The Experience of a Lifetime: Emily Douville on International Exchange to France

For the past four months, Emily Douville has walked to school on cobblestone streets, surrounded by 11th century buildings in Angers, France.

The third-year student from Saint Andrews, NB, is on international exchange until January 20, studying at IRCOM L’Institut Albert Le Grand.

“Experiencing the culture has been so enriching to my life,” she said. “Making local friends, trying French food, touring the local castles and museums is an experience you can’t recreate anywhere else.”

The Romance Languages major wanted to fully immerse herself in the French language and knew an exchange was the best opportunity to do that while seeing a different part of the world.

“I go to classes with French students, live with a local, and complete daily tasks in the language, like grocery shopping,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself and my French has improved—I forget sometimes how to think in English now.”

The experience has pushed Douville outside of her comfort zone, which hasn’t always been easy. Not being able to consistently communicate clearly and feelings of homesickness have been the biggest challenges, but she said both are cured through new cultural experiences.

“I visited Paris for a week and it’s everything I imagined it to be,” she said. “The castles here are amazing. Just standing near that many years of history is a unique experience.”

When Douville returns to Canada she’ll bring with her a new world view and renewed independence.

“When you’re on your own in a foreign country it forces you to test your strength, patience, and independence,” she said.

“You learn so much about your identity as a Canadian living abroad, your world view changes, you grow as a person, and have the experience of a lifetime.”