At Aix-Marseille University, I share a classroom with students from Sudan, Canada, Bulgaria, Vietnam, and many other countries around the world. Some are young teens who have just graduated from high school and others already have their master’s degree. I have been able to hear about life in their home countries and why many chose to leave to pursue a life in France. Through their stories of expatriation, I have been able to get a better understanding of the world, the multifaceted issues different countries experience (such as internal conflict, economic crisis, and natural disasters), and the relationships between groups of people within a country and between countries.
I currently pursue a Bachelor of Liberal Arts at the Soka University of America with a concentration in International Studies. My school does not have different majors since we are a small liberal arts college of roughly 400 students. Instead, we have different concentrations such as Environmental Studies, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities, and International Studies. I chose International Studies because I wanted to gain a better understanding of the economic, social, political, and cultural issues faced around the world. I specifically wanted to focus on Latin America because it is of personal interest, as I was born in Mexico.
The mission of my school is to “foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to leading a contributive life.” As part of that mission, every student in my school has the ability to study a different language and to study abroad for a semester in a country where that language is spoken to gain a better understanding of that country’s language, people, and culture.
The study abroad requirement helps me tremendously with my concentration because I have been able to travel to countries in Europe I might have not otherwise visited. I have been able to see firsthand issues that I had studied about, such as migration issues in Europe, but more than that, I have also been able to hear the personal stories that humanize these issues. I have been able to go beyond a textbook or an article that discusses refugee crises or migration issues to talking to people who chose to or were forced to migrate because their home countries face economic, political, and economic issues that make it difficult for them to remain there.
I improve my French speaking, writing, reading, and listening abilities every day. I am also able to learn more about the region of France I live in and about the people who live here. Every day, I get to become friends with people who have unique stories of pain, love, and perseverance. I am able to see daily issues that appeared before as research projects or as newspaper headlines, as the stories of real people who are here studying French with me.
Andrea Vazquez is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at Soka University of America.