Colby Smalzel ’15 said that spending two weeks in France during summer break as part of Emerson’s Global Pathways initiative left her with a greater appreciation of different cultures.
“I definitely have a better understanding of why people do the things they do,” she said.
Colby Smalzel '15 (center) takes a selfie with classmates in Emerson's Intercultural Communication study abroad course in southern France at the beginning of the summer 2015 break. (Courtesy Photo)
Smalzel, a Journalism major from Cohasset, Massachusetts, was one of 10 students who attended Intercultural Communication in Aix-en-Provence with Associate Professor of Journalism Jerry Lanson for the second half of May.
“I’ve had Jerry [as an instructor] before,” she said. “He’s such a great guy and really got me excited for the program. I was like, ‘I have to do this.’”
Students attended French language classes with partner institution IS-Aix. Smalzel had not studied French since middle school.
“My skills were not that great,” she said. “But the classes made conversational French so much easier for me. Even if we messed up, people would smile…and appreciate that you were trying.”
Students also met with a French journalism professor and a communications director of a local arts festival.
The France program is one of several new summer study abroad programs that Emerson’s Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement launched this year under the Global Pathways initiative.
Students this summer are also studying in Greece; Czech Republic; Mexico; Ireland; Austria; and the Netherlands at Emerson’s Kasteel Well, known as “the Castle.”
Students in the France program lived with French-speaking families. After the course ended, Smalzel spent time with relatives in Paris and then traveled with friends to other parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and Ireland.
Smalzel said her highlight of the program was the class trip to Marseille, a large port city in southern France.
She also developed an appreciation for French culture, saying the people are more environmentally friendly and lead slower-paced lives compared to those in the United States.
“I work as a restaurant server in Faneuil Hall [in Boston], where it’s tourist central,” Smalzel said. “A lot of Europeans love to sit on the patio and drink their cappuccino for hours. Now, I understand it, and it doesn’t make me as irritated as it used to.”
Smalzel highly recommends that Emerson students take advantage of the increasing number of study abroad opportunities.
“If you’re given this opportunity to explore new cultures, especially if you’ve never been anywhere other than the United States, you should really take that chance,” she said. “It is so worth it and you’ll gain an experience of a lifetime.”
Editor's Note: This article is part of the twice-weekly Global Spotlight Series that examines the experiences of Emerson College students who worked or studied abroad this summer. New articles will appear Mondays and Wednesdays in August on Emerson College Today.