Sophomore Madi Zeien flourishes through her France Family visits every summer


Madi (right) and her sister, Chloe (left) in France.

Every summer for about seven weeks at a time, sophomore Madi Zeien visits her family in Strasbourg, France, near the German border. Because she and her family that lives there are so close, they never skip a beat when it comes to socializing.

“[My family and I] are really close,” Madi said. “It’s kind of weird because when we go back, it’s like nothing has changed even though it has been a whole year.”

To Madi, there is no better feeling than catching up with family after long periods of time, especially when they live overseas. But other than just physically being with them, Madi loves to see what differences have been made in her family’s lives, as well as experiencing a change of scenery.

“One of my favorite parts about visiting the family is to see how much we’ve changed,” Madi said. “Also, it’s nice seeing the country, too, because it’s very pretty.”

Who doesn’t love to switch things up, especially after months of Michigan winter gloom? But, there are also slight downsides to visiting another country for an extended amount of time—leaving behind the loved ones that live close.

“It’s hard being away from my family and friends here [in Michigan] for so long,” said Madi, regarding her least favorite aspects of international travel.

But during the majority of the year—when not in Strasbourg—Madi still incorporates fragments of what she has learned about French culture into her daily life, both on academic and social levels. Correspondingly, she finds the difference between American culture and French culture to be quite interesting and enriching.

“I speak [French] every day at home with my mom,” Madi said. “I have also learned how different [France] is from here, and the different ways of life. Like [the kids in France] can’t drive until they’re eighteen. I feel like that’s a really big difference compared to [Americans] driving at sixteen.”

It’s kind of weird because when we go back, it’s like nothing has changed even though it has been a whole year.

— Madi Zein

Socially, Madi can interact pretty well with others when speaking French. But, additionally, she has developed a keen eye when it involves spotting another person who can also speak a separate language. For her, it is something that gives her relief in ways, and expands her ability to relate with others.

There is factual evidence that indicates being bilingual increases brain activity, and is very beneficial on both academic and social levels. This is very definite in terms of being able to tell just by a simple conversation if the other person has connections to different vernaculars, like Madi can.

“I feel like I can notice when other people can speak other languages too,” Madi said. “ I kind of relate to them more.”

This definitely bodes well for her future. In fact, Madi is planning on mastering her French-speaking even further so she can know the French language even more thoroughly, and for future use in her aspirations.

“I want to be a flight attendant,” Madi said. “So I want to use the language more frequently when I get older to be able to travel more and that kind of thing.”

With all her personal achievements and goals aside, Madi mostly enjoys the bliss of being accompanied with long-distance situated family members. Clearly, Madi has developed more acute senses and understanding on the basis of language, which overall has set her up for a vastly bright future, but her family will always be the number one priority of her travels to France.

“I feel like [these trips] are different because it’s for family,” Madi said. “I just try to spend as much time with [my family] as I possibly can.”