“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Philosopher Martin Buber’s famous quote can easily be applied to an ad for studying abroad in the south of France. Spending my junior year at the University of Montpellier III-Paul Valery on the Mediterranean coast of France allowed me to experience every last study abroad cliché—and with beautiful weather.
Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France and home to an active student population and several universities. Six miles away from the Mediterranean beaches, the main square serves as the bustling hub of the city, with streets full of cafes where one can sample French pastries and coffee. The local train station is a short walk away, allowing study abroad students the opportunity to visit cities and towns across France.
My travels took me around the southern Languedoc region of France, the city of Rouen in Normandy and to, of course, Paris. Outside of France, I took advantage of the fall break to explore England and Ireland. Spring break took me to Prague and Budapest, with in-between trips to Austria and Germany. Montpellier is ideally placed between Spain and Italy, allowing weekend trips to both Barcelona and Monaco. While I will never forget the memories made on my excursions around Europe, returning to Montpellier always felt like coming home from a vacation.
Living with a host family gave me a chance to have that “homelike” study abroad experience, with high-school aged host “sisters” who were eager to hear what the lyrics to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” really meant in English. We had nightly dinners with an enormous French-English dictionary on the table so we could communicate. Ranging in topic from the electoral college to national stereotypes, these conversations around the dinner table were key to improving my French language skills during my junior year abroad and were put to good use during my classes at the University Paul-Valery.
As a double major in French and history at Geneseo, I was put in the situation of being the only international student in my classes while in Montpellier. Taking courses on local history gave me the opportunity to examine medieval documents and sparked my interest in archival studies. To be able to learn European history and have the opportunity to see the castles and monuments mentioned in person was an invaluable experience. The city of Montpellier was the perfect setting to an incredible study abroad year.