Reflections of MacJannet Scholars— Tufts in Talloires, summer 2015

Above: 'The mountains never ceased to amaze':  Tufts in Talloires scholars on the Tournette - Kyle Paul, Lucy Gerhart, Rachel Wahlert, Morgan Wilsmann, Josh Brown, Michelle Bernstein, Maimuna Ahmad, Daniel Marion

Above: ‘The mountains never ceased to amaze’:  Tufts in Talloires scholars on the Tournette – Kyle Paul, Lucy Gerhart, Rachel Wahlert, Morgan Wilsmann, Josh Brown, Michelle Bernstein, Maimuna Ahmad, Daniel Marion

Editor’s note: Tufts in Talloires is a six-week summer program that offers academic courses to Tufts undergraduates— 91 last summer— at the Tufts European Center while simultaneously housing them with host French families living in and around Annecy. Some of the program’s 29 MacJannet Scholars reflected on the experience in letters to the Foundation, excerpted below.  Dan Rottenberg

A more comforting pace

My experience in Talloires allowed me to appreciate a much slower and comforting pace of life. It taught me that even though the bus is always a half-hour late and the waitress never brings the bill, those extra moments are for connecting with people and truly appreciating the incredible beauty that is everywhere. – Maimuna Ahmad ’17 – Massachusettes

A new environment

Acclimating to a different culture and language showed me how my preconceived notions of “normal” or “typical” were entirely subjective. It also showed me how quickly it is possible to adapt to a new environment. By the end of my time there, starting a meal without saying “bon appétit” felt rude, and explaining something in English was more difficult than French.

Another great element of Talloires is that all the adjusting and exploring you are doing as a student is matched by the professors and everyone else who works at the Priory, making it a shared experience. – Rebecca Ennis ’18 New York

Living as a French ‘citizen’

I spent a lot of time outside, swimming and paddle board- ing in the lake, biking, hiking, and just lying in the sun. Eating was also a pretty common activity— I probably had more bread, cheese, and wine than I’ve consumed in my entire life. Most important, despite my lack of French language skills, I spent a month and a half living as a French citizen, doing my best to blend in and observe the culture of a different country. That’s an experience you really can’t get anywhere else. – Josh Brown ’17 Massachusetts

Language, academic vs. real

I wanted to increase the French language skills that I have slowly developed through my courses at Tufts. Once in Talloires, it was not only about the language immer- sion; I also experienced cultural immersion in the town and with my host family. I was able to involve myself in French conversations with my family but also with people in town when I traveled to the city or went shopping in small shops and stores. – Jerson Familia ‘18 Massachusett

What stopped Napoleon

My Classics class helped me understand the Roman Empire’s influence on France. My favorite part was going on archeological hunts in Talloires and finding within the village the Roman characteristics that we had discussed in class. My biology class helped me understand how certain diseases, such as syphilis, affected France as a whole: syphilis pre- vented the French army from conquering Russia – and thus precipitated the decline of Napoleon’s French Empire. – Janet Nieto ’18 Texas

I made them laugh

My amazing host family took me for a weekend in Par- is, to a cousin’s six-year-old birthday party in their moun- tain chalet, we went wakeboarding to celebrate the end of classes and had countless delicious dinners. I learned how to live with five complete strangers who barely speak my native language. I was able to communicate with kids and make them laugh uncontrollably, using a language that I have never used outside of a high school classroom. – Noah Goldberg ’18 Massachusetts

Negative image

The language barrier did not inhibit my mobility within France, but it did lead to the perpetuation of a negative image of Americans by the French people. Sev- eral people questioned my motives to study in France if I did not even speak the language. The idea that Americans do not make the effort to learn a different language or im- merse themselves in a different culture was even brought up by a host family member. These comments took me by surprise but allowed me to help change these misconcep- tions as an Indian American Tufts student. – Anika Kumar ’18 California

A unique relationship

Every day my unbelievable host family would pro- vide my roommate and me with great food, great com- pany, and assistance when needed. They bought us fresh bread every morning and prepared an amazing dinner every night. One weekend we went up to the mountains to visit with the grandparents and eat a traditional French meal. I went to a professional soccer game with my fam- ily— another experience I will never forget. – Alex Snyder ’17 Massachusetts

Amazing classes

Classes were amazing. Biology had a focus on epide- miology with a heavy historical lens. This led to a greater learning about diseases and their impact on the world we live in and showed the significance of awareness of disease prevention, vaccination and of course washing your hands.  My other class, economics, was very different from what I have taken before. It focused on food economy, providing a better understanding of how heavily food stimulates or destroys an economy. – Melissa Batista ‘18 Massachusetts

Was it the cheese?

Sometimes, that sleeping beauty called curiosity stays asleep as we go about our daily lives. And sometimes it is only awakened by some of the strongest experiences. May- be sitting by the lake and marveling at the majesty of the surrounding mountains did it for me. Maybe it was taking a bite of Beaufort cheese after finishing an exquisite home- made dinner with my host family. Or maybe it was eating it after going down on the water skis. Whatever it was, I will cherish the past two months for the rest of my life. – Vincent Hwang ‘18 Ohio

Personal growth

Being a MacJannet Scholar, to me, means working hard to see through an outsider’s eyes and adjust to the different cultures to which we are exposed, and then to bring these values back and apply them to our everyday lives. The program taught responsibility, caring and the practice of respect among peers and strangers (our host families). I have grown as a person and know that I am better because of it. – Miguel Rodriguez ’18 California

To travel on my own

I must confess that I was a bit disappointed by the host fam- ily experience, but I believe it taught me how to be polite and tolerant to new or less ideal culture and conditions. The program also marked my progress in independence and cosmopolitan- ism, as this was my first time to travel so extensively by myself.- Jiacheng Zhu ’18 China

Above: A class in the Prieure garden

Above: A class in the Prieure garden

Professors who care

Tufts in Talloires was one of the most joyful expe- riences of my life thus far, and it was such a singular experience. It’s the perfect balance of work and leisure. Two classes: complete some requirements, take really in- teresting classes with professors who want to be teaching and who really care about their Talloires students. Two classes: the perfect amount of class time and homework, leaving enough leisure time to lie on the docks, get to know new friends, munch in cafés and swim at the beach. – Lindsay Julio ‘17 Massachusetts

Pushing my limits

“It is the best thing Tufts has to offer.” I heard these words over and over again from Tufts in Talloires alumni. Overall I would have to agree. This program is a must-do for anyone lucky enough to have the opportunity.- Michelle Bernstein ’17, Massachusetts

Education redefined

The most negative aspect of this program was how fast time went by! I went hiking in the Alps, visited the Red Cross Interna- tional in Geneva, paddle-boated on the lake during the MacJannet Games, baby-sat a professor’s son, and even attended the world- renowned Annecy Animation Film Festival. As a result, my classes became more compelling than typical classes I’ve taken
in the past year. Just being able to sit outside the Priory and have a meaningful conversation with a professor over cheese and bread made me realize that I may never have such a unique experience again. Essentially, Tufts in Talloires has become a new breed of education, and I think it has successfully executed the fine balance between intellectuality and leisure. – Kyle Paul ’18 New Mexico

New friendships

In six weeks I went from struggling to form a sen- tence in French to being able to explain the U.S. system of mass incarceration in French. Perhaps the best part of the Talloires program was the bonding I experienced with my fellow travelers. I made amazing friends at Talloires and I intend on continuing these great, new friendships at Tufts. – Daniel Marion ’18 Pennsylvania

A family village

The small town feel of Talloires was my favorite aspect of the trip.  The friendliness of the locals is beyond compare.  I had left my wallet at home and was trying to buy a loaf of bread when a local couple just paid for it for me without my even asking. “You looked like you forgot something!” they explained in an adorable French-English accent. The next day I repaid it by buying a local a small sandwich. The community seems to be all one big family together, set in a time- less beauty that is only understood after being there. – Curtis Alexander ’16 Connecticut

First things first

I spent most of my time with my host family. I would go to practice with the local soccer team from Talloires. Also, I attended soccer games during the first two Sun- days. I took two challenging classes and I needed to be on top of my assignments. On Friday evenings I would go to the lake. I wanted to have a full experience with my fam- ily. I figured that I could always travel around Europe, but I wouldn’t always live in a French family for six weeks. – Farley Flores ’18 California

‘Hard not to be happy’

Waking up in such a beautiful place every day, it was hard not to be happy. Even if I was late on a home- work assignment or was angry with myself for missing the bus, looking at the picturesque mountains over the vibrant blue lake never ceased to amaze me. It would put me in a trance, where I was only able to think about how beautiful it was and how blessed I was to have this opportunity. – Max Hornung ’18 Illinois

A Balance between th intellectual and the leisure: The Saint Germain Pilgrimage Finish

A Balance between th intellectual and the leisure: The Saint Germain Pilgrimage Finish

Kisses on the cheek

My favorite thing about this program was living in another country — not just visiting another country but really living in one. Menthon St. Bernard felt some- thing similar to a home. My walk to the bus stop, the sound of the sheep bells, and the dazzling sunset over the lake all became familiar to me. I developed a routine: Almost every morning, I ate a bowl of muesli for breakfast with my host brother. I went to class at the Priory, maybe went to the beach in the afternoon if it happened to be a sunny day, then went home to eat dinner and study. This was my French life, which was refreshingly different from my life at Tufts or my life at home in Maryland.  Gaulthier, my host brother, was a really sweet kid. – Sean Delawder ’18 Maryland

Touching the clouds

Beyond the Priory classrooms, one of the best experiences I had during my time in France was on the first overnight hike. Before this, I had never completed trails so difficult. My mouth was open as I panted to the peak of a mountain that literally touched the clouds, ate a satisfying home-cooked meal at the Alpine refuge (wool blankets included) and passed the hours talking with new friends. Whether in an isolated Alpine town or sitting at a packed dinner table filled with host-family relatives and wine glasses, it was times like these in which I felt com- pletely immersed in French culture and the most comfortable. – Hannah Loss ’17 Florida

How cool is this?

One early Friday morning, Professor Hitchner took our Classics class on a walking tour of Talloires. He showed us how the ancient and medieval town would have been set up — where the old boundary walls stood, where there might have been guard towers in the corners of the walls or entrances to the town, where the old center of the town was, how some of the shops/ inns/ houses functioned, and how materials from older epochs were re-used in newer buildings. This one little walking tour completely changed my experiences – not just in Talloires, but also in Lyon, Geneva, Vienne, and Annecy’s old city. How cool is it to study history, surrounded by history? The answer: pretty darned cool.  – Adi Harris ’18 California

Learning from mistakes

Whether it was taking the wrong bus home, or using my nascent French to tell my host family that I had gone to war to pick up my train tickets (guerre vs. gare), I often found myself making missteps during my stay. But now that I’m leaving Talloires, I feel more confident than ever communicating in French, and no bus driver in the world can scare me! – Ian James ’18 California

Beyond my comfort zone

I will forever be grateful not only for the travel ex- perience this trip has given me, but also for the oppor- tunity to step out of my comfort zone and grow tremen- dously. I was a little nervous about traveling in general, and I was also nervous about the host family situation. But my host family was extremely hospitable and wel- coming, and they loved engaging in conversation. I will definitely miss them. – Anna Rodriguez ’18 Massachusetts

Out of my shell

It was such an amazing experience, one that re- ally caused me to break out of my shell, both aca- demically and socially. I didn’t really participate in my classes at Tufts in Medford, because I was shy and the classes were large. But in Talloires, I really made the effort to participate and develop relation- ships with my professors. I was also able to take classes that really interested me outside of my ma- jor— classes that I would not necessarily have had the chance to take before. – Alejandra Garcia ’17 Connecticut

And now, the future

On our last night together as a group, Gabriella [Goldstein, the director] told us, “No one is ever really done with Talloires.” I understand what she meant. It’s hard to leave this place that I’ve come to call my home for the past six weeks, but I know that the things I’ve learned about myself in Talloires will stay with me for a lifetime. – Claire Gelbart ’17 California