Ben Godard (he/him/his) is an English major who is participating in the 2+2 Dual Degree Program in French. His hometown is Besançon, France—close to the France/Switzerland border. Ben's parents are both nurses and met at a hospital where they worked together. At UNI, Ben has been adapting to the new culture, experiencing what Iowa has to offer, and taking guitar lessons. As part of this program, students from both UNI and Université de Franch-Comté study for two years at each university and graduate with degrees from both. Click here for a brochure about the 2+2 French Program.
What made you decide to study abroad? What stood out to you about the 2+2 French program?
I knew that the best opportunity I had to learn English was to live in an English speaking country. I felt that having the possibility to be at UNI for 2 years was a great opportunity and a lot different than some of the other programs I initially looked into. Getting a degree is a lot more attractive than just a “student exchange,” and the Midwest is definitely the best place to learn American English. The landscape looks like home, and I am comfortable here. Anywhere else in the U.S. might have taken a lot longer to adjust to. The Midwest accent is pure and distinctive, with no strong accents or special features, and it makes it a lot easier to learn. The basics (pronunciation) would be so much more difficult to master if you started somewhere else. Learn the basics here, and then it will be easier to understand and pronounce other accents later.
What advice do you have for other students who might be interested in the 2+2 French Program?
Be fine with solitude. Realizing that when you travel, you’ll be alone and on your own initially. If you struggle with accepting this, it’s entirely possible that you’ll have trouble with the program right from the beginning. Another important characteristic to become comfortable with right away is to start conversations, and be the one to engage with others. The only way to improve your language skills and make friends is to interact with anyone you can. You will be the “different” student when you get here, and you have to be able to prove to others that you are not that different, and you want to be included, and the only way to do that is to put in the work. The last piece of advice would be to not be afraid, and just go. Be open to new experiences, and just say yes to things even if you’re afraid. It’s the only way you’ll really get to experience those new things.
What are some of your favorite experiences at UNI and in Iowa?
Going to UNI basketball games and hanging out with my friends in Maucker Union have definitely been some of my favorite things to do often. I was able to go on a day trip to Des Moines and a two day trip to Chicago where I had deep-dish pizza, which is definitely not pizza. It’s more like cake! I have also been taking Applied Music—Guitar Lessons through UNI, and learning to play guitar through these lessons has been one of my favorite things as well. It is a class and there will be a grade, but I don’t feel any pressure and I enjoy it, so it feels more like guided learning. I also recently went on a ski trip to Galena, IL, which was incredible and was actually my first time skiing. A lot of people think that since I live so close to the Swiss Alps I go often, but in reality my first time was in Illinois!
How has studying abroad in Iowa set you up for your future endeavors?
It has allowed me to be fully immersed in American culture and to have the ability to speak English all the time. Speaking only in English is fundamental for becoming comfortable with a language that is not your normal language. Before I came here, I could speak English about 8/10, and after being here I think I have improved to an 8.5/10. Trying to study a language in your native country is significantly more difficult, and this is hard but so much better.
What are your plans after graduating?
When I graduate, which right now looks like in May of 2021, I’m thinking about staying in the U.S. to get a Master’s degree. I haven’t decided completely, but I definitely know I want to learn more. The ultimate goal is to be a teacher of sorts, but I need to do some research to find out exactly what I need to do to have certain opportunities in teaching be available to me. However, I know that teaching is 100% the ultimate goal.
If you wanted people to know things about you what would they be?
I just want to be treated like anyone else. I would love for people to come to talk to me, and get to know who I am as a person. Come say hi, and start a conversation with me! I’m in Maucker Union all the time, so come look for me!
— Interview conducted by Shannon Garrett
Check out the L&L Student Spotlight interview with Cece Mitchell.