Before I begin, studying abroad is truly a different experience for everyone. It all depends on the group of people, the classes, and most importantly the country. Those are all integral pieces in choosing the right program. You can’t always choose the people you are going to be with, but you can certainly find friends no matter what.
When I went into the Summer in Paris program, I was incredibly nervous. I was worried that I would have a hard time adjusting to a different culture, language, and even food. What I was most worried about, however, was being able to make friends on the trip. I am a shy person and it is hard for me to break out of my shell sometimes. The first day in Paris, I was already beginning to make new friends. What I found out was that everyone was just as scared or nervous as I was. We were all being thrown into a new country and environment. Most of us didn’t know each other either so we had no familiar people to lean on. In the end, we all became close friends and were very sad when we all had to leave. All of this helped me to get out of my comfort zone and experience new things.
As far as academics go, I learned a lot from this trip. I learned so much about French history and art by the end of July that I didn’t think I could go to another museum without being overwhelmed with new information. I was able to expand my knowledge in so many different areas. We learned about art, history, culture, religion, and day to day life in France. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to visit museums such as the Louvre, Rodin, and Orsay.
This trip also allowed us to have the freedom to explore on our own. We were able to go to museums and monuments that were not part of the curriculum plan. That allowed us to fit in anything we felt like we were missing out on. So if something was not on the schedule, it was no big deal because we could work it in on the weekends. There was also a good balance of homework, class meetings, and free time. There was still homework and deadlines, but there was not an abundance of homework to where it was not doable.
One of the assignments that we had before going to Paris was to lay out our goals for the summer. My goals were to learn more about art, make new friends, and to get out of my comfort zone. As I was writing my final reflection for the class, I realized that I was able to meet all of my goals. I left my time in Paris with a greater knowledge of all different types of art, some pretty close friends, and a whole list of things that I would have deemed as out of my comfort zone before I came on the trip. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I was given. I was able to grow and learn more than I could have ever imagined. If anyone is given the opportunity to study abroad, they should take it and never look back.
Mary Katherine Gingras (BS Psychology) spent Summer 2022 in Paris, France as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Mary Katherine had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad was such a formative experience for me.”
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