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Obama: Study Abroad in Europe No Longer Important

(photo by: sites.psu.edu)

I recently came across an article by Trina Y. Vargo on U.S. News called “The Wrong Pivot to Asia”. The article discusses how the Obamas were recently in China and have pledged to China that more American students will be studying abroad there than in Europe in the years to come. Here’s my thoughts:

First reaction: Great article- well written and very cohesive. It made me think of the topic of mandatory study abroad. Why do our college and government officials feel like they know what is best for students? Why does this administration continue to inflate numbers and statistics that are far from the truth? Why is the President and First Lady making this promise to China to increase the number of American study abroad students there? Is there some sort of deal going on behind the scenes between the US and China?

Europe(Europe is not a priority for American study abroad students per US officials. Photo by: www.coolestplacestovisit.com)

2nd look: This author clearly points out how her study abroad in Canada positively impacted her career in foreign affairs. She started off doing foreign policy advising on Canada but then expanded her role to the far corners of the globe; studying abroad in Canada/ a Western country was an asset not a setback. Although I have discussed how many American students are attracted to Europe/ Western countries because it can appear to be more culturally similar to USA than China or Africa, I also think it is a bad idea to force students to study abroad in a country to which they are not attracted just because it is not Western. I also couldn’t help but notice that the President and First Lady did not say how they would increase the number of American students going to study abroad in China (shocking – in sarcastic tone); just that they would. But all criticism aside, on the surface I understand this move from deprioritizing Europe/Western countries for study abroad.


(Say goodbye to castles and hello to Pandas. Photo by: www.studyabroad101.com)

Last year, I advised an intern at my job to study abroad in China and to take Chinese as a foreign language, not pursue Spanish studies with a study abroad in Latin America. My rationale was probably very similar to the Obamas- China is where American business manufacturing is and if you want to succeed in business, you need to go to China. However, I now am having 2nd thoughts on the “wisdom” I bestowed on this unsuspecting intern. Can you imagine if someone told me I had to study abroad in China? I would have lost the opportunity to have discovered my French heritage and meet my family. But it’s not just that for many American students, studying abroad in Europe is a way to learn about their ancestry; it’s also about understanding our allies. All the European / Western nations are the United States’ allies. The author makes another great point that studying abroad in these countries is a great way to educate and prepare the diplomats of tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be odd if the American ambassador to France never studied abroad in France but in China? Now I’m sure their overall global experience would be useful but it would’ve been more useful if this person got to know French culture and language better by living amongst the French.

In conclusion: It feels wrong that our government is again stretching it’s dirty hands further into our private lives making it harder for American students to study abroad in Europe. Cutting scholarships / grants to study abroad in our Allies’ homes is not only a disadvantage to American students who are already given the short end of the stick for college with the ever growing cost of tuition, it’s also disrespectful to our Allies. By deprioritizing Europe for study abroad, the United States is giving the message that we don’t hold our relationship with them very high, that we’re moving on and possibly making new friends. I’m all for encouraging students to think outside of the Western box (especially since we are the not the majority of the world), but not at the expense of personal liberty, losing valuable allies in the long run, and further damaging the American reputation by making broken promises.


What do you think?


Can introverts study abroad?

(photo by: best-thoughts-sms.blogspot.com)

Sure can and you know one who did –me! My name is Andrea and I’m a loud, proud introvert. Now just like anything in life, introverts come in all different flavors. There isn’t a one size fits all example of an introvert. The most basic and relatable definition of an introvert is someone who pulls their energy from within and not from others. As a result, many introverts (including myself) prefer to be alone (or with a small group of people) than in big crowds as we find them to be overwhelming. When you think of someone who is dreaming of studying abroad, you may not think of someone who prefers to be alone. But that is where you would be wrong. Many introverts are dreamers and although we are uncomfortable in big or new social settings, we desire that one day we may find one that doesn’t bother us. For me, I felt that opportunity was studying abroad.

Preparing to pack up my life to go 6,000 miles away from everyone I loved and everything I ever knew, I dreamed the biggest dreams. I was going to get discovered and become a top (albeit, short) fashion model- that surely would have me interacting with lots of people in all kinds of social settings; I was then going to be named the Face of France and get to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy; and of course despite little practicing of French outside of the classroom, I was going to be awesome in French, so awesome that I would randomly engage in deep philosophical debates with native French speakers- anytime, anywhere. I’m hoping you see the extreme far-fetchedness of these introvert fantasies. I always believed that my introvertedness was not a personality trait in me, but rather I wasn’t in the right place.


(photo by: www.hypeorlando.com)

When I arrived in Paris, it became quickly apparent that these things were not going to happen. It was then that I realized that it was not the place that needed changing, it was me. Now there is nothing wrong in being an introvert and in fact, many of its qualities may make the study abroad experience easier since you’re used to doing things alone. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as an introvert going abroad:

  • As introverts, we are not eager to leave our comfort zone and prefer being alone. If you don’t put yourself in new social situations, it can be difficult to better your foreign language abilities due to not getting enough practice.
  • The whole point of studying abroad is to experience a new culture and group of people. If you are spending most of your time alone, you’re defeating the whole purpose of studying abroad.
  • For introverts, sometimes it’s easier to just be alone with our thoughts when we’re frustrated, sad, upset, lonely, missing home. Being alone is the worst thing to do when you have these feelings as they will only intensify in solitude.
  • The fact that you signed up to study abroad shows that you are not as introvert as you think and that when you challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone, you can do anything.
  • Don’t expect people to make conversation / friends with you first, especially the French. French culture is more reserved than and not as open as American culture. If you wait for French students to come up to you first, you’ll never make first contact.
  • Have an introvert coach. Ask someone who always gives you the spark you need to get things done to send you weekly “reminders” via text / SM / email to talk to fellow students, join clubs on campus, go out, and discover the culture and people who traveled to be with and experience.



(Don’t change these wonderful introvert qualities. Photo by: Nancy Dooren)

If you let your introvert qualities shine while you are abroad, you can face many hardships. I know because that’s what I did. I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone as much as I should have and held firmly to my introvert ways. Introverts can study abroad but it is harder for us than our extrovert friends. Don’t let this discourage you. In fact, you would benefit from learning a thing or 2 from them. You don’t have to get rid of your introvert ways to study abroad, but you will need to challenge them to make the most of this experience.


bookAre you an introvert who’s interested in studying abroad but previous talks with your folks haven’t gone so well? Find out how to approach this topic for a guaranteed successful conversation and gain your parents’ support for this experience with new mini guide book An Introvert’s Guide to Talking Study Abroad With Their Parents.


April showers bring Paris flowers

May is the best month in Paris. It’s when the city comes alive with fascinatingly fabulous flora; when strikes seem to stop; when Parisians are happily lounging outside on public lawns enjoying delicious picnics; when study abroad students are frantically running around the city trying to visit those last few sites they still haven’t yet seen and make as many long lasting memories as possible in the few short weeks before they leave to go home. It’s a beautiful time in Paris, the month that everyone all over the world waits for. Recently, I was at Gussie Park in Dallas whose beautiful, blooming flowers reminded me just a little of Paris. Since I didn’t take many pictures while I was in Paris (the only thing I regret from my time abroad), I partook in a little fantasy of pretending to be walking through a Paris garden. Sometimes you just have to indulge your imagination. All photos by Andrea .



Twenty in Paris Approved Blogs

Bon weekend à tous! Here’s this week’s edition of study abroad blogs that earn the Twenty in Paris Seal of Approval.


third year abroad


Blog name: Third Year Abroad

URL: http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/

Who: n/a

What: Third Year Abroad is the UK’s biggest network of students who study or work abroad during their degree.All the blog posts are written by students in addition to a having an interactive forum. Third Year Abroad covers every country. For American students, you’ll want to stick to the experience / packing / language immersion information as the career and scholarship info won’t apply to you. My favorite article of the moment is an oldie but a goodie on Culture Shock: Paris


jessica oliver sgg


Blog name: A Semester in Paris on SGG

URL: http://jessoli.studentsgoneglobal.com/

Who: Jessica Oliver

What: A few weeks ago  Students Gone Global (SGG) made it onto the list of Twenty in Paris Approved Blogs for its general website but one blog in particular made the cut this week. Jessica is an American student studying abroad in Paris for a semester who shares her stories navigating Parisian life and university system. Honest, funny and true this blog is a must read but do it quick- she’ll be coming home real soon. The article that caught my eye is Budgeting Tips for Abroad





Blog name: Non piove piu

URL: http://asongoficeandfirenze.tumblr.com/

Who: unknown American student

What: This self-proclaimed 20 year old Seattleite is staying anonymous on tumblr. As an American student in Florence, Italy, this blog mostly covers Italian life but what made it get the Twenty in Paris Seal of Approval is how refreshingly honest about dreams, hopes, realities (which don’t always fit the dreams) and how she is dealing with the flux of emotions of this experience at the ripe age of 20. The post that caught my eye is called That Girl about how an American student sticks out in an foreign classroom



baguette1Do you like reading about the experience of other students’ time abroad on blogs? How about diaries with someone’s intimate secrets and tips on the study abroad experience? Do you like personable yet relatable and easy to read? If so, check out  The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored. Download the free Kindle App to your smart phone or iPad for on the go access.