Back to SummaryAlison Holliday - Student Advisor Profile
ACADEMIC INTERESTS : Pre Med
My year abroad in Florence and Paris was one of the best years of my life. I discovered new cultures, explored my intellectual passions, made lasting friendships, and learned a lot about myself in the process.
I was lucky enough to live in Paris for eight months—two quarters and one summer. Despite my pre-med requirements that I needed to fulfill on the Stanford campus, I kept deciding to extend my time in Paris. I changed my flight home five times!
My abroad experience began with my wonderful host family: Slyviane, Kim, their children Camille and Alex, and their dog Lauren, whose diet consisted of cheese, chocolate tarts, butter, who owned a European passport, and who slept in my bed each afternoon. At first, I had a difficult time communicating with my host
family. My French was rusty. So I smiled often and used hand motions. At least I knew one expression: “I am full, thanks” in French, a necessary phrase when you live with Sylviane, who cooks 3-course meals with cheese tasting each night. But little by little, my patient family helped me improve my language skills. Kim let me borrow French books, and Sylviane and I watched “Law and Order” in French together nightly. By the time I left, my host family had accepted me like a member of their own—teaching me to cook French dishes such as crepes, fixing my broken stereo, teasing me about dates I went on, and taking me and my friends to their countryside home.
My classes and academic internships also helped me immerse myself in the French culture and language. I was able to continue my passion for Human Biology and public health while abroad through internships, Stanford courses, as well as courses at French universities. These experiences will likely be important stepping stones to graduate studies I hope to pursue. I compared the French and American healthcare systems through a class of five students and conducted research on diabetes and obesity issues in the two countries through independent projects and private tutors. Being in the country gave me immediate
access to primary sources that were crucial to my research. Also, I was able to continue exploring my interest in medicine through an internship in the Intensive Care Unit at Cochin Hospital and through an internship at an international NGO, Orphelins Sida International, through which I worked on educating the public on issues related to AIDS and African public health. The amazing staff in Paris was so accommodating to my academic interests, constantly informing me of international health conferences and presentations that I could go to.
But I enjoyed my non-medical classes just as much. One class, for example, allowed me to analyze the Erotic museum, fall in love with impressionism paintings, and attend hip-hop shows in the city suburbs. I was breathing French culture and loving every second of it. I worked hard and learned a lot academically, but the structure of the Stanford program facilitated my learning outside the classroom, too. I had loads of fun trying to be as Parisian as possible. Some of my favorite memories include a salsa class along the Seine, making friends through the language partner program and visiting their vineyards in southern France, walking into my favorite local bakery and laughing as Julia prepared my caramel macaroon before I had even ordered, shopping to dress like a Parisian, practicing Italian with the pasta woman at the market, and singing off-key my new favorite French song in the nearby karaoke bar.
Living in another culture made me more aware of my own culture and values. Experiencing cultural barriers made me search for ways to overcome them. Learning from and sharing with others made me more fulfilled. As a pre-med Human Biology major, I never thought that I would find the time to go abroad, let alone for an entire year. But I am so grateful to Stanford for helping me make it happen. The Stanford program in Paris catalyzed my academic and personal growth, and I hope that all students take advantage of such a special opportunity. Five changes of flights later, I still didn’t want to leave Europe, but I know I will return soon.