Aberystwyth, Wales

This summer, I studied abroad at Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales.  The start of my experience was a bit rough as I had to isolate myself for the first few days waiting to take a mandatory entry test.  However, I tested negative and was quickly able to explore the town and attend classes in person.  Did you know Wales is one of the world’s top producers of computer chips?  I took a class on semiconductor technology while there (there is no class like this at UM) and it was doubly amazing because I learned at one of the hot spots of the subject!  I also was able to take a physics class on energy and the environment.  This class not only enhanced my experiences in my GLI theme of Natural Resources and Sustainability, but it was also applicable to my field (physics) which I greatly appreciated.  While academics took up plenty of my time, it was far from the only thing I did while abroad.

The town of Aberystwyth is incredibly beautiful.  It’s surrounded by mountains, and the valley in which the town sits goes right up to the sea.  You get a beautiful green mountain view over a lively sea town.  The town sits at the mouth of the Rheidol and Ystwyth rivers (which is actually where the town gets its name with aber being Welsh for mouth).  The river areas and mountain views are perfect places to hike to.  In fact the whole town is traversed by a series of trails, and the town’s size makes it easily walkable.  I enjoyed walking and enjoying the town, always trying to take a different route and discover more each journey.  Of course, the university sat uphill from the town which always made it a drudge to get back to my flat, but it was worth it.  Downtown features plenty of seaside shops and local restaurants.  Following the beach front you can easily find the ruins of Aberystwyth castle, surrounded by the town.  And because of the town’s west-facing nature, every night brought a beautiful sunset right over the bay.  Aberystwyth is such a beautiful town that I’ll miss exploring

I didn’t only explore the town, however.  Our Easter break was 3 weeks long which gave me ample time to explore the entire United Kingdom.  It was so easy to travel too.  Aberystwyth is the terminus of a train line which connects directly to Birmingham (and conveniently Birmingham’s Airport as well).  From Birmingham, I could get anywhere I wanted to by simply hopping on the train (for really cheap too!)  I stayed in Birmingham and was able to explore the lovely canals that traversed the area.  Afterwards, I stayed in London for a long weekend, stopping by museums and of course seeing some of the more popular tourist spots.  After London, I took the train up to Edinburgh (probably my favorite stop in my UK tour) and got to walk the high mile and see the incredible architecture in the Old City.  I went back to Aberystwyth for Easter weekend, and then traveled to Liverpool for the day.  There was way more to do in Liverpool than I expected, but I couldn’t stay too long because the next day I took a ferry to Belfast.  I spent the night and the next day in Belfast before taking the overnight ferry back to Liverpool (I don’t recommend the overnight unless you can get a place to sleep on the ferry.  Which I wasn’t able to do) and continuing back to Aberystwyth to wrap up the semester.

After finals week(s) it was time for me to go back to the United States.  I was able to learn so much academically.  I delved into the semiconductor field which I wouldn’t have been able to easily do here at UM.  I also got to learn hydrodynamics which I again couldn’t take here at UM.  Furthermore, I learned about energy and the environment from a British perspective and saw how it differed from the general perspectives here.  Besides academics, I also got to experience both British culture and Welsh culture.  The Welsh language continues to heighten in popularity in the country, and it was really interesting to be able to see the language present everywhere throughout my studies.  Cars were also much smaller and far less prominent in the UK than here in the US, although drivers were a lot meaner than here in Missoula.  People’s lower reliance on cars is something we could use here in America sometimes (although that’s easier said than done).  I think the biggest thing I’ll miss from the UK though is the amazing train system.  It makes me wish even more that we had a convenient, relatively cheap train option to move from city to city.  Traveling on a whim and just being able to hop on a train and go was an experience I’ll never forget.

My time with MOSSAIC

Hello! My Name is Kayla, and I spent the Spring 2022 semester interning for a program here on campus called MOSSAIC. MOSSAIC stands for Mentoring, Organization, and Social Support for Autism/All Inclusion on Campus. My GLI theme is Global and Public health witch blends well with my major in Speech language Pathology. Within my major we learn a lot about how to treat and assess those with autism, so it was important for me to learn about autism in a hands-on experience. There were 9 other mentors in the program and about 12 mentees. The program was created by Dr. Jennifer Closson who created the program for individuals who just needed a place to relax and socialize freely without the judgment of the outside world.

MOSSAIC focuses on supporting those who have autism and those who are neuro diverse on campus. We provided a safe and inclusive space for students to come and relax every Tuesday night during the spring semester. Some of the activities that we planned for the students were things such as craft night, national grilled cheese day, and trivia night. On top of meeting with the group every Tuesday night I was also a peer mentor to a mentee who needed extra support. This included giving them social support, giving them mental health support, helping them with homework, and helping them get things they needed to live day to day.

The MOSSAIC program was also paired with a discussion-based class where the other mentors and I would meet once a week to talk about autism and neurodiversity. For the first half of the semester, we would talk about how it affects the students who have it on campus. The second half of the semester I planned and lead a project on campus that aimed to make spaces on campus more inclusive. My experience leading this project was great for developing my communication skills as that was something that I wanted to strengthen during this out of the classroom experience. During this project I networked with many spaces on campus including the library, the office for student success, and the Branch center. To provide the spaces with what they needed I went around to each space to see the lights and how big each room was. Lights were important because the lights on campus are so bright, and we wanted to provide spaces for neurodiverse students who are light sensitive. At the end of the project, we were able to provide a couple spaces with kits that we created which included light covers, chairs that wiggle, earplugs, and fidgets for all sensory needs. On top of the kits were also able to make QR codes that people could scan to listen to and audio recording about each item in the kit. Providing these items to students who are neurodiverse means that they can go to places on campus that meet their needs, so they have an equal chance of succeeding at school.

My experience with this program has strengthened my skills in leadership. I was able to lead a project that made our campus more inclusive, and I was able to provide support to students that genuinely really needed it. I was able to make connections to our mentees that they had never had before because the system for them is so difficult.

After this experience I have continued to work with MOSSAIC, and I am in an even bigger leadership role now as we are aiming to provide even more kits to spaces on campus. I will also be working with my professor on getting grants to be able to fund the next project that we will be doing.

I am so grateful for this internship and the leadership skills it has taught me.

I was also unable to take any pictures to protect the participants identity.

Kailie’s Summer in D.C.

This summer I had the pleasure of being a part of the Demmer Scholar Program in D.C. The Demmer Program is a 12-week natural resource policy class augmented by field trips, guest speakers, and an internship. This program is directly related to my global theme for GLI because my theme is Natural Resources and Sustainability. I spent the entire summer hearing from natural resource professionals.

Navigating the busy city of D.C. has been a learning experience in and of itself. It is undoubtedly different from Montana. After a few mishaps, I can confidentially say I know my way around the D.C. metro system. The Demmer Scholars Program has been an intensive and rewarding experience. Every Wednesday we would have class, and our program directed Mark Rey would teach us about all things natural resource policy. Saturdays we would have field trips which ranged from Shenandoah National Park to Gifford Pinchot’s Grey Towers National Historic Site. Each field trip provided us with insight into an aspect of natural resource management, whether it be fire management or the importance of recreation. We also had weekly meetings with guest speakers such as members of the House, senators, White House staff, policymakers, and more. I met so many interesting people such as representatives, reporters, authors, park rangers, and many more natural resource professionals. We even got a night tour of the Capitol building, a tour of the white house, and a tour of the Capitol dome! Those were definitely some of my highlights of the summer.

This is the view from the top of the Capitol Dome.
This is a group of my classmates in front of the White House

For my internship, I worked for the Federal Forest Resource Coalition (FFRC) and the Forest Resource Association (FRA). FRA represents members of the wood supply chain at a national level. Their members include private land management, suppliers, and consuming mills. Their office being in D.C. is convenient for them to provide an effective member voice in Washington, DC. They communicate relevant and timely information with technical reports and safety releases on their website and through emails. This helps them maintain a thriving regional structure. FFRC operates a little differently. It is a unique national coalition of companies and regional trade associations whose members harvest and manufacture wood products, paper, and renewable energy from federal timber resources. Bill’s mission is to have the Forest Service sell a sustainable and growing supply of timber to members. I learned so much about the importance of proper forest management from my internship. Before working I thought timber harvesting was 100% bad all of the time no matter what. In actuality, timber harvest is an important part of managing forests to reduce wildlife risk and even promote healthy diverse ecosystems. When done sustainably, timber harvest can be used as a tool for better forests.

My summer has been an experience I will never forget. My professional skills developed so much from interacting with so many different types of people. I learned about how authors, non-profits, politicians, everyday people, the timber industry, lobbyists, environmentalists, reporters and so much more affect natural resource policy in America. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to do it.

A Semester in Normandie

This past spring I studied abroad in a city called Le Havre on the northern coast of France and part of the historic Normandy region. I spent a total of five months in this incredibly rainy and cold city. I made so many new friends from all over the world. We held themed get-togethers and watched countless beautiful sunsets along the water. While much of my time was spent exploring the surrounding areas with these friends, I also took some other trips. I spent a weekend in London, a few days in Nice, a weekend in Lille, a week traveling through Strasbourg and Switzerland, and so much more. I even got to visit (and meet) my mom’s English teacher that she had when she studied abroad in France in high school. It was incredible to spend time and see the town that my mom had lived in for a year when she was even younger than me. I dove into some of the historically significant aspects of the region as well. I visited the American Cemetery along the Normandy D-Day beaches, visited the smaller, but still beautiful, Canadian Cemetery, saw the Tapestry of Bayeux and explored countless churches throughout the area. Personally, I’m very interested in sports so while I was there I took every chance I could to watch local sports. I watch several basketball and soccer games as well as rugby and even handball. I loved getting to watch sports that are not as common as what you would normally watch in the United States. It was such an amazing experience overall and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue it.

The London Eye

I have chosen to center my experience in the GLI program around the theme of culture and politics. This theme was very prevalent in my out-of-classroom experience. I spent five months in a completely new environment where I knew no one. The culture in France was drastically different than the culture I had grown accustomed to in the United States. From things as simple as the way their school system was laid out to the general way of life, it was all a change that I had to get used to. During the time that I lived there the country held its presidential elections as well so it was very interesting to see how their system works compared to the one we have in the United States.

One of the main things I learned was how different ways of life can be favorable to different people. In the US we have a standard 5-day work week, while a lot of places in France only work a half day. Additionally, there is a very big emphasis on dining together with friends and family. Their way of life was a lot slower-paced and more carefree. I had never lived somewhere like that and I really enjoyed it. I was under a lot less stress and I was able to enjoy my time a lot more. Coming back to the United States has reminded me how draining it is to constantly be under a lot of pressure and be rushed all the time.

Overall, I think studying abroad has given me the opportunity to experience other cultures firsthand. I lived in a completely new place with its own culture and I was surrounded by people from all over the world. I got to learn about new cultures as well as share my own culture with the friends I met there. I loved getting to see the world in a new light and from other people’s perspectives.

The Coast of Normandy

This experience made me a lot more independent and thus helped me develop as a leader. I was in a foreign country where I knew no one so I had to figure everything out and navigate my new environment by myself. Additionally, one of my closest friends didn’t know any French, so often, when we would go out I would do most of the talking and have to navigate by myself for both of us. This made me a lot more confident because it forced me to communicate and be in situations that were intimidating. I gradually became less fearful and was more comfortable in these situations.

The main question that this experience brought is how I change my way of life or how I live this more carefree and slower-paced life that is such a big part of French culture. I don’t want to feel stressed and rushed all the time. I think I need to work on giving myself more leniency as well as work on my time management so I don’t end up in as many stressful situations or situations where I do feel rushed.

Friends at the beach in Le Havre
Neuchâtel, Switzertland

Animal Conservation Adventure in Uganda

As a child, like many others, I had dreams of adventure. I have always been interested in wildlife and wildlife conservation. Watching silly kid movies like ‘The Wild Thornberrys’ and ‘Rio’, I wanted to become those people in the movies. Now I know it was only a little child’s dream, but this past summer I was able to live it. And this meant more to me than I can explain.

Through GLI, this past summer I travelled to Entebbe, Uganda to work at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre. With my GLI theme being Resources and Sustainability, and global challenge being “how to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity in the face of climate change” my experience in Uganda was heavily focused on captive animal care, rehabilitation, and conservation efforts of Uganda as a country.

Me and my coworkers in the Kidepo exhibit after feeding the giraffes

I cannot even begin to explain how amazing it was to work, hands on, with some of the most amazing animals in the world. My program was split into 4 different sections- birds and reptiles, carnivores and hoofstock, primates, and veterinary care. I had 2 weeks at each section and then several weeks that I jumped between sections that I found particular interest in or where help was most needed. Every section had its own pull so picking a favorite is impossible for me.

Since there was such a wide variety in animal species, I had the opportunity of getting up close and personal with many different types of animals. The keepers walked me through the habitats for every animal, explained their diets, their routine care, and what threatens their population in the wild. For example, the center has two white rhinos, who are now completely extinct in the wild. This is due to their horns being taken for the ivory trade. My job was preparing, transporting and presenting food to these two beautiful rhinos. They were also very big love bugs, very gentle and kind. They are at the center for a breeding program in hopes to boost their population, in turn they are very used to humans and love it when you take a couple minutes of your day to give them some scratches. Petting a rhino is an experience I will probably never be able to relive, and it only made me more invested in wanting to stop illegal ivory trade.

I could go on and on talking about how each and every one of them impacted me differently, like the baby elephant that taught me how to patiently earn the trust of an animal, or the African grey parrots I helped raise from babies. But this experience was about so much more than the animals. Surprisingly, it was also about me.

This was my first-time solo travelling, and having it also be my first time in Africa was a lot. I quickly learned the culture there is completely different to how it is in the USA. At first, I was deeply uncomfortable, it was all very out of my comfort zone. But I learned to find the comfort in discomfort and embrace the fact that I was new and learning. I had people help teach me how to dress, how to correctly wash my clothes by hand, and how to hang them so they dry the quickest. So not only did I learn amazing animal care from experienced professionals, I learned a whole different way of life. A different way of life that I am actually starting to incorporate back into my life back at home.

I also can’t help but smile knowing that 2th grade me would be so proud.

A summer of science writing at FLBS

From the moment I entered GLI, I knew my theme was going to be Resources & Sustainability. As a kid, I was always passionate about wildlife and knew I wanted to dedicate my life to the animal world in some way. There was only one problem: I’m a liberal arts major. Studying journalism and creative writing, it can be tough to find a straightforward approach to working with wildlife. Luckily, the opportunity arose in the form of the Ted Smith Environmental Storytelling Internship at Flathead Lake Biological Station. Over the course of eight weeks, I fully reported and wrote five vastly different pieces all focused around Montana’s incredible freshwater resources, as well as the creatures who call our lakes and rivers home.

The first article I wrote centered around a UM grad student in the school of forestry Michelle Fillion, who is studying interesting structures known as Beaver Dam Analogs. These BDAs, as they’re called, act as artificial beaver dams where beavers have been eradicated (99% of North American Beaver populations have been eradicated since the arrival of Europeans in the Americas). Obviously, beaver dams are vital to stream health, so creating artificial ones are an excellent alternative to more invasive forms of stream restoration. Unfortunately, not much is known about how BDAs affect populations of aquatic macroinvertebrates that are at the center of stream food webs. Michelle’s project is looking into this, and is set to be completed by this time next year.

A stream reach with a BDA and several aquatic insect traps

My next story was a profile of Jim Craft, a long-time researcher of phytoplankton at FLBS. Craft is retiring in September, but before he goes he’s creating a photo catalogue of all relevant algae species in the lake (with the help of GLIer Brooke DeRuwe). I talked to Craft and his colleagues about the project, as well as his time at FLBS. Overall, he’ll be missed, but the photo ark will keep his legacy alive.

Jim Craft, right, shows FLBS interns how long-term monitoring samples are collected.

My third story was about a pair of FWP interns whose job it was to catch and kill invasive snapping turtles in the ponds surrounding the northern part of Flathead Lake that are devastating local turtle and waterbird populations. This story was my favorite, since it represented a very “backwoods” type of science that you don’t see every day. I spent a lot of time with Haaken and Abigail, who let me get lots of hands of experience, which even involved me dispatching of a turtle myself. I kept the shell of my catch, named Normal Bill, along with his mummified head and tail. I definitely won’t forget about this experience any time soon.

Haaken Bungum and Abigail Hendra pose with the shell of their biggest catch, a 40-pounder.

The final story I’ll discuss on this blog post is a profile of the summer artist-in-residence at FLBS, Jennifer Ogden. Jennifer creates intricate collages using recycled paper and is based out of Hamilton. This summer, she lived at the station and attended several field trips. By the middle of August, Jennifer had completed a handful of complete collages based on many of the same stories I’d been writing. She taught me that there are ways to promote sustainability even in the arts.

“Oh Snap! Invasive Harvest” by Jennifer Ogden, based on the real-life scientific work of Haaken and Abigail.

In the next few months, all five of my stories will be published at a variety of publications, helping me establish a solid portfolio of work before I enter the real world of journalism.

This internship affected me in countless ways. I learned better time management skills and craft skills surrounding writing, as well as got a glimpse of what life as a full-time journalist might look like. Overall, my biggest takeaway was much more largescale. Living on the pristine Flathead Lake, I got a front row seat for what an ecosystem really is. When we’re in first grade, we learn about food chains. When we get a little older and our brains can do more work, our teachers introduce us to the more complex food webs. It wasn’t until this past summer that I got to see the truly endless scope of connection in the natural world. My five stories, though vastly different, were directly connected in a million different ways. Everything that happens affects everything else, so it’s vital that we keep our waters, and our world, as healthy as we can. I’m thankful to GLI for allowing me to learn this tangibly in a way I’ll never forget.

A Semester Abroad in Athens, Greece

My college experience has been filled with extracurriculars from all aspects of campus. Despite my commitments, I left for a semester and did the best thing I could do for myself, travel the world. Over the course of four and a half months, I traveled Greece and eight other countries. The person I was when I left in January 2022 has evolved and grown into a more caring, supportive, kind, aware, and grateful person.

As a GLI student, I was constantly relating my experiences back to my global theme, Resources and Sustainability. Traveling Europe taught me a lot about approaches to environmental issues. Some countries were active in conservation, while others were active in contributing to global issues. Two of my courses abroad focused on contemporary environmental issues and waste management. Discussions in these classes were arguably more valuable than the content being taught. Students came from all over the world, who shared different backgrounds and perspectives. I opened my mind, put myself in their shoes, and thought hard about what they had to say. I intend to bring these conversations back to Montana, and apply them into my capstone project.

Santorini, Greece

After returning to the states, and to the University of Montana, I am more confident than ever in my ability to lead. Being adaptable is a difficult skill to learn and apply, however, practice makes perfect. Consistently traveling for four and a half months is perfect practice. Navigating foreign airports, transportation, cultures, and customs, while trying to communicate through a language barrier is a challenge, and a person needs to be adaptable and flexible in order to survive. Adaptability is an important trait in a leader. Showing a team how to acknowledge and overcome a hardship in an effective and calm manner can lead to a more successful team. Being abroad taught me to be flexible, to stay calm, and to approach a problem logically, instead of emotionally. I am excited to put this new skill to use in my future leadership experiences.

One of my favorite adventures was an afternoon trip to Cape Sounion to visit the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon is the Greek God of the sea and waters, and has been my favorite from a little age. I was taking a Greek mythology course in Athens, so I knew the history and importance of the temple, the reason for the chosen location, and the meaning and value Poseidon has on Greek culture. The access I had to these historic temples is something I will forever be grateful for. Learning about the Greek Gods and Goddesses in class and being able to travel to the temples built in honor of them was one of the most rewarding parts of my study abroad experience.

Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion

Beyond the Classroom Experience in Cork, Ireland, Spring 2022, Riese Munoz

The Cliffs of Moher, March 2022

It had been a dream of mine to study in Europe ever since I was a small
child– so when I came to the University of Montana to study English, I was
excited to see that the GLI program I had also signed up for supported students
who wanted to go abroad. I immediately jumped on the opportunity, choosing the
University College Cork in Ireland as my destination.

GLI gave me an interesting perspective on my study abroad experience in
Ireland, because not only was I going to study literature, I also had to take a
few classes that related to my GLI theme of politics and culture. This led me
to taking two interesting classes at UCC, one that was all about the folklore
traditions of Ireland, and another that focused on the blending of politics and
the Irish novel. I also wanted to investigate the Global Challenge of how
political and social division effects a culture long term– something that is
relevant in the country of Ireland due to its history of being colonized by the
British and the subsequent wars with England that followed.

Not only did I have the opportunity to study Irish culture
through both the lens of GLI and the lens of literature, studying abroad gave
me a chance to further my leadership skills. I traveled not only around Ireland
but around Europe alone quite often, and doing o helped me develop more independence
as an adult. At times, it felt as though I was doing my freshman year of school
all over again, as I was dropped in a place where I didn’t know my way around,
what the schooling would be like, or what people I was going to meet. Having a
second chance at that fresh start made me more confident in my abilities to
adapt to new situations—something of which I think has made me a more confident
and capable leader.


-Riese Munoz

St. Patties day parade with friends, Cork City Center, March 2022

A Potential Grizzly Cure To Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

While not a unique experience in the slightest my dream to travel abroad for my beyond-the-classroom experience was cut short by the pandemic. By the time the world had re-opened its doors the clock on my time as an undergraduate at UM was ticking too quickly, especially with all of the requriments I needed to complete for my Pre-med track. So, I wrote a rain check for my travel dreams and buckled down to find an experience at home that was still globally relevant. Thus I found the perfect experience right in the lab I had been conducting research in for the past 6 years.

The lab had recently been focused on the development of an antibiotic that was active against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are the nastiest bacteria we face as a global health challenge today. These bacteria are resistant to most if not all of the current antibiotics approved for use, thus if someone is infected with one it can spell disaster. While terrifying to think of a bacteria with no cure it highlights the importance of finding new ways to combat these infections. If left unchecked these bacteria could lead to brutal waves of infection or death globally, and thus are a serious challenge to global public health.

So I set to work helping the two researchers, a wife and husband research powerhouse, work on their development of this antibiotic. My primary duty during this stint was to help them analyze the results of their experiments looking for a better way to produce the antibiotic they had discovered that was effective against many severe strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Through this, I gained many new laboratory skills and learned more about the world of antibiotics and drug development, a complicated field with many varying laws and regulations both in the US and globally. I also learned more about what it takes to lead a lab research group and keep a lab on track to fulfill its research goals. It was a truly amazing experience to be involved in such a cool research project and to be so heavily involved in the research and development of a novel antibiotic.

While the setting of this research was not a new place or cultural experience for me, I still found it pretty amazing that I was able to conduct such cutting-edge research all while looking out over the beautiful mountain campus we all called home for the last 4 years. Ultimately I would be remiss if I didn’t say that living in a place where after a hard day of classes and lab work I could take a quick trip up to the mountain to ski or hike or just enjoy the beauty of Montana, was anything but the perfect place to conduct a beyond-the-classroom experience.

The National Sport of Protesting*

*Must Be Played by the Rules

While speaking about the ins and outs of French culture in a humming lecture hall, my jovial young professor quipped to our class about how, “in France, protesting is a national sport.” Everyone laughed at the embellishment, including myself. Despite my understanding that the culture and politics of a nation are inherently intertwined, I didn’t quite realize just how true this sentiment would prove to be in the coming weeks.

The left bank of the Saône River in Lyon

I had arrived at my host institution, Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, France in the hottest time of year—August. As the weeks rolled on and the streets cooled down, I found myself drawn to the cobblestoned city center more often, intrigued by the intricate architecture, impeccable fashion, and especially the open air markets brimming with fresh produce, spices, flowers, bread, art, and more. I would often download a podcast or two and head into the centre ville to wander around and soak up my new home; many of these strolls were enchantingly uneventful, but I distinctly recall the first time I was downtown on a Saturday. I had just picked up a load of fresh fruit and was rounding the corner near a town square when I was met with a wall of angry voices. My immediate reaction was that I had come face to face with a street fight, but I quickly realized that the river of people in front of me were not fighting not against but with each other. I stood petrified until the last of the hundreds (if not thousands) of chanting citizens passed me by. Though my shock never truly went away, I actually ended up running into many more protests throughout my year in Lyon; no matter what French city we were in, Saturdays proved to be the day to protest. Recalling what my professor had said at the beginning of the year, my interest in the importance of dissent in French culture was piqued. 

The Saturday morning market in my neighborhood (Montchat)

In the United States, protesting is often regarded as a partisan activity that makes headlines for a few days or even weeks, but rarely results in tangible action, especially new policy. In France, however, protests can last for weeks or even months, and organizers behind the cause typically galvanize members of the public rather than alienating them. Moreover, the French parliament is filled with a dozen major political parties (the most popular of the 453 registered parties in the country), which gives more incentive for party leaders to listen to their constituents in order to gain political power. This merging of protesters, public, and parliament often results in widespread government concessions; one example we learned about was when fishermen blockaded the Port of Calais after the E.U. placed new limits on their industry, leading to a $66 million government payout. 

Not even rain could stop this protest in the small town of Vienne, France

Even though demonstrating in the streets were an incredibly common (and even revered) French pastime, I noticed a distinct lack of dissent within the French classroom. I struggled with the antiquated model of teaching used by Jean Moulin, wherein professors were seen as the ultimate authority on a subject, and class consisted of hundreds of students who robotically transcribed every word of every lecture. Questions were discouraged, and discussion was almost unheard of. As someone whose leadership and learning styles thrive in a collaborative environment, I struggled to adapt my proficiencies to this new environment. I found myself engaging in many internal disputes to keep my inquisitive side satisfied, but it was quite difficult to remain reticent during some of my more interesting courses, especially when I disagreed with the lecturer.

One of the many soliloquies (classes) I attended

Traveling elsewhere showcased the variety of manners in which a constituency can rebel against its leadership. For instance, a weekend trip to Djerba, Tunisia, offered up no evidence of the popular hatred of the current president, which has made headlines since January of this year. Instead, the streets were eerily quiet, to a point that perturbed my companions and I. We asked our AirBnb host why this was the case, and he responded by saying that the majority of his fellow Djerbians “prefer to keep their political opinions inside, both inside their persons and their homes. Only those in the capital are arrogant enough to yell openly.” 

My time in Lyon reaffirmed the close relationship a country’s political fabric has with its culture, but also made me realize how nuanced this consanguinity can be. In Tunisia, vibrant ‘nationwide’ protests may in fact be contained within just one city, though sentiments of dissent may be shared by citizens across the land. And in France, protesting may be a national sport, but one must play by the rules, which include keeping resistance to the street (and not within, say, a classroom). 

Picnicking in the foreground of the Vienne protest