Indiana State University Newsroom

Education students, grads learn about different cultures in France trip

July 15, 2013

While recently traveling to Europe, Lindsey Yeager was surprised to learn that a fellow traveler in her group was unaware that the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the U.S. from France.

The Statue of Liberty replica that the group saw while in the European nation served as one of many lessons in a trip intended to familiarize them with the unfamiliar.

Yeager was one of 14 Indiana State University education students who traveled to France to learn more about different cultures. The trip was the culmination experience of the Expanding Horizons to France course, which included lessons for the students to prepare for traveling to another part of the world where people spoke a different language and practiced different customs. The trip included stops in Paris, Bayeux and St. Malo to learn more about the country.

"America is like a melting pot of different cultures, and I've never been out of my element really," said Yeager, a Terre Haute native who graduated in May with a bachelor's in elementary education. "I knew that it would be something incredibly different that I thought would benefit my education."

The trip taught the Indiana State students about how it feels to be immersed in a different culture with limited knowledge of the nation's customs and language. The goal was for students to become more knowledgeable of the students they will encounter in their classrooms who will be in a similar situation, said Pat Wheeler, professor of elementary and special education at Indiana State.

"Many of the schools our students will teach in will have largely (similar) students, with an occasional immigrant family or migrant workers or students from different backgrounds," said Wheeler, who with Kathryn Bauserman, ISU associate professor of elementary and special education, taught the course and helped organize the trip. "We try to give our students some different experiences to get them ready for... their teaching years."

The Indiana State students were able to get a bit of that experience when they visited a school in St. Malo. They saw French teachers interact with young children, though when the children tried to introduce themselves and talk with the Indiana State students, the language was a barrier. Prior to traveling to France, the Indiana State students reviewed only basic phrases and lessons in the language, while the children were too young to speak English fluently.

The Indiana State group also benefited from a translator on the trip, including when a lecturer explained in French the similarities and differences between the educational systems in the U.S. and France.

"As teachers, they will work with students who are English Language Learners and English as a Second Language, and so ... that was one of the things we were hoping they would gain from this experience," said Bauserman. "'How does this feel when you're in a situation where you don't understand most of what's being said?' That could be a student in their classroom."

On the trip, the students had an opportunity to visit traditional French sites, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They also visited Omaha Beach on the northwestern coast of France, which served as one of the beaches pivotal to the Allies on D-Day during World War II. Prior to the trip, the students watched "The Longest Day" to learn more about those pivotal events on June 6, 1944.

They also visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, which includes the graves of more than 9,000 American soldiers. As they first approached the burial sites, the first grave marker Yeager noticed belonged to an unknown soldier.

"It was seriously a selfless act that these people did," Yeager said. "Being there, just seeing everything, it made you feel like you understood it a little bit better."

Some of the experiences were more light-hearted. Some students were impressed with the food that they ate in France, which included preparations to make it aesthetically impressive. Casey Guarino, a senior elementary education major from Terre Haute, was impressed when she noticed how a turkey sandwich she ordered was vividly colorful.

"The French do take quite a bit of pride in what their food looks like," Guarino said. "They don't just serve you a piece of food. They serve you a piece of art."

The trip also provided for a variety of different learning experiences. Guarino, who experiences physical complications from cerebral palsy, worked with Student Support Services at Indiana State to arrange for a wheelchair to use on the trip.

While group members prepared beforehand, they learned that some places in France are not as accessible as they originally thought. The Paris Metro, for instance, lacked elevators to get down to the underground train, Guarino said.

In other instances, the group was able to travel without much difficulty, she added.

"If you have an opportunity to go somewhere and experience another country," Guarino said, "you should definitely take it, regardless of what country it is."

After the trip, the students were required to complete several projects based on what they learned. Guarino created an annotated bibliography of 20 materials that can support an elementary school student who is also learning to speak and read English.

"The reason I chose this project is that I could these resources to better understand language development," she said. "Also, this will help students who may not know English to integrate into my classroom more easily."

Photo: (Submitted photo)A group of Indiana State University students poses in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A group of education students traveled to France to gain experience about what it would be like to be in a country where the culture and language are different from what they are used to. The lessons are to help the Indiana State group members gain insights on what a student they might teach would experience.

Photo: (Submitted photo)A replica of the Statute of Liberty in France. Students from the Expanding Horizons to France course toured the country to learn many different lessons, including gaining experience about how it would feel to be immersed in a different culture with limited knowledge of the nation's customs and language.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)A close of a grave marker at an American cemetery in Normandy. The group of Indiana State University students traveling to France also took time to visit some of the beaches that were vital to the Allies on D-Day during World War II. One of the sites the group visited included the cemetery of American soldiers who died during the battle.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Several students pose while in France.

Contact: Pat Wheeler, professor of elementary and special education, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2851 or; Kathryn Bauserman, associate professor of elementary and special education, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2853 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or