Study Abroad Experience Connects Students with Shared Passion for Experiencing Different Cultures
Senior Julie Geiger and French graduate student Julie Recoque have more in common than just their names. Each knows what it’s like to venture half-way across the world to expand their perspectives and enhance their educational experience. They each have attended Thomas More College as well as Angers University in Angers, France (90 minutes by train from Paris) through a study abroad program coordinated between the two schools.
Last year, Geiger, who is majoring in international studies and political science and minoring in French, worked with TMC Assistant Professors Dr. Florence Dwyer and Dr. J.T. Spence to explore the possibility of studying abroad. They helped coordinate an agreement with Angers University, and Geiger soon found herself excitedly preparing to spend the spring semester in France. “I was a little intimidated at first, but once I got there, everything fell into place,” Geiger said. She explained that being able to improve her French was a major benefit from the experience, but she’ll take away so much more as she pursues a career in international affairs. “I think more than anything, this trip boosted my confidence. I feel like I can better relate to people and am totally comfortable with handling situations in different environments.” In addition to the 10 classes she took at Angers, Geiger said she was able to explore the beautiful sites and especially enjoyed touring castles in the Loire Valley.
Recoque, who is pursuing a graduate degree in teaching, plans to take her international experience to French classrooms to teach English and share the American culture with her students. “For teaching, you have to be passionate. I want to be able to explain what it’s like in the United States, not just teach the language,” Recoque elaborated. In France, she lives 40 minutes away from Angers, so the opportunity to live on campus at Thomas More offers her a true American college experience. “Everybody has been so nice to me! Every time I need to know something, they are here for me,” Recoque commented. She said that TMC students have been very welcoming and she’s had the chance to do a lot of things she had never done before, including going to a professional baseball game where the stands were packed with Reds fans. She did, however, balk at an invitation to visit a haunted house on a boat on the Ohio River. “All I could think about was that show on TV, ‘Criminal Minds,’ and I’m pretty sure that if you’re a serial killer, that would be just the place you would go to find your next victim.”
“I never would have imagined I could have had the kind of opportunities that I’ve had here as a student.” – Julie Geiger
Both students say that the structure of the educational experience is different at the two colleges. “Here, I have fewer classes, but more homework,” Recoque said. She is currently studying English and American history at TMC, and is in pursuit of her master’s degree and teaching certificate by fall of 2014.
Geiger explained that at Angers, her lower level classes were held in lecture halls with as many as 100 people. “We didn’t have any homework, but when it came time for final exams, it was a very intense two-week experience,” she said. Geiger described the study abroad experience as eye-opening. “It really changed my perspective on history. In Europe, history dates back so much farther than ours does here in the United States. It was really moving to tour some of the regions affected by historical events. I was in a cathedral that was still under renovation from the devastation of World War II.”
Geiger said the experiences she’s had through the study abroad program and other programs offered through Thomas More have given her the tools she’ll need to confidently travel and work in other countries. “I never would have imagined I could have had the kind of opportunities that I’ve had here as a student.” She plans to go on the Jamaica Service Learning Program trip in June, and has also applied to join the Peace Corps shortly after that.