In some cases, when developing a new skill set, there is a definitive point at which you can say you’ve learned everything possible. In other instances, learning is an ongoing process that is never complete — something Tess Stogner ’19 loves about learning a new language. Stogner, a junior from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, majoring in French and global studies in the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, developed a passion for the French language in high school. With the encouragement of her AP French teacher, she has been studying the language ever since.
“Learning a language is such a great way to understand culture,” Stogner says. “Every language has its own way of thinking and expressing itself. You have to think differently to understand French well, and I like that there’s not an end point … in studying a language.”
When enrolling at UNC-Chapel Hill, Stogner knew that she wanted to take her education a step further with an immersive study abroad program. During the fall of 2017, she spent the semester in Montpellier, France, where she had the opportunity to take courses at Université Paul Valéry; she studied French oral expression, the history of French literature in the 1800s and the history of social politics in France.
In addition to taking classes, Stogner made a point to get involved in the Montpellier community. She spent time volunteering at a local elementary school, teaching English to children and teaching gospel songs to students at Collège Joffre middle school. Stogner also took a rock climbing class for the first time.
“Having an open mind is part of what can determine the quality of your study abroad experience,” Stogner says. “Being willing to step outside of my comfort zone and being open to new experiences helped me to invest more into the Montpellier community. Coming back, I’ve noticed how much more easily the language comes to me now, which is so rewarding.”
Stogner feels her time abroad not only improved her understanding and mastery of the French language, but prepared her for tackling new challenges she might face in the future. “My first experience living outside of my state was in another country where they didn’t speak my language,” Stogner notes. “Trying to acclimate to a vastly different culture shows you what you’re capable of, and I’ve realized I have that ability to start from scratch and find my footing in a short span of time, which has allowed me to explore my interests with more confidence.”
Back at Carolina, Stogner has taken advantage of this confidence to pursue new avenues of learning, serving as the environmental education intern this spring for the North Carolina Botanical Garden, an opportunity available through the APPLES Service-Learning program. She has also taken up beginners guitar classes and has continued rock climbing for fun.
Stogner is unsure what will come after graduation in May 2019, but her time abroad has left her confident that she handle anything that comes her way. “I like the idea of adventure and seeing where life takes me, and having the opportunity to do something that challenges me and engages the skills I’ve developed here at Carolina.”
By Jamie Gnazzo ’13