Sarah Howard shares about her year in France


Anna Minton


Independence, life-long friends, unique travel and unforgettable experiences are all gifts that Sarah Howard gained during her recent trip to France. Howard spent eleven months of her sophomore year of high school in Lille and Paris, France.

“It definitely was life changing,” Howard said. Here are five reasons why France changed her life.

  1. Life in Europe

Because she spent almost a year traveling, Howard had the opportunity to become quite familiar with France; however, while Howard was abroad, she didn’t spend all her time in France.

“I really liked taking trips to other countries, too,” Howard said. “I spent most of my time in school and taking trips to other places.”

While she wasn’t traveling, she had a demanding school schedule.

“I had school from 7:00am to 6:30pm, and then I’d spend most of my nights out in the city, especially in Lille,” she said.

  1. The Highs and The Lows

Like any teenager’s life, there are the good things and the bad things about day-to-day experiences. Howard’s year in France proved to be no different. She said her favorite part about her time abroad was exploring France and other countries.

“It was fun to visit and see different countries,” she said.

She traveled to England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal while she was studying abroad. Though Howard had the opportunity to make memories in places that most people can only dream of, she experienced some difficulties too during her time in France.

“I’d say the worst part was school,” Howard said. “It was harder and really long.”

School wasn’t the only challenge she faced in France. Upon arriving in France, she didn’t speak French. Though she had basic knowledge of the French language, she wasn’t fluent by any means.

“It was hard living in France because I didn’t speak French, but the longer I lived there, the more comfortable I got,” she said.

Though she doesn’t regret this experience, she did say that the language barrier was the hardest part of transitioning from America to France.

  1. Relationships

As anyone can imagine, leaving your country for a year would affect your relationships with your family. In Howard’s case, leaving for a year certainly changed the way she felt about her family.

“I didn’t see my family for a whole year, so yeah, that definitely affected our relationships,” Howard said. “It made me feel closer to them because I missed them so much.” Though she didn’t see her family for a year, she undoubtedly was surrounded by people that made her stay more enjoyable.

“My best friend was a girl from Germany who was also there for school. I met a lot of people during school, too.”

  1. Paris Bombings

While the scariest day in the life of a usual teenager might encompass getting yelled at by parents or getting a detention, Howard encountered a different type of fear while she was in Paris. She was in France during the Paris Bombings on the night of Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. While 130 people died during the attacks on Paris, Howard was staying at a friend’s house in Ermont, which is north of Paris.

“At my friend’s house we were all freaking out and watching the news,” she said. “It was creepy.”

Following the attacks, Howard witnessed France staying alert for a while.

“You were searched everywhere you went,” Howard said. “You couldn’t even go to the grocery store without being searched.”

  1. Final Thoughts

Howard said this experience changed her.

“It taught me about the world,” Howard said.  “It also made me more independent.”

Students who are interested in studying abroad should visit any of the following websites: