I chose my program because I had wanted to live in France since beginning to learn French when I was 10. Unfortunately I had not had the opportunity to do so, because of school and university commitments and financial limitations. The exchange program at ANU seemed like the easiest way to study and live in France and advance my language skills without abandoning my study in Australia for too long.
I used the Ethel Tory Language Scholarship to pay rent. It sounds very dull, but I found the perfect apartment with five local students right in the centre of Lyon. The scholarship money enabled me to avoid living in a residence where English was the main language spoken, and immerse myself in French life and language living with students my age.
The best part of my overseas experience was the moment I realised I could wake up in the morning and chat to my housemates about anything and nothing over the breakfast table, without having to consciously conjugate verbs or scramble for words.
My advice to prospective students considering applying for the Ethel Tory Language Scholarship is that even though it’s been said a thousand times, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to jump into every opportunity which allows you to experience new things. There were so many times when I would be exhausted at the end of the day and want to retreat into my room rather than having another conversation where I would say something ridiculous and have to repeat myself five times before I could get my point across. But every time I denied that impulse and put in the extra effort, I was so pleasantly surprised – I met new people, learnt a thousand new words and fell in love with my surroundings. You’ll have plenty of time to sit in front of your laptop and skype your friends, but if there’s something else to do, always say yes.
Thinking quickly and instinctively in another language is an experience too few Australians have. Mastering a second language opens so many doors to understanding other cultures as well as learning things about yourself.
Jessica has since graduated from the university.