My name is Laura Escher, and I am a senior International Affairs major with Concentrations in Modern Languages and Economics. I would like to thank the Social Science Scholar Program, Dr. John Mayo, Dr. Tom Taylor, and the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy for the opportunity this past summer to fund a summer project of my choosing. After seventeen plus internship applications and feeling as though I would not be able to complete a summer project, I finally discovered that France would be opening their borders at the end of June. With my passport, COVID-19 negative test result, and extensive planning, I booked my flight just three weeks away from departure to Montpellier, France. I traveled independently to France for five weeks.
For two weeks in Montpellier, I studied at a French language school called Institut Linguistique Adenet (Ila) in the heart of town. I went to school from 9am to 4pm. This was not my first exposure to French, as I have studied it since my freshman year of high school. I was placed into a B2 level, which is the upper intermediate level just before being considered an advanced student. I also lived with a host family for the duration of my time there to increase my exposure to the French language. While I was there, I made friends from all over the world, went on school-led excursions after classes, and even took a day trip to explore the neighboring town of Nimes and to visit the famous Pont-du-Gard Roman aqueduct.
The second portion of my trip was a mini-internship and volunteer service near the French-Spanish border and the Pyrenees Mountains in a small town called Lourdes. This town is world-renowned in the Roman Catholic Church for the inexplicable healings that occur there. I worked in a small office called Bureau des Constatations Médicales, or the Office of Medical Observations, founded in 1883. Since its opening, it manages declarations of medical healings, keeps a record of medical professionals who come to visit the office on religious pilgrimage, and publishes a quarterly bulletin about the latest news and affirmations from Lourdes in five languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German. During my stay in the office, I edited and translated texts between French and English, rewrote museum panels about the history of the inexplicable healings, and helped medical professionals sign in at the office and pay their membership dues for the Association Médicale Internationale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes (AMIL), or the International Medical Association of Our Lady of Lourdes. One of my favorite experiences while working in the office was that I met the 68th miraculée, or miraculously healed person. Sr. Luigina came to Lourdes unable to walk and paralyzed. On the day she was healed, she participated in a Eucharistic procession and regained her ability to walk miraculously.
I also had the chance to volunteer with the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes for a week in the Saint John the Baptist Service in the baths of Lourdes. I helped many people experience Lourdes more fully and deeply during their pilgrimage with my service. These baths are considered very spiritual for the water that is used with the pèlerins, or pilgrims. You can learn more about the significance of Lourdes water in the second episode “France” of the hit Netflix series Down to Earth with Zac Efron.
I am extremely thankful to have combined school, work, and volunteer service into one exciting and fulfilling trip. The Social Science Scholar Program left a significant impact on my life because I was given the chance to explore and fulfill my goal of immersing myself in French language and culture after all these years of studying French. I have made lifelong connections and memories that would not have been possible without the support of the COSS and this program. Thank you!
Laura Escher is a senior International Affairs major at Florida State University. You can learn more about Laura here.