Tag Archives: abroad


Studying Abroad Can Open the Door to Your Heritage

(photo by: magazine.enlightennext.org)

Studying abroad is a great opportunity for academic and personal growth. But did you know it is also a great way to discover your heritage? I am the granddaughter of a Frenchman who gave up his language and culture to become American. Growing up, it was always difficult to believe that Grandpop was French because, well, he didn’t do anything French! Whenever I saw my grandfather he spoke English; ate American food; celebrated American holidays; and acted like everyone else I knew who was American. For years I thought being French meant having a last name that no one could spell or pronounce. It wasn’t until I began French foreign language studies in high school which continued into college that I only began to merely understand what it meant to be of French heritage. After years of learning about France’s impact on the world in terms of science, history and philosophy, I decided to get some hands -on knowledge and find out what it really means to be French by studying abroad.

In an earlier post (Why Paris was not the ideal host city for me), I mentioned that I had a unique opportunity to not only discover France hands-on but to actually interact with family. This was an amazing excursion into my grandfather’s past; to meet all the people he left behind to start his new life in America over half a century ago. I found out things about my grandfather and my family history that I never would have known had I not studied abroad. If you are able to study abroad in a country where you have long, lost relatives or from where your family originated (even if many centuries ago), I highly recommend it. It will give you an insight into your heritage and maybe into you / your family that you would not have had if not for studying abroad.


Eleanor’s Paris Adventures: Le commencement

1st post from new guest blogger, Eleanor Harte (photo by: frenchforfoodies.com)

“You’ve been accepted! Welcome to the program. We can’t wait to see you in January.”

The email, sent in October, was the final piece of the puzzle: I would be studying in Paris in Spring 2014. I immediately updated my Facebook status, started a countdown until the day I left, and researched things to do in Paris. I couldn’t wait. My dream was on its way to becoming a reality. I can’t remember the first time I heard about studying abroad, but I’ve known I wanted to do it since high school. My parents grew up in Europe, which gave me both travel experience to visit family and the blessing of dual citizenship and a European Union passport. I took French in high school and even though I didn’t have very good teachers, I did have the desire to learn the language. I’ve taken two semesters of college French as well, but even after all that time I still am not particularly confident in my language skills. That’s why I briefly flirted with the idea of studying in a different city: London, maybe, or Galway. Somewhere where I wouldn’t have to worry about basic communication skills, or my lack of them. But then I remembered why I wanted to study abroad in the first place: I was seeking a new culture, new places to discover, a new world to understand. Sure, London would be great and Galway would’ve been amazing, but I wouldn’t be getting an entirely new cultural experience. And ultimately, that was what I wanted. So I decided to lean into the fear and applied to study in Paris. Now there are just a few short days until I leave, and I still can’t wait. I am incredibly excited, but also very busy. My acceptance letter, which I thought was the last piece of the puzzle, turned out to be the first: I’ve had flight tickets to purchase, housing decisions to make, packing lists to write, and even more. I’ve had an empty suitcase sitting on my bedroom floor for a week, waiting to fill it until I’m sure exactly what I should bring. I’ve researched typical Parisian weather, what kind of clothing is in fashion, and what I can expect when I arrive. I’ve talked to my bank about my travel plans, downloaded free calling apps to my phone, and photocopied my passport. It seems that all that’s left for me to do is stop putting it off and actually pack. I think one of the reasons I haven’t started packing yet is because I’m nervous. I also haven’t fully processed that I am leaving in a handful of days.

I have never been to Paris, and even though I’ve read up on the 20 arrondissements and the fun places to hang out, I am at a complete loss for what to expect. When I get off that plane, I’ll be arriving in my new city for the first time. I’ve traveled internationally by myself, but never have I been to a city where I know absolutely no one. It’s kind of a terrifying prospect, especially when I consider that I haven’t studied French in two years, but I remain confident that my French language skills will improve over time. I’m going to be in Paris for five months, and after the initial shock of being there wears off, I know it’s going to be worth it. I’ve never spoken to someone who didn’t love their study abroad experience, and that’s how I know that this is going to be the greatest adventure of all.

So here’s to 2014: the year of adventure, of leaning into the fear, and of saying yes!

About the author:

Eleanor Harte is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she’s studying Journalism and Political Science. She just arrived in Paris yesterday and will be taking Political Science classes through CEA and French classes at the Sorbonne. You can connect with Eleanor on twitter, Instagram  and at her website www.eleanorharte.com


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: A New Year, A New Life

By: Alexa Wybraniec

I ran twelve miles this morning.

When I’m running, I think up little mantras and repeat them inside my head. Today I thought, “Resolutions can happen whenever I want.”

I decided to change my life last spring, right in the thick of 2013. Running twelve miles this morning was absolutely not affiliated with January 1, 2014. The first time I finished a twelve-miler (a week ago) I signed up for a half marathon and spent the rest of the day confused. I thought, “I don’t know anything, it’s not possible for me to run twelve miles, I can’t do that. But I did it, so nothing makes sense, and I don’t know anything for sure anymore.”

I still think that, and it’s kinda nice. Applying that mindset to my future in Paris is the most liberating feeling on earth.

My lifestyle change has proved efficient. I earned my straight As this semester, and now I’m taking a winter class online. When summer rolls around, I’ll pick up a summer class. These are the small sacrifices I need to make in order to study abroad and graduate on time because core requirements cannot be fulfilled abroad. It’s not so bad, really, because I genuinely love learning new things. I’ve clearly got a handle on how to do the whole college thing in the States, but will that hold up in France?

I need to start thinking about, well, everything. I had a relaxing break, full of gift-giving, hikes and Chipotle trips, but having class everyday grounded me mentally. The new year, while insignificant, inevitably inspires forward-thinking.

My favorite presents received over break include:

- Victoria Trott’s “Paris City Guide”
- Aurelia D’Andrea’s “Living Abroad in France”
- a 2014 Parisian calendar
- luggage tags
- RFID-blocking neck pouch
- detachable silk bra pocket
- cold, hard cash (to be transformed into Euros ASAP)

The neck pouch claims its  “special blocking material prevents high tech identity thieves from downloading and stealing personal information stored on micro chips in your passport and credit cards.” I don’t know any high tech identity thieves but hey, now I have somewhere to store my passport, keys, cash, and whatever else I may be wary about toting around in a foreign city. The bra pocket seems to be the better option for a less “hey-look-at-me-I’m-a-tourist” ensemble.

I’ve started paging through the travel guides, and just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited, here I am. I can already see myself reading some sections within the next few days (“Social Climate,” “History,” “Food”), which sections I’ll reference over the next few months (“Preparing to Leave,” “What to Bring,” “Sample Itineraries”) and the sections I’ll pour over in my bedroom once I get there (“French Phrasebook,” “Travel and Transportation,” “Daily Life”).

I’ve been talking to a lot of people (pretty much anyone I come in contact with/anyone who will listen) about studying abroad. Absolutely everyone over the age of 50 is simply dazzled by my plans. Better yet, almost everyone over the age of 50 is more traveled than I am. I’ve had some great conversations over break so far, with so many family gatherings and that general amicable feeling of the holiday season.

Some of the best advice that stuck with me, while not the most original, went something like, “If I could do it all over again, I’d have traveled the world while I had the chance. Now, I’ve got a wife, kids, and a mortgage to pay.” This is exactly my thought process when I wake up in the morning. I turned twenty recently, and I’d rather not waste the potentially best years of my life. I’m in my best condition, both physically and mentally, right now.

I like to tell people that I’m moving to Paris next year. Now, I get to say I’m moving to Paris THIS year. Let the life-changing begin!

About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via Twitter.


Why Paris Was Not the Ideal Host City for Me

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Seven years ago, I had the privilege to spend a year in the most beautiful city on Earth. Paris is an amazing place and I always look fondly back on my time I spent there. However, it was not my first host city choice for studying abroad. When I first decided I wanted to study abroad in France for my junior year of college, I applied to my university’s program in Tours. Unfortunately, this program was canceled about 4 weeks into the registration process and I had to find another one. The next program I applied to was in Nice with the University of Maryland. I was well into the registration process for this program when I had a brilliant idea to contact long, lost family in Paris. My grandfather’s sister lived in Paris and I thought by living with her for the summer before the start of classes in the fall, I could get accustomed to speaking French daily. Upon hearing this idea, she offered me the opportunity to live in Paris rent free. As this newfound opportunity alleviated a huge financial strain, I had to cancel my enrollment in the Nice program and find a study abroad program in Paris. Although I have an immense love for the City of Light, it was not my first or even second choice as a host city in France. Why? Because I don’t have a “big” personality. I find that I get lost in the bigness of a situation and then don’t have a good time/ do my best. My first year of college, I went to Drexel University. Drexel is a big school and I was just one of thousands of students on campus. I felt overwhelmed at its size and impersonal nature. When I transferred to Rutgers for the rest of my college career, its small campus and intimate class settings appealed to me and I flourished beautifully there. Just like a too big college campus, big cities are also a little too much of everything: people, crime, pollution, things to do and see, money you have to spend to be able to live there. I’m more of a homebody and not a night life kind of gal so living in a major metropolitan area with all kinds of activities, all the time is lost on me. Don’t get me wrong. I still overall had a great time in Paris but I think that I would’ve succeeded differently and maybe sooner had I studied abroad in a smaller city. Paris was an ideal study abroad location because of my unique housing situation and it doesn’t hurt that it also has great schools. I still would recommend to study abroad in Paris to anyone (as long as it is the best choice for your major, of course) but would caution to find a program that also suits your personality. Looking back, Paris was not my ideal host city for study abroad but I’m still glad that I had the chance to live there.