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A Knight in Toulouse

NPHS student Moira Shoush returns after a year abroad in Toulouse, France

A year abroad: Moira Shoush (left) in Toulouse during the 17-18 school year

A year abroad: Moira Shoush (left) in Toulouse during the 17-18 school year

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TOWAMENCIN- Every year, North Penn gives students the opportunity to study abroad in Germany, France, and Spain. Last August, current senior Moira Shoush left the comfort of North Penn to spend the school year studying abroad in Toulouse, France. She arrived back home at the end of July, and is excited to share her experience.

It can be intimidating for anyone to go to a new country when they are not familiar with the culture or fluent in that language

“I was very self conscious in the beginning, but my host sisters were so patient with me. And a lot of people at school loved my [American] accent,” Shoush said.  

Shoush said she found herself comfortable raising her hand to speak in class after three or four weeks and felt that she was fluent in French after four months.

Being accustomed to an American way of life, Shoush quickly noticed lifestyle differences between the French and Americans. Shoush said she enjoyed the slower pace of life in France, since most of the time Americans are always busy and on-the-go.

“We enjoyed every moment and no one was rushing to get things done,” recalled Shoush.

Eating healthy meals is also essential to the French lifestyle. Even though there are a lot of bakeries in France, people value eating three balanced meals a day, which are typically home cooked. It is unusual to skip a meal during your day in France, unlike here in America, where it is normal to eat more or less than three meals.

“I don’t think I ate fast food once with my host family,” recounted Shoush.

Unlike the United States, there is not as much pressure to go to college. In France, college is free and almost everyone gets in, while college here is very competitive.

“A lot of people were going to college for things like art or to be a hairdresser. Here, the general trend is to go into something with math or science,” Shoush explained.

Shoush also noticed that it is important to French students that they dress nicely when attending school.

“No one would ever wear sweatpants or leggings or a hoodie to school. They would think that you had some kind of problem going on,” explained Shoush, emphasizing the importance of fashion to French students.

While staying in Toulouse, Shoush had the opportunity to study as a senior at Lycee Ozenne. Shoush quickly noticed that the French education system is very different from home.

The teaching style is very different,” she said “Most of the time the teacher was talking and we would take a bunch of notes. And the way we take tests in America is a lot of multiple choice and memorizing information, but in France we had all essay tests”

— Moira Shoush

“The teaching style is very different,” she said “Most of the time the teacher was talking and we would take a bunch of notes. And the way we take tests in America is a lot of multiple choice and memorizing information, but in France we had all essay tests.”

Schools in France are also significantly smaller than North Penn. Shoush explained that most classes consist of thirty people, and school hours are typically from eight to five or nine to six, with many lecture-style classes. She admitted that the open ended tests and note taking teaching style used in France helped her learn more than the usual memorizing facts and multiple choice tests.

Like most students, Shoush made many friends while abroad. Three of them happen to be her host sisters, who she was excited to share about.

Her three host sisters were Marie, who is eighteen, Claire, who is sixteen, and Sophie, who is fourteen. All were very patient, supportive, and helpful. “We got along so well,” acknowledged Shoush.

Shoush also had two supportive host parents, who are both biology teachers. “They are very different from my parents,” she said.

They enjoyed taking trips to the country together, where Shoush’s host family owned a house. Shoush admitted that these trips were a very different experience for her, since the house had no wifi or television, and had no surrounding neighbors, but she still ended up having a great time.

“Sometimes we would go for bike rides or play board games,” Shoush shared about her past times with her host family.

Shoush became friends with a lot of her classmates as well.

“They are very different from the friends I have [at North Penn],” explained Shoush “If I went to North Penn with them I don’t think we’d be friends, but since we were in the same class from eight to five, you get so close to them.”

Shoush credits one of her best friends, Cristiana, for helping her confidence while abroad.

“In general, I’m a very clueless person, and she was there to help me out,” Shoush said. “She pushed me to be more confident and assertive and say what I want.”

Even though Shoush has adjusted to being back in the United States, she makes French a part of her daily life. Shoush still takes French as a class at North Penn, and she keeps in touch with the friends she made abroad. She left her mark on her friends and family in Toulouse, and is ready to leave behind a legacy before graduating North Penn.

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