Twelve students had the opportunity of a lifetime this summer when they attended the International Communications study abroad in Toulouse, France. The International Communication program, led by Senior Instructor Dr. Maria Ines Marino, and SCJ associate professor Maria Elena Villar, gave students a unique opportunity to explore intercultural communication in a multicultural city. CARTA News had the chance to catch up with Professor Villar and one student, Christopher Dalov, who attended the program.
The International Communication in Toulouse, France, took place in the last 2 weeks of Summer A, 2019. Students had the opportunity to fulfill Global Learning requirements, and University Core Curriculum (UCC) courses, as well as advance in their track in Communication. Professor Villar laid out the intention of the program perfectly: “From a learning perspective, the purpose of the program is for students to think about communication – ranging from intercultural communication to nonverbal communication to artistic expression – from a different cultural standpoint. That final project is a participant-observational study about some aspect of communication comparing Miami and Toulouse. Students interview locals, attend events and shows, and delve into their topics in a fully experiential way.”
One of the best opportunities of attending a study abroad while at FIU is the ability to have dedicated time away from your home distractions, and focus solely on yourself and your studies. Toulouse, a major multicultural hub, gives students much of the same diversity as Miami from a completely different cultural perspective. Talking about this possibility for introspective discourse, professor Villar continued, “Travel is always an opportunity for self-reflection: What do we take for granted? What do I assume about people around me? How do I react in uncertain situations? Because Toulouse is a university city, our students are surrounded by people their age and have a lot of opportunities to compare notes about different approaches to life. After the program, students reported learning a lot about themselves and others, and making friends from FIU that perhaps they would not have encountered in their regular lives in Miami.”
Christopher Dalov, an FIU Architecture student, also reflected on his time in France. When asked about how he would characterize his experience, Christopher said: “I hoped for the trip to be a culturally enriching experience, weaving together a traditional class structure as would be expected from FIU in the context of a new, foreign backdrop. However, what did change was the open-endedness of the program – the class assignments with the professors provided a great deal of exploration and discovery within the realm of this new French environment. It helped to make me assess and analyze the lessons in a more personal manner.”
He also spoke on how he related his experience living in France to living in Miami. “It was as if I was traveling to another world, almost a place out of time. Toulouse – aside from being a beautiful city– is a place of extensive and rich history. Given that Miami took a part of that culture and helped to integrate it into its own aesthetics, architecturally and culturally truly felt as though I was looking into a ‘behind-the-scenes’ for such a city. As a result, it helped to expand my knowledge not only of France, but also my home country, America, overall.”
While on study abroad, students navigate a foreign city while working on course-related projects, encouraging them to pursue greater independence and engaging in unique interactions with the local community. This step outside their comfort zone – not speaking the dominant language, walking and biking as transportation, deciphering social norms – is an empowering experience.
CARTA leads the university in percent of students that study abroad. Programs such as International “Communication in Toulouse” help students expand their horizons while earning college credit. To find out more about the Summer 2020 Toulouse program, please contact Dr. Maria Ines Marino firstname.lastname@example.org.