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Stacia Odenwald

Stacia Odenwald
Class of 2016
French and English double major, Creative Writing minor
University Honors program

Why did you decide to study abroad in the country you are in?
As a French major, I chose to study abroad in France in order to become fluent in the language and to immerse myself in the culture. Plus, UMD’s program in Nice fit perfectly into my schedule!

What classes are you taking abroad? How have they benefited your major(s)?
I am taking courses in French grammar, written language, oral language, literature, cinema, geo-economics, and FREN499 with UMD’s Resident Director in Nice.  The number of classes may sound intimidating, but the school system is organized differently here, and I have found the workload manageable.  At the end of the semester, I will gain 18 credits that will all count towards my French major.

What have you learned about yourself from studying abroad?
After meeting people with life stories completely different than my own, I have realized how much I value talking to and learning from others.  In my opinion, you can learn more by speaking with the natives of a region than you can by reading a travel brochure.  As a result, I have definitely grown more confident conversing with people that I don’t know well.  Also, after adjusting to European culture, I have realized what aspects of American culture I like and dislike.  For example, shamefully, I have been missing America’s large portion sizes!  Yet, I love how French produce is consistently fresh and locally-grown.

What has been your most memorable experience while studying abroad?
The first weekend that I was here, my host parents threw a formal dinner party to celebrate their son’s recent engagement.  His fiancée was Turkish, so neither she nor her parents could speak French with my host family.  Luckily, almost every guest spoke some English – except the Turkish parents.  Throughout the entire night, the fiancées translated from French to English to Turkish in order to ensure that everyone at the table properly understood each other.

As I sat on my host parents’ terrace translating dialogue, I realized the monumental importance of language.  Language empowers and confines us, unites and separates us; it defines us as a species and as individuals.  That night, I gained a new appreciation for my education in French Language and Literature, and needless to say, I will never forget the dinner party and the impact that it had on me!

What advice would you offer to students thinking about studying abroad?
Take the leap, and go for it!  Studying abroad provides college students an unparalleled opportunity to explore unfamiliar places, understand different cultures, and discover more about themselves and the world around them.  Once we step out of our comfort zones, there is so much room to grow.