When Andrew Kearns came to VCU for Art Foundations in the fall, he had just returned from spending his senior year of high school in a study abroad program in France. After leaving the AFO program after his first semester in favor of pursuing a degree in French, Kearns is now coming full circle in his love for the country and plans to return to France next year to continue his college education.
This past week, Kearns signed up for French language classes at the Sorbonne University in Paris, where he will study for at least one school year. Kearns will be immersed in French language classes. As the end of his freshman year draws to a close, Kearns admits that he is disappointed with his experience at VCU, especially during his first semester while he was taking classes in the AFO program.
“My classes in AFO last semester, I didn’t really like them. My classes this semester are better, but I’m not in love with them. I’m not having the time of my life,” Kearns said. “It’s been kind of a disappointing year for me here. … I’ve been tired and kind of bored. I’m miserable.”
Kearns said he believes that for many students, their first year of college is a new experience of being away from home and parents for the first time. For Kearns though, he spent the last few years away from home and feels like he already had that experience.
“I think that what a lot of people love about their first year in college is that it’s their first time away from home. … They can change themselves to become someone new. That’s what finding yourself is,” Kearns said. “That’s what I did last year and even to a whole new extent because I was in a different culture. … When I got to Richmond, I was just kind of tired. I didn’t have the energy to start all over and do this again because I had literally just (done) this from scratch.”
Kearns sees the time he spent in France as time spent growing as a person, which was then lost when he returned to the U.S. He doesn’t see himself returning to be the person he was last year year, though.
“While I was there with that exchange program, that was a year’s worth of time to develop that new me and it turned out to be a really jarring switch to the old me,” Kearns said. “I don’t think I’ll get there and suddenly flip the switch and be like ‘France Andrew.’ It’s going to be new, old me that’s become new, new me, so it’s kind of confusing.”
After his second year spent in France next year, Kearns will be returning to VCU and transferring the credits he earns at the Sorbonne University. He will then have another year to complete at VCU before having enough credits to graduate. Even though Kearns has not been happy with his time spent at VCU this year, he said that he was not yet considering what it will be like to return after next year.
“I’m going to cross that bridge when I get there,” Kearns said.
With his current plan, Kearns will be able to graduate a year early, at which time he hopes to move back to France and earn the necessary master’s degree to work as a French interpreter or translator. Kearns is excited to return to France, as he feels that he changed and was a better person while in France.
“I became a new person, I grew and I changed,” Kearns said. “My attitudes and values … and habits changed, and that was a really weird thing, sort of a negative thing for me, was coming back to the United States.”