Madison Kosater poses for a photo of the locks on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris.

A Golden Tiger in Paris

Forever GoldMadison Elizabeth Kosater dreamed of studying abroad in France since she was 16 years old. A senior history and political science major from Macon, Georgia, Kosater’s dream finally came true when she received the $4,000 Denyse Marchesseau Endowed Scholarship for 2016.

Kosater is the fifth Brenau University student to win the scholarship since 1999. Her experience in Paris was about more than learning another language. It was about immersing herself in a different culture and seeing the world from a new perspective.

“Actually living there over the summer was one of the best feelings of my life,” she says. “My favorite part was the people I met. I ended up getting really close with several black students, and that was a really unique experience for me.”

Culture Shock

Madison Kosater in Paris
Gabrielle Harper, who recently graduated from Albany State University with Madison Kosater in Paris.

During her third week in Paris, Kosater experienced culture shock. “I consider myself someone genuinely curious about other cultures and eager to dive into and learn about them, so I was surprised at myself for missing home so much,” she says. “For the first time in my life, I really missed my parents and their nagging, my friends, and especially my car. I was there alone, essentially. From this, I learned that part of this big experience you always hear about from students who study abroad is going to be negative. The experience isn’t necessarily filled with flowers and rainbows; sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard, but worth it.”

Most of the culture shock hit when the thrill of traveling began to wear off and it was time to focus on things like budgeting, academics and getting enough sleep. She describes it as having a similar college experience in the U.S. “The difference is that you can’t escape to McDonald’s and get two McChickens,” she says. But she also experienced frustration about currency, transit and long distance walking.

The other students in her study abroad group were predominantly black. Kosater discussed how different of an experience it was to be the minority in a group, but she learned much from the group of students. “They taught me a lot, and while I was, admittedly, a little uncomfortable at times I really appreciate what they were able to show me through kindness and understanding. I could write a huge paper about it; I cherish them so much.”

After many discussions about race, how to treat each other, and other conversations, Kosater says her experience was amazing and that the other students were very understanding.

Of her experiences during six weeks in France, one was particularly shocking for Kosater.

Madison Kosater poses for a photo near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Madison Kosater, a senior history and political science major from Macon, Georgia, was able to study abroad in Paris over the summer after receiving the $4,000 Denyse Marchesseau Endowed Scholarship.

On the morning of July 14, Kosater and some classmates were planning to go to Nice, France for a field trip, and then ended up not going. That very day, a terrorist attack happened in Nice. A cargo truck was deliberately driven into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, a national French holiday that commemorates the Storming of the Bastille, an important day in the French Revolution.

Kosater says the morning of the attacks was a “weird” one. Nice is an eight hour drive from Paris. She woke up to many text messages and missed phone calls from concerned parents, friends and sorority sisters wondering of her well being. “I was nowhere near it, so I wasn’t too spooked,” she says. “I’m just thankful that nothing happened in Paris. I think that would be the only situation that would scare me much.”

Despite not being anywhere near the attacks, Kosater does recall a fear of a terrorist attack before she even went to France. “Every time you’re standing in a crowded metro car or a huge crowd at a famous monument, the thought crosses your mind of the possibility of an attack,” she says.

She also expressed her hatred for terrorism, and hopes that people will not give in: “I hate that people don’t do things out of fear of an attack, because all you’re doing is giving them what they want. I’ll do what I want and go where I please to spite terrorists.”

A Learning Opportunity

Madison Kosater poses for a photo near the Eiffel Tower.The Denyse Marchesseau Endowed Scholarship, guidelines for which were set by retired provost Helen Ray, was provided by Marchesseau, who created the scholarship with a $100,000 gift to Brenau one year before her death.

Kosater expressed how humbled she was to receive a scholarship no Brenau woman had won since 1999, and says she will be grateful to the donors of this scholarship for the rest of her life. Her teachers, Robert Shelton Bellew and Beth Nott, both from the Humanities and Linguistics Department, saw the passion she has for the French language and spent countless hours helping her prepare for her trip.

Kosater nearly had the opportunity to study in France as a junior in high school, when her dream was first born. Her French class was preparing for its annual immersion trip to Saint-Denis. The trip was unfortunately cancelled, but Kosater made studying abroad in France one of her main goals to achieve before graduating from college.

She says she hopes more students will take advantage of the Marchesseau Scholarship and use the opportunity to study abroad through Brenau to immerse themselves in different cultures.

“To travel is to learn,” she says. “When you choose to immerse yourself into a culture different from your own, you accept your own place in the world. You gain humility and respect for other people who see the world differently than you. It can be a life-changing and beautiful thing if you’re doing it for the right reasons.”

 

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