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Students explored the many facets of Paris for a semester

For two Lafayette students, Paris was more than the City of Light; it was the city of learning.

Daniela Ochoa Diaz ’08 (Davie, Fla.) and Lauren Moulder ’08 (Eden Prairie, Minn.) were among a contingent that took advantage of the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program in conjunction with Lafayette.

The two used a myriad of opportunities to enrich themselves culturally, socially, and academically. Whether it was touring in the magnificence of the Louvre, enjoying a quiet afternoon at Jardin de Luximburg, or streaming down the Champs-Elysses, there was never a break in the action or an adventure that never failed to enlighten.

Both say they will never forget the fall of ’07 and the chance to spread their wings abroad.

“All the knowledge I gained through my classes and just by walking through the streets, riding the Metro and living the experience that is Paris changed me,” Ochoa Diaz, an international affairs major, recalls. “Every big city will have that effect on you, but a culturally rich city such as Paris will make you realize many things about your home country, yourself, and your take on political, artistic, and social issues.”

Likewise for Moulder, who remembers the bonds she forged with her fellow students as well as the French people.

“I feel as though I had a wonderful experience with the French culture and people,” says the economics and business and French double major. “I lived with a host family while I was in Paris and am truly grateful to them for all their help, kindness, and friendship.”

In addition to Ochoa Diaz and Moulder, music and language studies double major Allison Shapp ’08 (Plainview, N.Y.) and mathematics & economics and French double major Viktorija Gecyte ’08 (Vilnius, Lithuania) also took advantage of the program.

Their educational opportunities were vast and varied, with Moulder studying at Paris universities in Sorbonne Nouvelle and Dauphine, as well as Sweet Briar. She took courses in French literature, development economics, French grammar, and art history.

Ochoa Diaz also studied at Sorbonne, where she learned art history and French, and she even had the opportunity to study dance at la Mairie de Paris of the 9th arrondissement.

Both fondly recall the many places they visited, with an enchanting evening at the Paris Palais Garnier Ballet an especially fond memory for Ochoa Diaz. She also made her first trip to London, visited family in Vienna, and also had a dream-come-true trip to Istanbul.

Moulder hit many of the region’s most famous tourist spots, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Tours, and Normandy.

Socially, the French scene was just as diverse and memorable. For Ochoa Diaz, it was somewhat unsettling that the social circles for students consisted primarily of their neighbors rather than classmates.

“This can make socializing difficult because you as a student are itching to meet French people and get to know them and what they’re like as though they’re a whole other species,” she says. “The good part is that you still get to do this even though it’s tough at the university. Part of the experience is to be open-minded, and that’s one of the ways to meet people and understand the Parisian ways.”

In addition to social adjustments, Moulder also found the education process to be significantly different.

“It took a while to acclimate to the process and speed of the universities, but once I better understood the professors and they me, it became a great learning experience,” she says. “The students at Dauphine were amazing and always willing to help or just talk. I hope that I will stay in touch with a few that I knew the most.”

Both students feel they will benefit greatly from the experience in all aspects of their lives.

“Ultimately, I will take away from Paris the knowledge that, as much as I am interested in learning about other people, many people feel the same way,” Moulder observes. “My stay in France has provided me with a new confidence. I can not only accept extreme change, but I can gain so much from it.”

Ochoa Diaz took away a new worldliness from Paris, including extracurricular education about cheese and jazz, as well as belly dancing – an activity she was able to pursue in her spare time.

“All of my study abroad experiences will and have helped me at Lafayette and I believe will help me in the future,” she says. “The fact that I know another language itself opens many doors for me. Additionally, it has helped me learn how to adapt to different places and to be practical.”

After Lafayette, Ochoa Diaz hopes to earn a Ph.D. in the U.S. and France. At Lafayette, she is involved in Engineers without Borders, Hispanic Society of Lafayette, International Students Association, Amnesty International, Spanish for Kids, French Club, and the Model United Nations.

Moulder hopes to work on Wall Street and continue her French studies. She is involved in the campus French Club and is a Kids in the Community program volunteer.

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