I remember being a college freshman during the midst of the pandemic, entering UTC in the fall of 2020 with many fears. I had grown well accustomed to the word “unprecedented,” leaving me highly discouraged as to what my college experience would turn out to be. If only I could see myself now, studying abroad in Paris for one month, surrounded by fellow students and professors, all new friends of mine for years to come.
I am from Memphis, Tennessee, a town where driving is the main form of transportation, nature areas are sparse, and suburbs are the norm. Growing up I had always imagined what living in a bustling city would feel, look, and seem like; it would be so different from Memphis, the place I am so used to. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to discover cities as my desire for travel sparked, such as New York City, Seattle, and even San Francisco. So, when the opportunity of visiting Paris presented itself… I knew I had to act fast and try to make the possibility work.
I am an only child who regularly started leaving home when I started college two years ago. I had never thought to travel somewhere for a month, let alone arrive at the destination by myself. When I was accepted into the UTC in Paris program, my first thoughts were “Can I really do this?” “Will I be able to put myself out there this much?” Although I was hesitant and overcome with worries, I can confidently say that I am so proud of myself for exiting my comfort zone and studying abroad, just like I have always wanted to do.
One of my favorite experiences in Paris was being able to explore so many different neighborhoods of the city. The metro system was so efficient and navigable: with just a few stops, I could be transported to different pockets of the city with varying people, buildings, and monuments. In addition, I was enthralled by how global Paris truly is. Prior to the trip I was expecting to only hear the French and English language, but I was proved wrong. During my time in Paris I met people from all over the world, including Germany, Canada, Colombia, and even New Zealand.
This was one of the benefits of staying at Cité Universitaire; I was able to socialize with the other residents who were in Paris for the same reason as me, to further their education and explore the world.
At times when I became lonely or homesick, there was another benefit of my study abroad experience—I was on a UTC faculty led program. In other words, I always had the comfort of my two professors Dr. Bonnal and Dr. Casebier if I ever needed a reminder of home or just something familiar. Also, I built friendships with the other 21 UTC students who were studying abroad with me. Not only did I make new friends, but I now have so many people that I’ve shared this unforgettable experience with.
It isn’t easy to embark on hard goals, but I guarantee the experience is always rewarding. When I first got to Cité Universitaire, jet lagged and exhausted, I was filled with fear. I was still waiting for other UTC students to arrive—ones I had barely known—and was walking around the campus, in awe of all the pictures I had seen online, now in real life in front of me. If I could tell myself how accomplished I would feel at the end of the month, I know I would not have been so nervous and scared those first few days.
Overall, I encourage all college students to study abroad, even if they do not think it’s possible. I always assumed that studying abroad would be too hard to achieve, but you can never know unless you try. Studying abroad can reveal to you how resourceful, adaptable, and capable you are, but you have to first give yourself the chance to do so.
If I have gained anything from studying abroad, it is confidence in myself as a person, student, and traveler. I had no idea I would be able to impress and be proud of myself to this extent; I have Paris, UTC, and the area beyond my comfort zone to thank.
Madison Meadows (BS Secondary Education – English) spent Summer 2022 in Paris, France as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Madison had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad has the ability to completely transform your confidence. After studying abroad, I am so much more flexible, resourceful, and adaptable to new surroundings, especially while traveling to new countries. I am so glad I leaped outside of my comfort zone: now, I have new memories, friendships, and world views that I will cherish forever.”
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