Exchange student: Prune Houvion, Paris

Photo of Prune Houvion

Name: Prune Houvion

Major: political science

Home Institution: Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, France (Sciences Po), class of 2021

Period at Mount Holyoke: 2018–2019

Pronouns: she/her/hers

What did you hope to accomplish at Mount Holyoke? My goals were to explore gender studies, to study maths in more detail and to experience the American way of teaching. I also wanted to teach French.

How did Mount Holyoke differ from your previous college experience? The atmosphere here is strikingly inclusive, a completely different way of relating, especially around gender/transgender/non-binary identities. Instead of shunning differences, we are encouraged to find wisdom and understanding. I find that Mount Holyoke is an amazing environment in the sense that it encourages us to embrace diversity. No matter where we come from or who we are, we have things in common.

Were you surprised by anything at Mount Holyoke? The big party at Orientation with the bounce house and games was good silly fun. The festive mood sparkled with playfulness and participation. And I will forever remember the primal scream event outside of Skinner Hall before finals — a total release!

What surprised me most was the campus community’s emphasis on well-being and taking time to learn about yourself and who you want to be — the true version of yourself.

How has your perspective changed? Where do I start? I was convinced even more that I love math and enjoy its precision. Yet I no longer see mathematics as a career path, but as a useful tool. It has been a dream of mine to teach French. Last semester I was asked to be a language assistant and tutor French language students. I loved being in front of a classroom and became more convinced I want to teach in the future. But before I begin a teaching track, I want to study and try other things, including more cross-cultural learning.

Have you made any lasting friendships with students or faculty? I connected with another language assistant from Senegal and students from many other countries. It was fascinating to hear my classmates discuss their perceptions and ideas about France — to see my country through others’ eyes.

I’ve bonded with another student from Sciences Po, but from a different campus. We began talking on our second day at Mount Holyoke and went on for hours, through tea, cappuccino and hot chocolate. I’m confident our friendship will be a lasting one.

Would you recommend this experience to future exchange students? I treasure my experience at Mount Holyoke. I will tell others that they learn new ways of thinking here.