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Photo Credit: Kate Croxton

The University of West Georgia (UWG) provides several opportunities for students who want to study abroad. This invitation is not exclusively for UWG students though. Other countries with international students are welcome to come study here as well, and some students from France decided to study abroad for the fall semester.

Marie Sinet, Laetitia Beaumont and Fanny Lebel are three students from the ESCEM School of Business and Management in Tours, France. They range from ages 19 to 23, and all three are business majors. The three landed in the United States on Aug. 13, and they fly back Dec. 21. While they miss French baguettes and cheese, they feel what they will miss more when they return home is the friends they have made at UWG.

“The people are more friendly, more open minded,” said Sinet. “They are without judgment. The people back home are less open minded, and they are not helpful. The students here are so kind and friendly, and they don’t care about the appearance of each other.”

Like any study abroad student, Sinet, Beaumont, and Lebel enjoy comparing the culture of their home country to their host country. One struggle they have faced is the amount of fast food Americans rely on. None of the students expected such a high amount of fast food restaurants, but they were also displeased with how expensive fresh fruits and vegetables are in American supermarkets.

“There is so much fast food here, it’s incredible,” said Lebel. “Everything is big and with a lot of fat. It’s also crazy that vegetables are so expensive, and fast food is so cheap.”

The quality of education is another key difference between the two countries. The three students immediately noticed the more relaxed relationship students can have with their professors here.

“The students and teachers can share lots of discussions and points of views with each other, which is something they do not generally do back home,” said Beaumont.

The differences continue beyond homework assignments and student and teacher relationships. UWG’s atmosphere did not escape their attention. The French students enjoy being able to meet new people and attend all the events and activities available on and off campus. So far, they have visited New Orleans, gone to a mall and seen a film at the local movie theater. These activities are a small part of why they chose to come to America instead of a different country.

“I chose America because I wanted to discover the ‘American way of life,’” said Lebel. “I want to test anything that creates the American culture. I also really wanted to improve my English.”

The three students have been learning English since they were around 10 years old, but they are excited to use it with native speakers and to see it improve during their time here. This is a key reason why Beaumont chose to come to UWG instead of a different country.

“I chose West Georgia because it is an English-speaking country,” said Beaumont. “I also chose it because my French school has a partnership with UWG.”

This partnership is coordinated by UWG’s International Services and Program (ISP). Maria Doyle, the director of International Services and Programs, assists students with joining international programs as well as forming new partnership agreements, which permits faculty to find creative ways to help students have a global experience.

“These partnership agreements allow us to send students out all three semesters, and it allows UWG to bring international students here for fall and spring semesters,” said Doyle.

UWG’s study abroad program has been around for around 25 years. In the last 10 to 15 years, the program has been expanding to include other programs that specifically pertain to additional areas of study, such as nursing and business. This is the program where Sinet, Lebel and Beaumont came from.

“We have two partnerships in France,” Doyle said. “One connects directly with the Richards College of Business, which offers a semester or year long program that can be offered in either English or French. The other program deals with the University of Poitiers, which is also a business school. However, it allows students to study French or English and develop international relations.”

Doyle also recently founded a 2016 summer study abroad program for UWG students interested in going to France, which sets students up to live with a host family while they study at the Institut de Touraine.

“Students can form good connections with local communities. They experience another culture and fulfill their requirements at the same time,” said Doyle.

Sinet, Beaumont and Lebel are currently enrolled in five classes while attending UWG, in subjects such as management, public relations, principles of marketing, organizational behavior and advertising practices. They hope to apply the classes they took here towards an internship when they return home.

“The internship is during a five or six month period, and it will be in event management or marketing,

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