NSU students pursue study abroad opportunities


NATCHITOCHES – Two Northwestern State University students will spend the Spring 2019 semester at the Université de Angers in northwestern France, through NSU’s study abroad program.


Ruben Smith of Clayton has never travelled outside the United States and is learning to speak French while Ilyanna Warlen of Shreveport speaks fluent French and has visited that country many times. Both hope the experience will broaden their horizons and enhance their education.


Smith began thinking about studying abroad during a French 1010 class with Dr. Benjamin Forkner, who coordinates study abroad initiatives in the Department of English, Foreign Languages and Cultural Studies.


“After a few weeks of class, I started to find I had a desire to learn more about this culture, this language and I even went so far as meeting the French students who exchanged from Angers,” Smith said.  “We became friends right away and we even discussed me going to France for a semester.


Smith, a sophomore, said he didn’t think he could afford a study abroad until he learned that the exchange provides for the same tuition and fees, with the exception of housing, to be paid through Northwestern.   As an English major concentrating in film studies and professional writing, he plans to take courses that apply to his degree and would like to take a translation class. He has been studying the French language, enunciation and grammar.


“I come from small-town Clayton, Louisiana, where the biggest thing that happens there is the mail being delivered,” Smith said.  “I’ve never flown, driven or sailed outside the United States, so this is going to be an experience for me. A lot of firsts are to be explored out there, and I believe France to be the perfect place for me to do just that. I’m glad Dr. Forkner is persistent in getting me to go to France, and I think it’s an affordable way to explore the world and get college credits while you’re at it.”


Warlen is seeking an experience away from home with true independence. She plans to teach abroad after completing her degree and hopes to get a taste of what it is like to live abroad alone.


“My mother is French, so I have experience speaking French and I have been to France many times.  I also took four semesters of French here at Northwestern,” she said.  “I have traveled to France many times with my family but we would visit the south of France and we would always stay a month. During this trip I will be in France from January to June. It will be the longest time I have spent out of this country.”


Her plans include taking multiple English courses for her major, translating French to English, studying grammar, taking a few history classes and traveling.


“It will be interesting to see France’s point of view for America’s history and England’s,” she said.  “I plan to visit the castle in Anger. I plan to get a pass so I can visit the castle as many times as I am able.”


The city of Angers was first mentioned by Ptolemy around AD 150 and was for centuries a stronghold in northwestern France.  The Angers metropolitan area is a major economic center in western France, particularly active in industry, horticulture, and tourism. Angers enjoys a rich cultural life, made possible by its universities and museums.  The Université de Angers was founded in 1356, closed down in 1793 and reestablished in 1971.  The university has about 20,000 students.


In recent years, NSU has developed agreements with several international institutions to promote foreign study, student and faculty exchange and teaching/research collaborations in many disciplines.  Semester, year-long and short summer study opportunities and tours abroad are available. Administrators say the lifelong benefits are far-ranging and have positive effects on student development and post-graduation opportunities.  Students immersed in a foreign language and culture greatly accelerates language learning and going abroad allows students to discover new interests.


“Study abroad is very important,” Forkner said.  “In college, students can travel more easily, so it is an opportunity almost impossible to replicate after graduation.  Studying abroad generally is a catalyst for increased self-confidence, as students become more independent, mature, and, increase their decision-making skills.


Students are also exposed to a new cultural and learning environment, helping them adapt more easily, Forkner said.


“This experience also gives them new perspectives on the global community and intercultural communication, which makes it easier to interact/work with people of different cultural backgrounds. It also shows future employers a strong willingness to learn and take initiative.”


For both students, living and learning in France next year will be a memorable experience.


“I depart for France in January, and I just know that there’s a whole world of French culture waiting for me out there,” Smith said.