Signature Experience: What I learned from language immersion in France

During their junior and senior years, students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in their field of choice through the Peddie Signature Experience.  Designing their own program of independent research or creative work under the guidance of faculty mentors, students in the Signature Program are able to immerse themselves fully within their field of choice.

Christina ’20 found herself living with a Moroccan-French family in France while she grew ever more proficient in the language she’d studied since middle school. The Chinese American Peddie student believes that what could have been a frustrating clash of cultures turned out to be a fantastic learning opportunity during her Signature Experience.

A view of the Louvre museum across the Seine river in France

“What I thought at first was cultural insensitivity on the part of my host family was their attempt to truly understand my background and relate to me,” Christina said. “My host mom, a Moroccan immigrant, had a traditional Moroccan teapot and often brewed Moroccan mint tea. When discussing tea culture with me, she inquired about the similarities with Chinese tea culture, and I suddenly perceived the many parallels. The exchange taught me a lot about the universal facets of culture as well as the disparate, sometimes conflicting perspectives,” she said.

At a university in the city of Rennes, Christina went through a program that requires participants to speak only French. That total immersion plus 60 hours of instruction made the month equivalent to one year of college French. “I took three-hour language and culture classes,” Christina said. “In the afternoon, we had something called Oz le Français, where we interviewed locals about their lives for the topic we’d be presenting on that week. Afterwards, we participated in cultural activities, like a cheese tour or going to the Museum of Fine Arts — and in the evening we went back to our host families.”

“Take advantage of the ‘Sig,’” Christina urges prospective Peddie students. “It’s super flexible and an incredible opportunity to delve into a domain you are passionate about and feel really comfortable and excited to learn about.”

I also have a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity and a better understanding of why it's so important to be exposed to various cultures.”