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Postcard to home: Greetings from France!

Andrea Lacerte-Morin (BA '97) says hello from Lyon, France

It was 20 years ago this winter, that I visited Laurier’s International Office feeling the need to improve my French.

Both my grandparents had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and were rapidly losing their capacity to speak English. With a French last name and very little connection to my French heritage, I knew I needed to go to a French-speaking environment.

I was expecting to go to Quebec for a semester but I ended up accepting a spot in the Ontario-Rhone Alpes exchange program and within weeks I was preparing for a year abroad in Lyon, France, where I would continue working towards my religion and culture degree at the Catholic University of Lyon.

Within weeks of being in France, I felt at home, and in three months in Lyon I fell in love with the man I now call my husband. This of course helped my language skills improve rapidly because his spoken English was as bad as my spoken French at the time!

The year flew by and it was time to make some decisions. My future husband had his army duty in Metz, and I had to return to Waterloo to finish my studies. When I returned home, I was finally able to have conversations with my ailing grandparents in their native language before they passed. Meanwhile, keeping up a long-distance relationship, was not cheap! Thanks to a job at Laurier’s dining hall, I was able to pay off my incredible phone bills — this was before the time of Skype — until graduation came and I was free to go back.

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After obtaining a three-month student work/travel visa, I was on my way to France with little money in my pocket, not quite knowing how I was going to make this work. I moved in with my future in-laws and worked at an American-style restaurant but I needed to remain a student in order to stay in France, so I obtained my masters degree while working part time. Eventually, I got married and had a wonderful son. After working as a translator for many years, I decided to study again and become a Shiatsu practitioner, which I continue to do from a home office part time.

About ten years ago, I started teaching at the very university that hosted my exchange and for the past few years I’ve been an advisor to French students who go abroad to Canada. It’s so fun being on the other end, helping my students with their exchanges. On some small level, I feel like an ambassador for Canada. Now as a French citizen, I feel very much at home here, but Canada will always be in my heart.