Kylen Moran ’13 spent her junior year in Paris at the Hamilton College Junior Year in France (HCJYF) program. The Naples, Florida, native is an Art History and French major.
Why did you decide to go to France?
I chose HCJYF because it was highly recommended by the French department at Williams. I especially appreciated that the program greatly valued home stays with French families and that multiple overnight trips were included in the tuition. Orientation was held in the south of France in the town of Biarritz, a region I had not visited before. The ability to study at École du Louvre, the top French university dedicated to Art History and associated with the Musée du Louvre, was ultimately what drew me to HCJYF. I felt that studying at École du Louvre would complement my Williams education because both schools value looking at art in person. Through tutorials arranged by HCJYF, I had the opportunity for weekly visits to various Parisian museums with an art specialist to view and discuss the pieces of art I was studying in my classes. Because these sessions were one on one, I gained practice in speaking eloquently and persuasively about a piece of art. I will definitely incorporate this skill in my senior art history courses.
What was your biggest “culture shock” as you got used to living in France?
Although I had studied abroad in France twice before, my year abroad was a completely different experience because for the first time I was living in Paris. Along with my host parents, I had four host siblings between the ages of 19 and 24 who all lived in our Parisian apartment right next to the Eifel Tower! Conversation at dinner was always lively and entertaining. Without a doubt, my host family was the best part of studying abroad, although I did experience “culture shock” as I adjusted to living with them. My host family was very formal compared to an American family, or even the other French families that I had lived with beforehand. For example, my host parents would not allow me to call them by their first names, but rather insisted on Madame and Monsieur. I had to address them with the formal “vous” instead of the familiar “tu.” At first, I was uncomfortable with this level of formality. However, as the year progressed, I grew to have so much respect for my host parents and the greater level of formality of French culture, in general. I will remember most how much we laughed together! I miss them a lot.
Did your experience abroad change your initial perceptions of France at all?
When I first arrived in France, I found the Parisians generally to live up to the stereotype of being quite reserved. Throughout the year, however, I met many warm and sincere French people and made great friends. While I still find in general that the French are not as outgoing as Americans, I now understand this comes out of respect to not overstep each other’s privacy. For the French, privacy is sacred.
Do you think that you will incorporate your study abroad experience into your major, for example through a thesis or an independent study?
I added an entire major altogether while studying abroad: French. Before my study abroad experience, I had never taken a single French literature course. However, over the winter break, I decided to challenge myself and read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I could not put the book down. I fell in love with 19th-century French literature. The next semester, I took three French literature courses at La Sorbonne Nouvelle. If I had not studied abroad for the entire year, I would not have been able to add a French major so late in my Williams education.
Why do you think it’s important for Williams students to study in foreign countries?
Studying abroad is important for Williams students because it gives you a different perspective not only about other nationalities but about yourself. If you think about it, how can you truly know what makes you American (or any nationality) unless you have experienced another culture to which to compare your own? Every time I study abroad, I gain a better understanding of my own culture while learning about a new one. I really recommend staying with a host family, too, if you are studying in a country and learning the language. I picked up so much of the French colloquialism and slang that I would not have learned in a classroom. My ability to follow my host siblings’ conversations is what ultimately allowed me to make my own French friends at university. This was priceless.
What was your favorite food that you ate while in France?
My favorite food had to be pain au raisin. They can be found at every boulangerie in Paris, but they are not all made the same. I quickly became an expert as to which boulangeries had the best pain au raisin. I became somewhat of a “pain au raisin snob” as well! If it looked like they weren’t fresh out of the oven, I would go to a different boulangerie down the street. Only in France can bread and pastries be taken so seriously!