Why Studying Abroad in Paris has been a Gateway for Personal Development & Cultural Unity

Anna Dickerson is a student at University of Nebraska Lincoln and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad abroad with ISA in Paris, France.

What is the world we live in? At the worst of times, it can feel divided, huge, scary. But, at the best, it is cohesive, hopeful, accepting. In the midst of the chaos of humanity that we witness every day, how do we find our place? As an aspiring human rights lawyer the question I constantly ask is, how do I find the ambition to improve myself so that one day I can help to improve the lives of others? Like most students, the decisions I make in regards to my academic, professional, and personal life are those that will most assist me in my efforts towards finding my place. This is why I chose to study abroad.

The view from my room on a snowy day in Paris.

Culture has always fascinated me. Even as those who study culture argue over the exact definition of the broad term, most can agree that there are certain basic concepts rooted within “culture”; food, art, dance, customs, history, language. I chose to come to Paris to witness their culture, interact with it, and appreciate it. Every night, as I sit at my host family’s petite dinner table eating bread, cheese, couscous, vegetables, fish, dessert, etc., I am honored to experience the French language, the French people, and the French food all within an hour. There is no classroom that could compare to diving head first into a culture, embracing all your awkwardness, all your trial and error moments, and accepting it for what it is. This is how we truly learn, isn’t it?

An example of a weeknight dinners with my host family!
Beautiful sprawling greens of the Luxembourg Gardens.
I’m often inspired by artwork in Paris and try to recreate much simpler adaptations!

When we are willing to be open to new experiences, willing to taste that strange food or stinky cheese, and willing to learn for the sake of appreciation and understanding, we can climb the walls of ignorance that keep us from truly experiencing the world’s people. Our world could use a little more acceptance, a little more complete appreciation. So far, I have been able to interact with French culture in a way simply not possible from a classroom alone. Four weeks in France has allowed me to speak with locals, to admire architecture, to stumble over poorly-pronounced French sentences, to adore French fashion, to contemplate history.

Daily life in Paris includes sampling traditional foods and visiting as many historical monuments & museums as possible.

As I learn about Parisian culture and French people, I also get to experience school with other international students. Our world becomes just a little bit smaller and a little bit simpler in my classroom full of students from Russia, Taiwan, the United States, China, Spain, Afghanistan, and more. My 4 and a half weeks abroad have already illustrated to me the importance of escaping my bubble of comfort to make genuine human connection with people across the world. The only way to do this is to leave behind the universities/cities we call home and to take the risk.

As the days quickly pass in Paris, I am constantly reminded of my uncertain place in this world. But as I walk the streets of this restless city, I am comforted by the thought that everything I do here, every person I meet, every lesson I learn, every risk I take, puts me one step closer to finding my place. And in the midst of it all, what a comforting thought that is.


The world awaits…discover it.

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