University of Wisconsin–Madison

Woops

There is nothing like the accomplished feeling of traveling to a new place, not getting lost trying to find your classes, or correctly ordering a meal in another language. However, inevitably, there will be mistakes, slip-ups, and just “woops” moments along the way. Since taking a wrong turn here and there in the study abroad journey has been a part of my experience (same as everyone’s), I hope this can be a light-hearted reflection on…learning opportunities during my time in France.

I go right, right?
When looking for a tea café to meet my friends, I got mixed up in the smaller windy streets of Aix. Determined to be proactive and not be lost forever, I asked for directions. A nice student told me to go “gauche” and then “toute à droit.” Now in French, gauche means “left,” droit means “right,” and toute means “all/every/each.” By my clever deductive skills, this student clearly told me to take a left and then each right after that. So that’s what I did. After walking several right-turn squares, it seemed that either the student had no idea what she was talking about, or I didn’t…which was more likely? I was eventually pointed toward the café after a while, but what happened?? I later learned that the phrase toute à droite actually means “straight ahead”—not “continually make a right turn.” I guess it’s important to understand directions before asking for them. Woops.

This is Manchester…
During Winter Break, my friends and I traveled to England and Ireland choosing two cities in each destination. For England, one city was London (obvious), but what to choose for the second city? We went with Manchester because we could find the cheapest flights. Assuming that we would be able to find touristy, fun, or authentic activities in the charming town of Manchester, we bought those plane tickets and reserved the best-rated hostel. What isn’t there to love about traveling in England, right? As it turns out, Manchester is that thing to not love about traveling in England. Our charming English town is an old industrial city. Our best-rated hostel was falling apart. The activity list consisted of an indie movie theater and a children’s museum. Even native English students give us questions stares when we say we went to Manchester. It was almost straight out of a movie where the happy-go-lucky music suddenly stops to reveal a rainy, dreary scene for the characters. Our expectations were…not met to say the least. However our preparation was not stellar either. We made a fun day of playing in the rain and enjoying each others’ company, but we were more than thankful to get to London. Better planning next time. Woops.

French Finale
Perhaps the best mistake and reason that I am still in France is due to my final exams. My very first test in a foreign country, written exam, had studied well, and I was ready. As I was reading the questions to which I was to respond, I realized I did not know any of the answers…in fact, I was clueless about the entire subject. How was this possible when I studied so much and actually understood the professor throughout the semester? I tried to answer the best I could and scurried out of the room at the hour’s end. The enlightenment came when my friend sympathetically explained that there were 2 different classes, taking 2 different written exams, at the same time, in the same room. The proctors had put both tests on the same paper, handed it out to every student in the class, and I just happened to respond to the wrong class’s questions…WOOPS! There was some relief in realizing that I could actually answer the correct question, and my studying was not in vain—it would just become applicable a 2 months later. Fortunately French universities provide an opportunity to retake exams that did not go so well, so I am waiting in France to retake my exam—for the first time. Woops.

Ultimately these situations ended up well, they have added to my abroad experience, and they have provided many giggles. So here’s to making mistakes and learning from them! Now back to studying for my first (and last) test!