Older, Wiser and Lessons Learned from Studying Abroad

1011924_10200278269942500_187327527_nFirst of all, I just want to say how truly lucky I was to get the opportunity to study abroad in college. It is one of those experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life and has helped me grow into the person I am today.

During my junior year, I took a leap of faith and spent a semester studying in Lyon, France at the Catholic University of Lyon (UCLy) – a Salve Exchange Partner Program -within their ESDES business school. I chose to do this because I was struggling here at Salve in my French class and I wanted this language class to mean more than just fulfilling a core complement or obtaining 3 credits. So I thought to myself, “How do I make this more meaningful?” The plain and simple answer was to go to a country where I actually have to start using this language everyday. This started the wheels turning in my head about studying abroad and I also thought to myself when am I ever going to get the opportunity to move to a foreign country with the support of a whole university behind me.

So spring of 2013, I packed my bags and set off on quite an adventure to spend five months living in France studying in a global business program. My goals were to challenge myself academically learning different business practices and customs. I also wanted to challenge myself to learn the language, meet new people and try to gain a better understanding of French culture. My semester was a fun opportunity to truly challenging myself in ways that I don’t believe that I could have if I were to have not studied abroad. Well, I can tell you about this experience is that I sure did challenge myself! Reflecting back on it, moving away from a place of familiarity to a place where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and didn’t know my way around seemed crazy at first, but it was a semester filled with a adventure and exploration!

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I learned every single day while studying abroad. I learned how to respect new cultures, how to be more independent, how to ask for help, how to be flexible, how to communicate creatively, and how to realize what’s really important in life. I also learned some fun facts like there are actually two airports in Brussels and the airport you come into is not necessarily the airport you go out of. Let’s just say making that plane ride was an extremely close call. Overall, I feel so lucky to have had this amazing experience.  I was fortunate to be able to see new places and travel to eight different countries. I was fortunate enough to make friends all over the world that now I can go visit. Most of all I am fortunate to get the opportunity to grow, to get out of my comfort zone, and explore the world.

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Currently, I am working as a Marketing and Public Relations Intern for the Office of International Programs (OIP) and I am also finishing up a year of service working as an AmeriCorps Vista for the Community Service Office at Salve. I feel like studying abroad has changed me as a person so therefore it will not only effect my career but everything I do. Now, I have a better understanding of different cultures and I’m excited to expand my knowledge of even more people and cultures around the world. I am  constantly planning my next trip to a new country to go on an exciting adventure. In addition, I have gained so many practical skills from studying abroad that no matter where I go or what circumstances I am in I will always have.

My advice to any student thinking about studying abroad is to go for it! It is truly a life changing experience and I promise you that you will come back a different person than when you left. You will grow and learn in ways you can’t even imagine. My advice to any student who has already decided to study abroad and getting ready to leave is to pack early because the night before is not enough time (trust me I know from experience), bring a portable charger for your phone so you will always have battery left when you get to an area with Wi-Fi, and finally just stay calm! I know it can all seem very overwhelming at first but take baby steps in planning and never be afraid to ask for help. People are here to support you and to answer any questions whether it’s the Office of International Programs, Study Abroad Alumni, or your host university/program staff abroad.

In closing to quote my favorite childhood TV show the Magic School Bus is get ready to, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” This is going to be quite a ride with a lot of ups and downs completely out of your comfort zone but it is also going to be ride you will never forget!

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