By Connie Klimek
Ski in the Alps, take an evening promenade, taste escargot, what would you do with a year in France? Meet IU South Bend senior, Hailey Hamilton, who is studying abroad in France for the entire 2021-2022 academic year.
Hamilton has been studying at IU South Bend for the past four years, and she initially planned on majoring in French Education with career aspirations to become a French teacher. However, five months in France completely changed Hamilton’s future plans.
Hamilton is studying abroad through IU South Bend’s exchange program with l’Université de Toulon in southern France.
Another IU South Bend student recently arrived in January to join Hamilton in France. Several IU South Bend alumni, who participated in the exchange program with l’Université de Toulon , are currently working or studying in France. Clearly, Hamilton still has strong Titan connections, even across the Atlantic.
After moving to France, Hamilton fell in love with her town of La Garde, as well as France in its entirety. “I just really love France. I don’t want to leave,” said Hamilton.
Although Hamilton enjoys the “joie de vivre” that comes with living in France, that does not dismiss culture shock. As Hamilton had been studying the French language and culture for years, she anticipated culture shock. However, Hamilton surprisingly experienced culture shock more so in the classroom than in social settings.
Transitioning from student focused curriculum in American schools to lecture based learning in French schools was an adjustment for Hamilton. Resources such as textbooks, handouts, and PowerPoints are typically not offered at all.
Amidst Hamilton’s culture shocks, was her enjoyment how inexpensive and affordable the French healthcare system is. Hamilton’s experience of going to the doctor in France versus going to the doctor in the United States was much cheaper and an overall smoother process.
Hamilton created a home in France for herself through her community of friends. Most of Hamilton’s friends are international students, with nationalities ranging from Mexico to Senegal.
During the fall semester, Hamilton was the only American in France studying to earn her bachelor’s degree.
Throughout a week-long fall break, Hamilton and two friends drove to Italy visiting Genova, Milan, and Turin. The three friends ended their vacation with an impromptu snowball fight in the Alps, as that moment was one passenger’s first-time seeing snow.
Hamilton enjoys her social life in France due to the COVID-19 precautions France has in place. These precautions and the diligence of the French, allows more places to remain open and contribute to a lively atmosphere.
After experiencing several benefits of life in France compared to the United States, Hamilton has shifted her goals to settling in France above all else. Hamilton changed her major to French in order to have a smoother graduation process, and she is seeking out teaching opportunities in France post-graduation. Additionally, Hamilton aspires to earn her master’s degree in France as well.
Hamilton is thankful to live out her goal of studying abroad, especially in such a beautiful location. This winter season was filled with sunshine, palm trees, mountains, and the Mediterranean Sea for Hamilton.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite part, the landscape and the south of France in general are just so awesome with lots of travel opportunities. It’s just a really nice place to be. I feel so lucky,” said Hamilton. Dr. Magnan-Park and Professor Jones from the IU South Bend French Department encouraged Hamilton to pursue her passion, and supported her throughout the administrative process to arrive in France.
Photo // Zénébé Van Gaver