Faustine Tchakamian Talks about her Journey at CFANS

Meet Faustine Tchakamian!

Faustine is from France and studying abroad here at the University of Minnesota. At CFANS Office of International Programs, we wanted to sit down with her to learn about her experiences in Minnesota, and her classes at CFANS and her journey on this side of the ocean. Faustine is here as a part of our exchange program with France. Do you want to see yourself in Faustine's situation, studying agriculture in France? Check out our May session in France!

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"It’s just such a great experience. I advise [studying abroad] to anybody. I think it is so important to go abroad for just four or five months. We are going to work in companies that are going to be international for most of us. It brings us knowledge that I haven’t even imagined before. I’ve been traveling a lot before as a tourist, but studying abroad is such a different experience. You’re part of the country, you’re not just here to enjoy the landscape. You’re here to be here."

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What are you studying on campus?

I am studying ag comm and marketing more related to food processing as I am studying food processes in France. I have ag comm courses, marketing strategy classes, and Grand Challenge Courses about climate change, as well as social cultural aspect of food consumption.

Where do you study in France?

ISARA, based in León. In France, I am studying engineering in food processes, agriculture, and the environment.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I want to work in the food industry, more in the marketing part and ideally in a food industry that cares about the environment. My thing would be to show consumers that what they choose to buy has an impact on the whole production. Consumers don’t know where their products come from and don’t really understand the trace it can have.

What are you involved with on campus and in the Twin Cities?

I have courses, like a volleyball course, which is different and kind of fun. I am involved with drawing club, with the digital art studio, which I like a lot. We meet twice a week. I spend time with the other exchange students and my American roommates a lot, and we drive around and show me what Minnesota is like.

Was there a particular reason you chose the University of Minnesota?

I chose Minnesota because of the marketing courses they provided. I also considered Oregon and Colorado.

What are some differences you’ve noticed between the U.S. and France?

There is a lot actually, you have no idea how many differences we can see when we go abroad. The first thing I’ve seen in the first week is the ‘Minnesota Nice’ thing. I didn’t know about that! The ‘Minnesota Nice’ thing comes from the behavior, it can be really nice, like people are super nice and smiling, but there is also the drawbacks. The weather is definitely colder! The courses, what is different is that before the lecture, we have to do much more work before class than what we have in France. You also have a great relationship with the teachers and I find it amazing. Like in the first course, the teacher just spoke about his life and I find it great. You can have more of a relationship with them. It’s really a good thing.

How did you prepare for any cultural differences?

Our school required cultural workshops. We had this person explaining to us about how people speak in different countries. For example, in America, we tend to speak on top of one another, like speaking at the same time almost. Also teaching us about personal space, which is different. The understanding of time--what it is to be late, what it is to be early. Beyond that, I just went in and said “we’ll see!”

How have you personally changed as a result of your experience abroad?

I feel like I already have changed a lot. First by the way I am expressing myself. Speaking in another language brings you to think more about the words you’re going to use. Beyond that working with people form the U.S. and around the world made me evolve a lot, which will be a real asset when I want to work in a company. Working in a foreign atmosphere with different people doesn’t frighten me anymore. I feel more comfortable. I’ve gained adaptability--that’s the biggest change I’ve noticed. I advise everybody to go abroad!

What have been your favorite experiences so far?

Going to grocery stores is so much fun! Besides that, going to volleyball class was a lot of fun. To any student who will come abroad, just get involved in the things you’re passionate about. It creates bonds really easily. For my spring break I went to New York and Philadelphia--definitely great experience ever. It was so much fun!

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What is one thing you would like everyone to know about your experience?

Teamwork! It was really hard for me at first, but even if it’s part of the hard experience, it taught me a lot about how to deal with different situations. It involved cultural difference but also work difference because of the way I was working, the way I learned marketing wasn’t the same as them so I had to make them understand that I know different things also. It made me overcome my boundaries. Try other things too! You will learn from that. Just go, do the thing! Even if it feels like you won’t succeed at it, we are here to go through experience, so just say yes to everybody. Go ahead. You will see, you will learn anyway. No matter the experience we will learn something from that.

What advice would you have for students studying abroad?

Just go for it! Get involved with something other than the courses--a club, something you’re passionate about, checking the activities at Coffman. That is really good. You meet so many people. I’ve been to the movie nights and events with free food. And also planning things--I went to New York because we planned for that, and I’ve been to places because we’ve planned for that. If you want to do big things, you have to say, “Now we are going to do that!”

Do you have a funny story or memory?

I got French cheese imported from France and I made my roommates try that and it was the funniest thing ever, so they’ve never had the actual French cheese and they were so stunned by the taste, odor, and I told them how we ate the cheese without anything else, just like that. It was really fun to share the cultural difference. They were like “Oh my gosh that tastes amazing!” and I’m like “Yeah I know!”

What are some of the major differences between academic life here and in France?

It’s very different from what we do in France. The first big difference is here we can choose our courses according to what we want. We can’t really do that in France. Our classes are set up in little groups that nobody really knows each other. The University is so large that in each class we don’t know the others. In France, we are a big class of 150 and we are always together. I’ve been in the same group of people since my first year. We are like a big family, whereas here it’s more like small little groups. And then the way we have to work--it’s more readings before class and more discussion with your teacher. In France, there is more lecture time where we can’t really talk because we are so much in class that we can’t really interact with the teacher. We still have the group times. Here is all mixed together.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of your study abroad experience?

Actually I’ve completed most of my bucket list already. I want to do ice skating because it’s a big thing here. Maybe going to a gymnastics competition. I’ve been to a couple of sports competitions, basketball and hockey ones. Oh and the big difference between France and here--you guys have school spirit and sports spirit and it’s so strong and it’s amazing--I love that.

Anything else you would like to add?

I think it is so important to go abroad for just four or five months. We are going to work in companies that are going to be international for most of us. It brings us knowledge that I haven’t even imagined before. I’ve been traveling a lot before as a tourist, but studying abroad is such a different experience. You’re part of the country, you’re not just here to enjoy the landscape. You’re here to be here.

 

Thanks for sitting down and talking with us Faustine!