After I decided that I wanted to study abroad in Montpellier, I immediately started preparing for the program, months before the application was even open. When I began to take interest in the program, it included a French 101 language requirement. The language requirement is no longer applicable to the Montpellier program. However, I took French 101 the term after I decided I wanted to participate in the program, and even moved on to French 102. The language was something that I fell in love with learning right away. Had I not learned about the program so early, I may have never explored the French language to the level that I have now. I am extremely grateful for the fact that I have opened my eyes to the culture of France before even having been there.
Culture is something that I have always had an interest in, despite not having experienced many of them first hand. I knew that Southern French culture and language were both aspects of this trip that I was going to have to get used to. In preparation I tried to review the things that I already knew. In the week leading up to the trip, I reviewed the French language that I had learned so far, and what I had learned about the culture.
As this was my first international trip, I reviewed the way in which the flight was going to happen over and over. First, I would check my bag, then I would go through security and find my departing gate. I would spend around 7 hours in London’s airport in the middle of the night, before boarding one more short flight into Montpellier. In the end, I knew this schedule back and forth. Nothing could truly prepare me, though, for what it would actually be like to be experiencing the culture of Montpellier upon my arrival.
I tried to prepare for the impact that it would have on me, to finally be visiting a place that I had always wanted to go. I was preparing for the biggest adventure of my lifetime, thus far. I planned to pack my luggage in a large backpack, or rucksack. The backpack is made for these sorts of traveling and adventures. As my mom drove me to the airport, she asked if she could take my picture with my backpack at the terminal. She was planning to put this picture with various other pictures that had been taken of me, with a backpack, on firsts-days-of-school and such. I noted that this backpack was much bigger than any of my past backpacks. This made me realize that this adventure was similar to any other one that I had been on, it just required a larger backpack, an open mind and more capacity to learn.