Meet Kim Stock, a former Study abroad student from the USA !

Suzanne Bray, English teacher-researcher, was delighted to welcome a former international student, Kim Stock, who came to France from the USA over 23 years ago! It was an opportunity for Kim to retrace her journey, reminiscing about her school days and… gustatory memories !

Suzanne Bray: So, we have a visitor at Faculty of Arts and Humanities here in Lille: Kim Stock née Keller has come back for a visit. She was a study abroad student a long time ago now. So, let’s see what Kim remembers of her experience. Kim, it’s been a long time. When were you last in Lille?

Kim Keller: 23 years ago, I think? It’s been a long time.

SB: Why were you here 23 years ago, what were you doing?

Kim: I was here as an undergraduate and came to do a full year of studies. Before I came here, I was an undergraduate student at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York state.

SB: What did you study while you were here?

KK: At Canisius I was a political science major and here I was able to study languages, history, I think I took a film class, and more studies of political science and the European Community.

SB: Did you enjoy it?

KK: I absolutely loved it. I loved the culture, the climate was incredible, but what I most appreciated was the university family, being able to live close to campus, to feel supported in the international school housing, supported in my classes by my instructors. I was here for almost a year and I enjoyed all of It, I got a true exposure to the French culture, the French language and it’s helped me immensely throughout my life.

SB: How has it helped you, professionally for example?

KK: My French language skills allowed me to get really the dream job that I wanted after I finished college. It distinguished me from many other first job applicants in that the language skills showed that I was adaptable to different climates, that I could dive in and learn different skills and do them well enough to actually get good grades in college. Despite not having a particularly good handle on the French language  before I came here, I left here and was able to use it professionally: I’ve done translations, I even came to Paris a few years after my graduate studies and helped negotiate a contract with one of our partners, completely in French. It was quite the experience. Coming here, being able to master the language, it set me above a lot of other applicants that even went to better schools because I had a skill that they didn’t, I had experiences that they didn’t.

SB: So you got good grades then, when you were here? Your GPA went up rather that down.

KK: Yeah, I did very well, I think I got cards for being on the Dean’s list when I got back. I was very surprised! It was quite a challenge having to learn a subject, obviously that you haven’t studied before, but in another language. Everything was put on hard mode when I was here but when I went back to university in the United States everything was on easy mode because everything was in English and I understood the culture, and I knew the expectations. It was very different: coming here having everything hard, going back there was much easier.

SB: Obviously while you were here you did not just study, any really good moments that you remember of those sort of off-campus activities?

KK: Of course! I dated a French man for almost all of the time I was here. I had the amazing experience of being welcomed into his home, to experience French family life. I ate incredible food the entire time here, I gained ten pounds which I was very proud of because it was all butter and sugar and the most delicious things. I got to go to a French wedding when I was here, which was a totally unique and interesting experience. I found it very stimulating to really be immersed in the community, whereas if I had gone to Paris I would have been more with just an international community and here I was able to be with real French people and have a more authentic experience. The people in the North of France were always extraordinarily kind to me and I never had any issues getting around or any trouble. I recommend this experience to anyone who will listen to me. They need to go abroad, they need to have experience of life on the hard mode because it changes your perspectives. Meeting new people, understanding their culture, understanding different ways of learning, different definitions of success. In America, we don’t take vacations, we work very long hours. When I was here, they were fighting for the thirty-five-hour work week and that was a very revolutionary idea for me and it shows there are other ways to live your life and be happy, if not happier.

SB: When you went back to the US, what did you miss?

KK: The food, of course! I missed the hard mode, I missed that every day was a new experience that every street corner that you could turn around you could explore something new. I missed the sense of daily adventure that I had when I was here. Everything was new and exciting and like I said more difficult. Overtime I really missed that when I went home because you could fall back into old friendships and old patterns but I missed the part of myself that was on that adventure. And also I learned you could live with a lot less stuff than what you think you need.  You know, you have your dorm room full of things and suddenly you’re living out of a very small suitcase in another country and you realize that everything you need is right inside of you. It gave me greater appreciation for myself and my ability to go on different adventures.

SB: Just the last question, advice to American college students if they’re hesitating whether they should study abroad.

KK: Oh my God, go, go, go. Absolutely go. If you need to have a difficult conversation with your parents, if you need to take on a second job, if you need to work with your advisor to move your classes around so that you can still graduate on time, go.

SB: Thank you, Kim.

KK: Thank you!