2020, what an unusual year! And it was this year brought me a very unique experience of study abroad in France.

AustinBonjour! My name is Yangzhi Xiao, I am an international student studying music industry in Syracuse University. I participated in Strasbourg France Program in Spring 2020, and I will be a junior this coming fall semester. You may wonder as an international student, why I chose to study abroad even though I am already studying abroad in the US? My answer would be experiencing with the world beyond one’s borders is the best way of learning. By living in a foreign country to study a new learning style and experience a different way of life, I have gained so much irreplaceable life experience. During this time abroad, I have not only expanded my horizons, but also got the chance to study at one of the most famous conservatories in France, le Conservatoire de Strasbourg. As an organ student, I was so lucky to be able to study with one of the four organists of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Studying with the sophisticated French organist developed my musical competency and performance, more importantly, he showed me an original perception of the way of life as an organist. Moreover, the life at the Conservatory of Strasbourg allowed me study closely with the local French students in the choir, Le Chœur des Jeunes Chanteurs. I will never forget the time we spent together and confronted the challenge together, it helped us make the strong bond of friendship.

Study abroad is also a beautiful way to encounter the world! My first impression of France was its unforgettable historic and scenic attractions. Paris, the first city we visited in France, is a strong cultural presence echoed with a liberal ambiance, and its particular French Neo classicism architecture makes the city an immersive Rococo heaven. The more I explored the city, the more I felt like to get to know about the story behind it. There was nothing I enjoyed more than taking a stroll along the Seine River. Just by wandering around the little path under the bridges and watched the gentle wavelets rippling on the banks of the Seine, there was a sense of comforting tranquility pervading. During the time abroad, I was inspired by the atmosphere to learn more about French culture, and my local friends drew my attention to the literature of France. It is interesting to build a communicating bridge between different languages and cultures in this way. I have gained a deeper understanding of the country by receiving the ideas from the literature and discussing about them with the local people.

Furthermore, when the pandemic happened, I chose to stay in France. I still remember in the two months confinement, my host family always liked to share her perspective of current affairs and politics during the dinner time, and it actually helped me understand further about the local philosophy of the way of living. One is to stay curious about life, and another one is to always make time for oneself. By learning each other’s culture around the dinner table, we had a chance to dissolve gradually the misunderstandings and stereotypes of one another’s country. Therefore, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to reach out the world, because it provides the chance that lets all sides of ideas to be heard.

For me, I explored a new experience with language, arts, music, and food during this time study abroad in France, and I have obtained a stronger appreciation of diversity, because it is diversity that makes me have real experience with the world. The Syracuse Abroad program allowed me to realize that the stories behind each country remain significant to different cultures over time, and I am pleased to welcome you to join us to these amazing programs – let’s celebrate the diversity and life of the world together!


Yangzhi Xiao ’22

Syracuse Strasbourg, France

Music Industry