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What is Active Learning: An experience from Aix

It's amazing how I never stop to think about what I am learning and how I am changing here in France until I have to actually sit and write about it. Active learning is something that I have come to understand subconsciously, but to define it is a little difficult for me. I will try my best though. 
Living in Aix-en-Provence, France for four weeks now, I am realizing that active learning is essential. Active learning is not only learning in the classroom, but learning from every mistake and experience I encounter. Naturally, I am very shy and quiet, but when get to know someone I open up a lot. Living in France and having studied French for only two semesters before I arrived, I cannot afford to be shy. When I need to get things done I have realized that I will mess up and sometimes people will laugh. But  I can't be sensitive about it. I have learned that it is better to try and fail then to never try at all because I am shy or terrified of what people will think of me. One of the biggest things that I have learned is that people are people no matter where I am, and if I have trouble with the language barrier or I don't understand something, I can always find help. The knowledge that I can always find help has been one of my biggest comforts. This is the exterior of active learning. It is being involved in the life of the culture that I am living in, and it is putting myself out there even when I know that I won't speak or do something right.

Active learning is also taking control of what I want to learn while abroad. This trip is only what I make of it. If I want to know something, I ask. In class, if I struggle with something it is up to me to go home and study. I feel like now more than ever, what I learn is up to me. I have realized that it good to be curious, because it allows me to learn things that I wouldn't necessarily learn in the classroom. I also believe that active learning is being willing to receive help from anyone around me as well as giving help. Contrary to how I feel on the inside, I guess on the outside I tend to blend in with French people pretty well. There are times when I will have people who are lost come up to me and ask me for directions or just questions in general about Aix. I feel that if I at least try to help other people, I will also help myself  because it gives me more practice and it boosts my confidence. When these instances happen, I realize that I know a lot more than I thought and even if I mess up, people are always grateful for simple directions. I now get so excited going to class because I know that I can apply most of what I learn to my life.

Now that I am reflecting about my experiences I understand that life can pass me by so quickly if I sit back and wait for things to come to me. Active learning for me is all about taking from what I know, adding  it to what I am  learning, and pressing forward even when things get hard and frustrating. I have had many talks with people around me about my experience here, whether good or bad, and I have come to the conclusion that everyone in my program is going through the same thing. There will be good days and there will be bad ones, but remembering that all of this is a learning process and it won't last forever has given me a positive outlook.  I had a very close friend of mine just say to me last week that, "If you can make it through this, you can make it through anything." She is right. Living in a foreign country and learning a new language is not always easy. But I can tell that I am growing as a person because this is not something that I can just give up on.  I am here, living a dream that I have had for so long. No matter what I face later on in life, active learning is a skill that I can take with me always.

A bientot!
Kamile DePriest, CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence

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