Coronavirus (COVID-19): The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. Please see current information and updates related to study abroad programs. Berkeley Study Abroad is currently offering virtual services. Please see our Advising Guide for more information.

Julia Maguire

Julia Maguire

Major: Global Studies - French + Conservation and Resource Studies Minors

"Though I considered myself to be an independent individual before going to Lyon, I became much more independent while there. I spent a lot of time exploring the city on my own, which required the use of French. This opened my eyes to the French culture in a way that I have never experienced with any other culture that I have seen while traveling."

What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

I never saw myself as someone who would study abroad during college because I was a member of the women’s rowing team at Cal. However, after a considerable injury that led to my athletic retirement, I was eager to find a new path. My sister had studied abroad in her junior year and encouraged me to do the same. Because I knew that I wanted to improve my French after I had begun studying it in college as a requirement of my major (Global Studies), things kind of aligned for study abroad. I decided to apply and I am so thankful I did!

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

I was placed with an amazing host family, consisting of a mother and her daughter, who was just a few years older than me. The mom was actually an English teacher and fluent in Italian as well, so she was always eager to help me improve my French. The fact she spoke English was also very helpful when there was absolute misunderstanding on my part, because she would help me understand. The host mom’s son lived in another apartment in our building. For the first month I was there, he had an exchange student named Domenica living with him. She was from Puerto Rico and one night I helped her make a traditional Puerto Rican ceviche dish for the family. Also during that first month, we all shared several traditional raclette dinners. Most of my cultural experiences revolved around food, I guess!

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

My program was conducted entirely in French, so before leaving my biggest concern was the language element. I satisfied the minimum language requirement for the program, but definitely had less experience with French than all the other students in my program. It felt like I was kind of like jumping into the deep end with language. But as my goal was to improve my language and I know immersion is the best way to do this, I thought there was no better time to take the chance. Fortunately, we were required to take a two week intensive French course at the University, so that was a great way to become acquainted with the customs of a French university. Also, I made friends a long the way who helped me when I did not understand. All in all, I acclimated faster than I had imagined to better understanding French. Though of course, I definitely didn't understand everything and that ended up being ok.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

I lived with a host family while in Lyon, which was definitely one of my best decisions. I always only had class later in the day so I was able to eat breakfast and then would either walk to the metro or all the way to the University so I could explore more. I would do some homework while sitting in the University library before lunch. I took four classes and participated in two programs offered by the university. My classes only met once a week for an hour lecture, though some of my friends had discussion sections to accompany lecture. After classes, I would hang out with my friends in the city and normally walk home for dinner with my host family. We didn't eat until 8 or 8:30! Most weekends, I went to explore a nearby city in France or had an organized trip to somewhere farther away! It is really easy to get cheap bus and train tickets from Lyon.

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

In my program (the Lyon 2 Immersion program), you have the option to take courses from Lyon 2 (which has two campuses) and Sciences Po Lyon. My major, Global Studies, encourages students to study abroad and you are able to take up to three courses to count towards my major. So, I took I took three courses for my major at Sciences Po, and one course to fulfill my Arts & Literature and the required French methodology course from Lyon 2. Fortunately my courses at Lyon 2 were on the campus which is just few blocks away from the Sciences Po campus. Unlike Berkeley courses where you have a lecture paired with a discussion section, there is only a lecture for the courses in Lyon (for the most part). Also, generally, the French system only grades one or two assessments during the semester. Due to this, I found that there was definitely a reduced workload in comparison with the requirements and assessments that we have at Berkeley. However, there was definitely still the expectation and requirement of rather lengthy readings due before each class meeting. Though, I may not have been able to determine the true workload because of the effect that the pandemic had on the particular semester I went abroad.

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

My time abroad was only half of the time I was expecting due to Covid-19. Though that is very disappointing, I like to think that I lived every day I had there to the fullest. Lyon is one of the most populated cities in France, located in the crossroads to the rest of Europe. It is one of the most highest rated cities for students, as it is full of young people. It has a history dating back to Roman times. It is a truly amazing city to experience, but for me the most memorable aspect is definitely the culture surrounding food. Lyon is actually known as the food capital of France, meaning most of the food is kind of unreal.

Because my classes started late in the day, I was able to enjoy my breakfast, which was bread, that my host mom would get each morning, with strawberry jam. For lunch, most days I would go with my friends from my program to a boulangerie and get sandwiches. We would take them to the quai and sit alongside the river. Sitting and chatting for an hour was a vastly different lunch experience than the one I would have here in Berkeley, which often entails eating something quick while rushing from one obligation to another. Most different of all though was dinner. Each night, my host mom made an elaborate, multi-course meal. There is a legendary farmers’ market around the corner from where my homestay was so we got a lot of our food from there. I honestly felt bad how much time my host mom put into cooking each night, but she would always say that for her, it was not work; rather sharing her food is something she loves to do. Dinner consisted of a first course of salad or soup, that she would make from scratch. Then, would come the main dish, which was often something like an intricate, multi-layer vegetable lasagna (my host family ate vegetarian). Following that, we would have a cheese course, some of her homemade yogurt, and sometimes chocolate. It was SUCH a treat to live like this!! This food experience was shared by many of my peers.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Though I considered myself to be an independent individual before going to Lyon, I became much more independent while there. I spent a lot of time exploring the city on my own, which required the use of French. This opened my eyes to the French culture in a way that I have never experienced with any other culture that I have seen while traveling. At first it was pretty scary, because I was actually the only Berkeley student doing my exact program. But, I was fortunate to make friends quickly who all helped me along the way.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

For anyone considering studying abroad in France, I would ABSOLUTELY want to encourage picking Lyon. The city is truly magical and gave me such an authentic and immersive French experience. Because it is smaller, it is much more manageable to explore and cheaper than Paris, too.

How has study abroad influenced your future career path? Or, how do you see the skills you gained while abroad translating into the field you want to go into?

One program I took part in during my time in Lyon was called “Atelier de Conversation”. It is a program in which native speakers volunteer as leaders for conversation workshops for students who want to learn or improve their skills in a certain language. Basically, it is a peer to peer language exchange. It was highly recommended during the International Student orientation, so with some of my friends from the program, I signed up. For the English workshop, the leaders are in charge of creating lesson plans for two groups per week. One of the groups was of a more advanced level than the other. I absolutely loved this experience because of how I felt I helped people improve their English. But also this was a great opportunity to meet other students at the University, who were often from all parts of the world. This experience has led me to consider a passion for teaching. I loved the program and each time I had meetings with my student peers. It was a great way to meet French students, too. As a result of this experience, I am now considering applying for a program that for teaching English in France after graduating in the spring.