. They imagine visiting a city or country that they’ve romanticized above all else. For some, this ideal getaway conjures images of white sand beaches and a cerulean blue sea. For others, it’s trekking through the dense urban jungle of a sprawling metropolis. For example, my mom wouldn’t hesitate to pick the Mojave Desert of the American Southwest, and Julia Roberts even managed to lump together three iconic destinations: Italy, India and Bali in Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love. By contrast, my dream vacation has always been relatively singular: Paris.

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Academic Year 2017-2018

Hannah reflects on her year in Paris 

Three. Two. One. I squealed in excitement, as celebration outside soon engulfed the sound of my own. I was here, in Paris, for the New Year’s countdown. My friend and I decided to stay home, as I was only 5’4” and she was 5’5”, and we deemed that it would be impossible for us to look at any monument clearly in person. Watching the countdown from a live video, we had on both Eiffel Tower lighting up the sky and Arc de Triomphe with jumping 2018 on its façade. This marked the midpoint of my study abroad program.

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