In life what do you want to remember: Being connected through a screen of people or being connected with tangible experiences only gained through being present in the moment? With the explosion of social media sites such as TikTok we often find ourselves hypnotized by our own screen spending hours upon hours scrolling through a false misperceived lens. I was most motivated to knock out several course credits by vacationing to Paris for an entire month! Looking back, I would not call my trip a vacation. In fact, I spent most of my time blazing the narrow cobblestone streets of the infamous city. Most European countries do not have air conditioning – even in their hottest summer months. While I was in Paris, I saw temperatures get to 106 degrees Fahrenheit! My American ways were being challenged every single day of the trip – sometimes in ways I did not know to prepare for. Study abroad forces one to go out of their comfort zone for a multitude of reasons. And in return gives the student valuable experiences they can base the rest of their philosophy of life on.
I believe one of the most shocking differences between everyday American life versus a typical day in the life of a Parisian was the concept of time. In America everyone is always on the go! It was much harder for me to accomplish as many day-to-day chores while I was in Paris because of many factors that must be dealt. I had to adapt in managing the time it took to get tasks done. For example, I had to work much harder to go to the grocery store. Fran Prix was not but a short walk to the University. Though, I had to make multiple trips per week because I had to carry all my groceries back to my room instead of having the luxury of packing them in my air-conditioned car while driving back home.
There were many fears I had that were quickly dissolved after my first week abroad. Looking back, if I could have done anything else to prepare me for this trip – it would have been learning a bit more of the French language. I carried a sense of guilt with me every time I went out because how is it that I expected French natives to speak my language in their own country? I felt as if I could have honored their culture better by speaking more of their language. In addition, traveling to a new country is very scary for most people. As humans, we have survival instincts to adapt. So, I would tell other students who are interested in studying abroad to first learn the language of the country they are visiting and do not be scared to go out and explore. Exploration is the best way to learn firsthand about the country you are visiting. It also forces you to deal with the feeling of being uncomfortable.
In conclusion, the essence of time management and having the anxieties of the language barrier caused me to be present in my thoughts, words, and actions. This was the biggest outcome for me personally while abroad. I feel as if this will help to provide more meaningful connections in life. Something that I don’t believe many people incorporate into their daily lives anymore. Additionally, I do not regret going to Paris while not knowing their native language. Also, I really needed the study abroad credit for graduation purposes. But my recordation for future study abroad trips is to incorporate a language aspect as a part of the curriculum within the actual course. For example, incorporating the basics of the French language into MLNG 2000.
Natalie Shealy (BA Humanities: Liberal Arts) spent Summer 2022 in Paris, France as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course.
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