Studying abroad amidst a pandemic: Alexandre Collard

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Annemarie Mullet, Digital Art Coordinator

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Many wine sommeliers will tell you the best place to go to get to know wine is France. For Alexandre Collard, a student studying abroad for the 2021-2022 school year at Linfield, the opposite was true. 

Collard is from a small town in France, about an hour and a half east of Paris, called Epernay. 

“It’s a small city but it’s the capital of champagne, like the champagne drink, so it’s a very touristic city,” Collard said about his hometown. 

Collard grew up surrounded by wine, not just in the town, but in his family. His parents are wine and champagne growers in Epernay, so Collard grew up on a vineyard. 

“I work in the wine family business, but I also did some internships in the south of France. There we produce rose wine,” Collard said.

Though Collard enjoys the work in France, he wanted to study abroad to learn more about the field of winemaking. 

“I want to discover a new wine region like here and other wine regions before starting my own business.  I want to have more vision of the wine industry before starting my own company,” Collard said.

Back in the Champagne region of France, Collard attends the Avize Viti Campus School Wine De La Champagne. It’s a select school that’s specifically for those who want to work in the winemaking field.

“It is the perfect school for students who want to learn about wine and growing grapes and everything to know about the job of winemaking and winemakers,” Collard said.

When choosing which school to study abroad at, Collard didn’t have many options. “The only partner my school has in the United States is Linfield so I didn’t have a choice, but I’m not disappointed about that,” Collard said.

Collard is interested in the region he’s studying abroad in. The Willamette Valley is home to a large wine making scene.

“I think Oregon is a booming wine growing region and there is lots to learn from this region, especially with climate change,” Collard said. “I think Oregon will be great for growing grapes in the future because it’s in the north so the location is very good here.” 

For some study abroad students, their home country’s COVID-19 situation is much different than America’s. For Collard, there are no differences in relation to COVID-19 between France and America.

France and the U.S. are handling the pandemic similarly, with mask mandates, social distancing rules, and widespread access to the vaccine. 

“You know, here [McMinnville] we don’t feel the pandemic that much because everyone is vaccinated so we wear the mask and we feel safe,” Collard said.

A difference Collard did identify between France and America is the education systems. 

Collard playing golf (photo provided by Collard). 

 

“Here you have time to work but also have time to play sports and to practice. I love that because there is time for all you want to do and it’s very important to do a lot,” Collard said.

“I played on the golf and tennis team for the fall season and it will start again in the spring,” Collard said. “I very much enjoy it and I love the atmosphere with the teammates and all the people are very friendly and they welcome me very easily.”

Collard enjoyed having the time to play both sports and still have time for classes. Though the fall golf season paused as a losing one, Collard still enjoyed getting to play.

“There is a culture shift for sure. There is the language barrier so it’s not easy to speak with all people but especially with the food and social life and parties it’s very different,” Collard said. “You know here we can’t drink alcohol because I’m under 21 so not really the same there.”

Photo provided by Collard.

“It’s very frustrating because we can’t taste the wine of the region. We went on some wine trips to visit wineries and we couldn’t drink it,” Collard shares about the difference between alcohol rules in the U.S. versus France. 

Living in a foreign country, Collard is unable to transport himself and feels like he’s missing out on part of the American experience.

“But the problem here is the fact that I don’t have any car so it’s hard to visit the big places of the region like Portland and McMinnville is a small city so I don’t know if it’s really representative of American culture,” he said.

Overall, Collard is pleased with his choice to study abroad and is glad to learn about the Oregon wine scene. Collard is in McMinnville to study for the year and then will go back to France for the rest of undergrad.

Collard is glad to have gotten this experience and hopes to use what he’s learned in his experience at Linfield studying wine in his own wine business in the future.