The Indian thinker Jiddu Krishanmurti once wrote: “Our thinking is the outcome of our own very limited experience.” One way to strengthen a person’s thinking, and to cultivate in them a new lens through which to appreciate their world, is to create new experiences for them. In May, with the support of the Office of International Services, the Department of Speech Communication enabled 10 Speech Communication students to experience French culture in Paris, France for one week. The participants (unofficially named “the Little Frenchies”) included undergraduate students Ashley Byrd, Jill Gray, Nathan Jeffers, Alex Long, LaDawn Moore, Katie Rowden, Nyvelyn Shaw, and Amanda Wells, as well as two graduate students in the applied communication program, Tracy Guilbeau and Andrew Pyle. This inaugural study abroad program was led by Dr. Julien Mirivel, who is from France. Consider some of the the details.
The course, which was titled “Researching Lived Experience,” was designed to enable students to investigate the nature of human experience. Prior to departure, the students and the faculty spent five 2-hour sessions preparing for the trip and deepened their understanding of phenomenology. They also learned a few French words and studied the nature of culture shock. During the trip, Dr. Mirivel and the students explored the city of Paris. They woke up early in the morning to have class in the local cafes; while sipping coffee and eating croissant, they reflected about their experiences, noticings, and observations. Together, the group also visited key sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, Versailles, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. They also ate together. Upon their return, students wrote a report on what they experienced abroad and presented their findings in a public presentation. For the students and the faculty, this experience was a wonderful success story. During the week, students learned about how deeply culture influences their ways of thinking, talking, and behaving. They also discovered much about themselves. More importantly, they built memorable friendships, created memories for a lifetime, and often laughed together late into the night. In short, when learning builds on living real experiences, students can simply grow as persons.
The Department of Speech Communication is committed to preparing undergraduate and graduate students for a global society. This faculty-led study abroad program is just one example of how faculty in the Department of Speech Communication make a difference in the lives of students. Watch us do more.