Right from the start, Matthew Normandin greets me with a huge, sunny smile. A junior French and Spanish Major here at Naz, Matt is friendly with everyone on campus—and if he hasn’t befriended someone yet, you’d better believe they’re next on his list. As we sit down to talk, we keep getting interrupted by people stopping by on their way to class, just to say hi or give Matt a hug.
His infectious positivity and open-mindedness led him all the way to Rennes, France, where he successfully studied for a year through the study abroad program at Nazareth. Today, he agrees to talk about his experiences and give some advice for anyone hesitating about going abroad.
GG: Why did you decide to go through the study abroad program?
M: I really wanted to go with students from Naz, of course—I had a lot of friends who went with me—and I also wanted to go through a well-established program.
GG: How do you feel about it, looking back?
M: I am very happy with my decision; it was one of the best choices I have ever made.
GG: What are some things you’d change?
M: Things I would change about the program would just be having the advisors be more upfront with some of the hidden costs, like our public transit tickets.
Life-changing is an understatement.
GG: Were there any unexpected things, good and bad?
M: The experience itself was unexpected. It was something that I could not even try to imagine until I was there, and even now, it’s not completely real.
GG: What is your best memory from the trip?
M: My best memory specifically related to the program was the week in Paris. Other than that, my other best memories were meeting and becoming friends with students from all over. Oh, and the various trips I took during our vacation times. (Like Ibiza, he says casually.)
GG: What are some things people absolutely have to know before they go abroad?
M: You need to be honest with your host family. If you do not like something or have a problem, TELL THEM. Be smart with your money; learn to budget. Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, and seek out your own, too.
GG: What was the biggest culture shock for you?
M: Dinner time—be prepared to eat a late dinner. Like nine at night, late.
GG: And what about the culture shock returning home? Were there things about America that you’d forgotten or had to get used to again?
M: After living the French lifestyle for a year, I was used to eating meals later at night, for longer durations, and socially going out for drinks with friends. In America, it was difficult to return to the college scene where drinking is…completely different. In France, people go out in the afternoon, and treat it as a social matter; even the nightlife is much different. It was hard to return and see how differently American students take it.
GG: Do you feel like you got something useful out of the trip?
M: Yes, I learned a lot about myself, furthered my education, and was able to travel to so many other foreign countries. Life-changing is an understatement.
GG: Would you recommend this experience?
M: 10/10 would tell anyone to go ahead and dive headfirst into a study abroad program.
With that, Matt apologizes and explains he has 17th century French literature in 5 minutes, even though he’d much rather talk more about Rennes with me. Hopefully, his advice was useful to anyone with misgivings about the program. If anyone is interested, make sure to check out the Center for International Education’s website for information on how to get started. Bon voyage!