Student reflects on unique, diverse culture

A Linfield French and international relations double major will be recanting her experiences acquired during a junior year spent studying abroad in Marseille, France.

In a talk titled, “Marseille: a City of Contradictions,” senior Katherine Thomas will describe her own experiences by illustrating the cultural uniqueness of the city in which she spent a year of her schooling career.


All photos courtesy of Katherine Thomas
Senior Katherine Thomas poses at Notre Dame de la Garde, which is an old basilica that overlooks Marseille.

Marseille is the second largest city in France following Paris.

It is located on the southeast coast of France at the virtual crossroads of several culturally prominent French regions.

The city is also home to France’s largest commercial port.

Thomas spent nine months in Marseilles.

“I lived right smack in the middle of Marseille. [I was] five minutes walking distance from everything [and] it was great,” Thomas wrote in an email.

Thomas was hosted by Marie-Paule, 52. Though she lived alone in her apartment before hosting Thomas, Marie-Paulie had two children who visited her often.

Marseille is known as a melting pot of cultures.

The city situated at a virtual crossroads of several distinct flavors of French culture in the south.


Senior Katherine Thomas stands on a cliff off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea near a small town called La Ciotat.

The city of Marseille also draws from a variety of other Francophone cultures from around the world.

“In terms of personal growth I’d say that being a foreigner for an extended amount of time opens your eyes to what judgment and empathy really means,” Thomas wrote.

“I realized how quick people—including myself —can be to judge and overlook someone’s own personal struggles or situations and how quick people are to make assumptions and form conclusions while knowing very little about something or someone,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas has shared her observations on this trend with several friends who have studied abroad.

Her friends also confessed to noticing this human tendency, she said.

“Being abroad for [a year] made me realize [my empathy shortcomings] and really made me strive to be as understanding and empathetic as I can possibly be, even when I dislike something or someone,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas will touch on the uniqueness of Marseille’s multi-cultural identity.


A view of Notre Dame de la Garde near the Old Port. Thomas studied abroad in France during her junior year.

She will also touch on the implications of this multi-cultural identity on both the societal and political climates of the city over time.

“My experience changed my life in so many ways. I feel like it is one of my biggest accomplishments because I successfully integrated, or more or less assimilated, into another culture,” Thomas wrote.

“Marseille: a City of Contradictions” will begin at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Jonasson Hall.

Ryan Morgan / Senior reporter

Ryan Morgan can be reached at