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Disconnect for FACE: Lessons from the French Alps

Some describe their need for travel as an addiction. Others attribute their adventurous desires to the -7r mutation in the DRD4 gene. Personally, I'm indifferent to the reasons why we do it, but will always adamantly encourage other students to study abroad and to do so with worldly intentions.

Studying in Grenoble is my third learning trip overseas, and just one of many jumps to other countries. Though the geography and people are inevitably different from one location to the next, there are aspects of each trip I can always expect to be the same, the most important of these being the amount of exertion and learning I will experience emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Ultimately, the quality of one’s study abroad experience comes down to the traveler them self.

 One of Grenoble's many bridges.

You’ve heard that the world is flat, correct? We students are Millennials: we’ve had our thumbs glued to keypads since adolescence and our expectations for WiFi speeds are unreasonably high. When we travel abroad we don’t even expect to be out of touch with family and friends, not really.

Study abroad programs provide an incredible set of resources to students studying overseas: a home base of other foreign students, a knowledgeable local director, and a pre-planned curriculum for introducing us smoothly into our new home. But if you head to a new country to spend your days with other American students, or your evenings with old friends on social media, you may come to find that by the end of your trip, you’ve spent quite a lot of time missing your old home, while unknowingly missing your new one. Being consciously aware of your behavior and activities can benefit your experience immensely, which is why I suggest trying FACE.

F.A.C.E. (n): Food. Art. Conversation. Expression.

What is the purpose of FACE? Developed by CEA Grenoble's (rather brilliant) program director, Patrick, FACE is designed to help students assimilate to their host country by requiring them to exit the realm of digital social lives and enter instead into the observable, interactive world around them. Though the actual FACE program is unique to the French Alps, its principals benefits can (and should) be observed by anyone abroad.

Creating FACE time for yourself in another country is relatively simple.

One must simply:

  1. Disconnect them self from any digital distractions, and
  2. Actively participate in some aspect of the host country’s culture.

FACE provides four suggestions for the second step, but really, the creativity behind the disconnection process is boundless.

Food. Though local food can be readily tasted in restaurants, the creation of the food is a different dimension of experience. By making local recipes, you gain an appreciation of the time and process it takes to create a dish, while garnering knowledge of the ingredients required to produce it.

 Gratin Dauphinois: a traditional dish of Grenoble. Made at the local CEA office.

Art. View and create; FACE encourages both. Modern, historic, and prehistoric art all provide an alternative insight into your host country's origins and current state. Alternatively, take the time to recreate what you see around you, as this will help you gain a deeper appreciation for things you may otherwise pass by.
 Lauren and I viewing artwork at a free art opening.

Conversation. Express the way you are interpreting your new environment, and in return listen to what others are seeing in the same place; conversation can often prove an enlightening and comforting addition to your day-to-day experiences.
 Fall 2015 students at the CEA office enjoying aperitifs, conversation, and the artwork created by previous students.

Expression. Draw. Paint. Write. Recording your journey personalizes and realizes it while concurrently preserving your experiences for future reflection.
 Aslin, Fall 2015 MOJO Photo Blogger, capturing the paragliding festival.

Emily Milton is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in the French Alps, France. She is currently a Senior at Iowa State University.

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