I chose to study abroad through a UTC faculty-led trip because it was an affordable option that also offered courses that I needed towards my degree. For my study abroad trip, I was able to spend one month living in Paris while also earning credits in a French economy class, as well as a course entitled “Experiential Learning”. This course focused on several guided, group trips to some of Paris most famous monuments such as the Pantheon and the Sacré Cœur Basilica, and was graded based on written reflections about what we learned at each site and the significance it held in Parisian society. There were also a few day trips to locations outside of Paris such as to Giverny to visit Monet’s Gardens, the Palais de Versailles, and a trip to Chartres. I felt this was a truly immersive way to learn about the culture of the area because it focused on actually experiencing the city rather than being lectured at in a classroom. By the end of our short stay in Paris, we felt like we knew every inch of a city that seemed so intimidating at the start.
While visiting the monuments and important historical areas was undoubtedly a wonderful takeaway from my study abroad experience, I have to say that the most important things that I learned were about myself. Studying abroad helped me find a new sort of confidence in myself because I found that the risk I took to move to a foreign country and navigate a city on the other side of the world was completely worth it, even if I was apprehensive at first.
My advice to anyone considering studying abroad would be to seriously look into how you can make it affordable and then go for it. I met with my advisors several times, had hard conversations with my family about money, applied for several scholarships, saved up my personal income, and was able to create a substantial budget that allowed me to make the most of my time in Paris.
Another piece of advice I would give is to put yourself out there, because you might just surprise yourself. Studying abroad seems intimidating because you feel like you’re going to be all by yourself in a foreign country and no one is going to help you. This is not the case at all. From your advisors, to your professors, to your peers, and even to the locals, someone will always be there to guide you. I found it especially important to look to my fellow study abroad peers for support when uncertainty arose, from navigating the metro to needing someone to talk to about missing home.
Overall, the only thing I would change about my trip to Paris is that I would have stayed forever if it were an option. Getting over that initial fear of being on the other side of the world from everything I have ever known wasn’t so scary when I was watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from my bedroom. Studying abroad truly made me fall in love with a place that once seemed so far away, but now feels like a second home.
Elizabeth Nikhomvan (BA Humanities: International Studies) spent Summer 2022 in Paris, France as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Elizabeth had the following to say about study abroad, “Whatever apprehensions you may have about studying abroad will completely disappear when you’re taking in the scenery of that destination you’ve always dreamed of visiting. There are no words that can describe what an incredible and life-changing experience it is to study abroad, so just go.”
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