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Montpellier Integrated Studies
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Janine Mistrick

Major: Biology, Applied French
Minor: Environmental Inquiry, International Studies
Hometown: State College

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I first learned about this program through an academic advising meeting about my involvement with the French department with Dr. Heather McCoy. My original plan was to minor in French, but Dr. McCoy informed me that I could study abroad to receive the additional credits I would need for a second major (in French) and that the integrated studies program in Montpellier would be a good fit for a science/language major like my own.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I studied abroad in Montpellier, France for the fall 2016 semester. I was enrolled at Universite Paul-Valery in grammar, literature, and history courses and the Universite de Montpellier in an evolutionary ecology lab course. I lived with a host family that greatly added to my cultural experiences and language improvement. I was involved in intramural Frisbee at my university and worked out at a gym nearby. My favorite activity was ballroom dance lessons two nights a week at a dance school near my host mom's apartment. I traveled extensively around France during my free weekends, visiting Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Paris, Arles, Sete, and Avignon as well as Monte Carlo, Monaco.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I was able to complete the final 12 required courses for my French major through a French university. Three of the courses I took were taught by French professors to other American students but I was enrolled in two integrated courses: a history class on the crusades and a biology lecture/lab on evolutionary ecology. These courses in particular provided me with a rigorous academic experience that pushed me to improve my listening, reading, and writing in French and contributed to my growth as a French speaker.

"These courses in particular provided me with a rigorous academic experience that pushed me to improve my listening, reading, and writing in French and contributed to my growth as a French speaker."

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I plan to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in ecology (current focus is likely wildlife population dynamics, conservation, and wildlife diseases - though this is just what I'm thinking at the moment) with the end goal of working in field research related to the conservation and management of wild populations with special emphasis on climate change and the increased human influence on wild spaces and flora/fauna. My chance to take a biology class allowed me to interact with a professor from a different cultural background who is pursuing research on topics I find interesting. This could provide me with connections for the future as I look into graduate programs and future research opportunities. If nothing else, an experience abroad and studying science in another language sets me apart from my fellow applicants by showing my adaptability and competence in my field. Hopefully this will complement my academic performance and research/field experience in biology to show my promise as a graduate student.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes, I would highly recommend the integrated studies program at Montpellier, especially to highly motivated and double-major students. The integrated studies program challenges students by placing them in courses with other French college students. This is not a program to be coddled by American-sympathetic professors who will translate instructions to English or accept minimal effort from students who would rather be partying than learning. There is much growth and learning to come from being expected to perform like a native speaker and it really pushed me to improve my language skills and perform at a high level.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website
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