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Fly Away Home: LSU students gain more than class credit studying abroad

LSU senior Connor Dille plans to graduate this fall with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a minor in French. Unlike many students, though, his minor was earned thousands of miles away in France.
The LSU Academic Programs Abroad office offers hundreds of different programs for every student to every continent (except Antarctica), including exchanges, faculty-led summer and intersession programs, excursions and class fieldtrips, and special curricular programs.
Prior to this school year, LSU APA had 734 students total that participated in their study abroad programs during 2014-2015. However, for 2015-2016, the number of students rose. This year the program had 871 students total.
Dille, 21, completed his minor this summer through a cultural immersion program called, LSU in the French Alps program, from May 22 to June 28.
Dille first heard about the program through a friend who went on the same trip a year before him, and he later heard about it a second time during one of his French classes from a professor who led the trip. He knew that a full semester abroad wasn’t in the cards for him because he’s so close to graduating, so he looked more into the summer programs. He wanted to go to France and knew that LSU offered Paris and French Alps programs, and he chose the French Alps, because it allowed him to travel to several cities in France. He also gained a more intimate experience, traveling with only seven other students and a professor during the program.
The first four nights of the trip were spent in Paris, and the rest of the five weeks were spent in Barcelonnette, located in the south of France near the Italian border. He and the other students also spent a weekend on the French Riviera in a small port city called Cassis.
Dille and the rest of the students would wake up at 7:45 a.m. every morning and would go to sleep around midnight every day. They saw some of the world’s most beautiful countryside with tons of history and several churches. Snowcapped mountains, lavender fields and olive trees were all typical in the region where they stayed. They also made many friends with the young adults in Barcelonnette, and they’d play basketball and cards together, go to the main square and watch football matches and drive up in the mountains at night to watch the stars.
The best experiences Dille had were all the outside activities he took part in, including hiking, rafting, cycling, mountain climbing and a weekend trip to Cassis.
“The history in France was very different from ours,” Dille said. “It seemed like everything was downsized from where we live, and they wore more pants typically.”
Some houses they visited were older, and the architecture was very different. The roads were a lot smaller, and everything was also more expensive.
One aspect Dille enjoyed was walking into town to go to a café in the main square to drink drink coffee and eat a Nutella crêpe while reading a newspaper in French, as well as watching highlights of football matches.
He soon got used to the French way of eating. Wine was served at every lunch and dinner, as well as different types of cheese after the main courses.
“The salad, meat, pasta, chocolate desserts, Nutella crepes, escargots (snails) and mussels were really good – basically everything,” Dille said.
Dille learned a lot about the culture. He and his peers stayed in a village of about 4,000 people, where noone spoke fluent English. Here, he learned about the language and new vocabulary, as well as the plants and nature of the region, Provence.
“My ability to speak French improved ten-fold. I met incredible people. I’ve made life-long friendships with the young adults I met there, and I passed two classes with an A and completed the French minor,” Dille said.
Someday Dille hopes to work or live in France or a francophone country for some years.
“The program helped me in every aspect of the French language, and I would go again in a heartbeat,” Dille said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I found new registers in all of my senses. It was like living in another world, and everyone I met was really nice. It’s not easy though, you have to learn to adapt to the culture with the things you have in your suitcase. I had no phone service or car, and the Wi-Fi worked from time to time. People cried and were homesick, but it’s a complete learning experience well worth the trials.”

Photo courtesy of Connor Dille.

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