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If “you only live once” is America’s best expression for living in the moment, the French have an even better one: “profiter du moment.”

“It means to ‘profit’ from the moment, to get all you can from an expe­rience because it’s not going to last,” junior JoAnna Kroeker said after spending four months in Tours, France, at a lan­guage school for inter­na­tional stu­dents. For Kroeker, the best part of studying abroad was being thrown into a new envi­ronment and seeing how other people lead their lives.

Senior Katie Kor­te­peter studied abroad in France last semester. Kor­te­peter | Courtesy

Kroeker will share about her expe­ri­ences in France for the Inter­na­tional Club event “Amer­icans Abroad,” along with senior Katie Kor­te­peter on France, sophomore Lydia Reyes on Germany, and senior Andrea Sommer on Spain. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb­ruary 23, in the Her­itage Room in Mossey Library.

Reflecting on her time in Germany, Reyes said that one of her favorite mem­ories was staying at a cabin in the moun­tains.

Lydia Reyes studied abroad in Germany. Facebook

“It looked right out at the Alps,” she said. “It just drew your breath away. Espe­cially in the morning when the sun was rising and it just came over the Alps to the top of the moun­taintops where there was still a bit of snow since it was still early in the year.”

Reyes visited Germany while she was still in high school, through a non­profit orga­ni­zation called Youth For Under­standing. Although being an amateur in the lan­guage was chal­lenging, espe­cially in learning to maneuver the language’s gram­matical “matrix,” as she described it, her com­mu­ni­cation improved expo­nen­tially once she began to learn.

“Going there and being immersed in it, without having been trained in the lan­guage before, you learn it kind of like a child does,” she said. “The grammar becomes kind of like guesswork, where you have a certain intu­ition for things because you listen very closely and observe how people say it.”

Both Kor­te­peter and Kroeker were par­tic­u­larly struck by the atmos­phere of “détente” in France, which, as Kroeker described it, is “the idea of spending hours in a café smoking cig­a­rettes and drinking your espresso, just talking.”

“Amer­icans have this kind of ‘go, go, go,’ like if we’re not doing some­thing, we’re not being us…and that’s time wasted,” Kroeker said. “There wasn’t really time wasted when I was in France; it was just time dif­fer­ently spent.”

Kor­te­peter also liked the emphasis on leisure in France, the 35-hour work week that allows people to spend more time with family and “get away from the grind.” But she said she also found French culture to be hedo­nistic in a neg­ative way, and to exhibit a loss of his­torical and reli­gious con­sciousness.

“I realized the con­ver­sa­tions I was having with them were not nearly as deep as the con­ver­sa­tions I would have some­where at Hillsdale,” she said. “French culture felt a little bit like a veneer, you know, like you have this outer shell of beau­tiful things, beau­tiful buildings, lots of simple plea­sures, you’re with your family, and then when you get under­neath, there’s not really a lot there.”

Such sen­ti­ments about how Amer­icans feel as for­eigners abroad are what Inter­na­tional Club Pres­ident Ema Karakoleva said she plans to have the panel rep­resent at tonight’s event. Over the past two years, a total of 69 stu­dents have studied abroad through Hillsdale’s Germany, France, England (Oxford), and Scotland pro­grams.

The Inter­na­tional Club as a whole is both for American stu­dents and non-American stu­dents on campus who want to learn about other cul­tures, Karakoleva said. The club cur­rently has members from the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Israel, Kenya, Ukraine, South and North Korea, and several other coun­tries.

Kor­te­peter knows firsthand what it is like to change per­spective on dif­ferent cul­tures after studying abroad.

“At the [Institut de Touraine], I was meeting people from all over the world,” she said. “It kind of got rid of a lot of stereo­types that I had, and it helped humanize the things that are going on in dif­ferent parts of the world that I make a lot of assump­tions about…now I feel like I can put faces to what I see on the news.”