Leanna Ketola - Alumni Speak

 Leanna Ketola

While attending NMU and pursuing my French degree, I participated in FR 438, Cultural and Artistic Heritage of Europe, the study abroad course going to Amsterdam, Belgium, and France. During this trip I was able to actively expand and directly utilize my French-speaking skills and learn about different cultures. 

A definite fact of interest was realizing that what we learn in the classroom pertaining to the French language and culture is not just limited to the country of France. Being in Belgium and seeing how it all interacts was really neat. A fun, silly moment was going to the Belgium Comic Strip Museum in Brussels and really seeing how the comics we had come to enjoy way over in Marquette, Michigan were created, and the part they played in that entertainment industry. It was so amazing to see specific monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Monet’s garden, and so many other museums and buildings. 

One of the best moments was sitting along the Seine river at night, eating my crepe du sucre and watching Paris come to life. It was so surreal and just amazing to watch the painters and shopkeepers and Parisians living their everyday lives.

I was able to use my French speaking skills and background in studying French during other NMU related trips including Costa Rica, Panama, and Italy.  My background in studying French helped me understand other languages and customs. 

One of the most memorable moments of my travels was when a few of us were sitting on the worn stone steps of the town hall in the main square at night in Italy, and an Italian couple came up to us and asked directions to where the opera house was. Kind of without thinking I naturally responded (I had looked through a small guidebook on the airplane ride over) in passable Italian! Knowing the similarities of the Italian language to my French enabled me to hold a conversation with native Italians. My friends that I was sitting with just looked at me in amazement and were like “That was so cool!” It’s the little things like this that make me so thankful for my French background. I have met so many amazing people from these foreign trips offered through Northern that I still keep in touch with and have become so much closer to the friends that I traveled with. Since college I have also traveled throughout the Bahamas and Mexico, where again, the skills I had learned from my French classes at NMU largely added to my overall experience with interaction and comprehension of foreign countries.

I would not change my French degree from NMU for anything. In my career I have used my French speaking skills to talk with coworkers and customers. I am currently teaching the French language to my two nieces and it’s so amazing to hear them say certain words in French. I have plans to take some friends and family members to French speaking countries and I cannot wait to show them what I have seen and learned from my travels with Northern Michigan University and gain new experiences and memories. When I tell people that I am fluent in French they always say that they wish they could speak a second language and I am so thankful that the French Program at Northern was able to provide me with such profound learning and fantastic experiences.

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