language immersion program in Montpellier, France.
Did anything surprise you? What?
I still remember how surprised I felt on my first day in Montpellier. I had visited France before, mainly Paris and northern France but it was my first time in the southern region. I had also read about the relevant aspects of Montpellier. I knew it was a mid-size ancient city, with great weather and a lot of students but I think I hadn’t dimensioned this fully. Montpellier was way more ancient that what I expected, it was definitely warmer and I had no idea students made up about a third of its population.
Since my flight arrived to CDG, I decided to take a train from Paris to start introducing myself into the region. I arrived to Gare St. Roch, located in the heart of the historical center from where I decided to walk to the apartment because it wasn’t very far. From DC, I had made the necessary lodging arrangements to live pretty close to my school, everything within “le centre-ville”. As soon as I left the train station I was amazed by the particularities of Montpellier’s architecture. On my way to the apartment I crossed about 100 “petite rues”, a sort of maze that I had to cross in order to get “home”. I was marbled with the size of the streets that were so small in contrast to the imposing and magnificent ancient buildings. Everything was so old yet so beautiful and vivid. It was Sunday and everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather.
How will this experience help you in your job search and career?
I studied French for 4 months in Geneva (Jan–Apr2014) while representing the MOD of Colombia in a European Security Policy Training Course. The other participants were from Europe and Africa who mainly used French to communicate. It was a great challenge and also the first time I realized how important was for me to learn the language. When I started SSP (Fall 2014) I found out about the language scholarship so I decided to continue studying French while in Georgetown.
Even though my English has served well to communicate outside Colombia, I continually confront situations that challenge my French skills and turn them into something really important. Besides my experience in Switzerland, as I was applying for different master’s programs I was offered a scholarship for an MPA at Sciencespo in Paris. I turned down the opportunity because of the French level that I had at the time. Now, while studying in DC I’m facing a new challenge. I’m an international student (F1visa) trying to work in the security field. Due to the clearance restriction, I have found complicated to work in something related to what I have experience in. As an alternative, for my time left in DC, I consider interesting working for a multilateral organization. As it is well known, French is an asset to achieve this.
As I finish the SSP, I plan to go back and continue working for Colombia. In the context of international cooperation, the MOD has been increasing lines of work with the EU, particularly France and its Gendarmerie in the field of transnational crime. Moreover, new initiatives with French speaking countries in Africa are being developed in terms of anti-narcotics strategies.
Without a doubt, improving my French will benefit my professional, academic and personal goals.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from this experience?
The biggest lesson that I’m taking away from this experience is that it is never too late to learn a new language and that the better and easiest way to do it, is definitely by an immersion program. As I mentioned before, I have been studying French for more than a year and the progress I have achieved here is absolutely amazing. I learned English while growing up and I can’t remember any struggling at all while going through the process. French by contrast, I have founded way much harder and being almost 30 years old, I thought that by achieving a mid level I could be satisfied. Today I consider myself a fluent French speaker, I understand the majority of things while reading and I’m able to write about any subject or at least any topic that I can think I’m interested in. I want to achieve the highest level of French as a foreign language and why not, start a new language as a part of a new project.