Senior Jess Kaylor took advantage of one of Penn’s many study abroad programs last spring and travelled to Leon, France. The Greensburg, Pa. native knew she would be able to handle living in another country but the language barrier was something that would take some getting used to.
“It’s totally different learning a language by living in that country and experiencing it than in a classroom,” Kaylor said. “You have to be able to communicate over there and you want to speak their language so you are forced to learn it. When you’re tired and you’ve been in class all day, you come home and have to really concentrate on the pronunciation and what you want to say.
“Before I left I could write an eight page literary paper in French, but I didn’t know the word for wristwatch.”
Kaylor took an intense seven-hour-a-day course for the first two weeks. She took political science classes and international relations classes in French with other French students. She also taught English at a French high school once a week.
“I was able to see how I developed with the language. When I first got to France, it was difficult to have a conversation with someone and by the end of the trip I was able to have hour long conversations with my peers and even discuss politics.”
“It’s pretty cool to see the improvement in your speaking and for others to notice it as well. I had something tangible to take away from the experience.”
Kaylor was able to indulge in French culture and meet a variety of people, but she also got to see how others viewed Americans and American culture.
“My host family didn’t think that Americans sat down to dinner as a family every night. They have their own ideas about how Americans live.
“It was good to see how others viewed Americans nut just in politics, but how they view women in sports, American television and gender roles.”
Jess found out on her own the differences between the roles males and females are suppose to play in France. Kaylor had to play on a men’s club field hockey team because their wasn’t one for women.
“Women don’t play sports. I went to join a gym and was one of very few women there; I stuck out because I was a female American jock. When I played with the men’s club team they were very surprised at how well I played.”
One of the benefits of studying in Europe is the easy access to the surrounding countries. Kaylor spent much of her time travelling during her five month stay with peers from her program, friends she had made or her parents.
Kaylor toured Prague, Vienna, Venice for Carnival, Rome, Southern Italy, Greece, Paris and Barcelona; just to name a few. Kaylor would love to return to France, but for right now she will have to settle for entertaining several French students who are on exchange at Penn.
“You put a lot of time and effort into learning a language you don’t want to lose,” Kaylor said.
Written by Heather Palmer, associate director of athletic communications