Stories that Shaped Us: Lessons Learned From Abroad
We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with ISA France and how her experience abroad has made life-long impacts. Check out this unique story below and hear her advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!
Looking back on your trip, in what ways would you have prepared or packed differently?
EB: While I felt well prepared for my abroad experience, there would be a few things I would do differently looking back on it! When it came to packing my first mistake was taking far too many clothes. When budgeting and saving, I made sure to include a budget for buying clothes abroad since I love fashion! However, I forgot to make room for these new clothes by packing less which meant I ended up buying a small carry-on suitcase to accommodate. So, if you’re planning to buy clothes while abroad make sure you leave room in your suitcase! One other thing I would have done differently is investing in packing cubes! I have seen a lot of travel youtubers and influencers using them, and I wish I had bought them! I think it would have helped me so much to stay organized when I had to pack and unpack my suitcase while traveling.
How did you balance your mental health and making friends while abroad? Do you have any advice for future students who may be nervous about meeting new people?
EB: My mental health is a big priority for me as I suffer from anxiety. I made sure to do things abroad to help me control my anxiety such as having scheduled calls with family back home, journaling, and watching a show in English every now and then. As a rather introverted person, I was super nervous about making friends abroad! I was so scared about being all alone and feeling unconnected; however, nothing could have been farther from the truth! From the moment I landed I was surrounded by other ISA students and our first few days we all figured out how to ride the metro, go to a restaurant, and even buy groceries together. Additionally, in my classes I was surrounded by people from all over the world which made it so fascinating to talk with them and learn about their cultures. Overall, my advice would be just to be open and flexible! You will find your people. It may take a week or two, but then you will have some of the best memories of your life with them.
Do you stay in contact with people you met abroad? How have you seen the value in those relationships?
EB: Absolutely! There were a few people who went to the same university as me, so it’s been so awesome to see them on campus and be connected through our shared time abroad. I have also kept up with the friends I made via social media! It’s amazing to think how I gained connections and friends from all around the US in just 10 short weeks! From sending memories from our time abroad to each other to keeping each other updated with things we have done since coming back to the US, I definitely have friends for life thanks to studying abroad.
4. What classes did you take abroad? What are some of the biggest lessons you learned throughout your trip?
EB: Since I am a French major, I took all French classes, roughly 12 hours’ worth of credit at the B1.1 and 1.2 levels. One of the biggest surprises to me was the French grading scale. Rather than a 0-100 scale, the French use a 0-20 scale, and I found that they grade more harshly than in the US. For example, almost all of the exams were open answer instead of multiple choice, and it was common for the professors to critique your content in essays more than grammatical stuff. In classes we also worked collaboratively more than I had expected. There were a lot of group assignments and projects, but I think this was beneficial especially since we were all learning French as a foreign language. I learned the biggest thing is just to have patience when learning a foreign language as it can be taxing and exhausting. However, once you start understanding things on the streets and being able to converse with your classmates you will feel so much pride in your progress (and its crazy how fast it happens). One other thing I would say about classes abroad is to be sure to try and study some of the classroom etiquette of the culture you’re going to. For example, being a few minutes late was no big deal, as many French students are. However, something that was a big no was eating and drinking in class, and I was not used to that because I am addicted to sprite and bring it to class with me in the US!
How did you keep organized while abroad? How were you able to adapt to a new environment?
EB: I think the biggest factor in staying organized abroad is preparation. When packing for your experience, think about what you’re going to use to carry your dirty clothes, how you are going to store rain gear, how are you going to keep your liquids from spilling, etc. One of the most important things to keep organized is your documents. I had a whole file folder and part of my purse just for my travel documents, passport, vaccine card, arrival instructions, etc. That made my whole life so much easier when navigating the airport and city the first few days after arriving. I also printed those instructions and papers and was very glad I did because my phone didn’t work for the first hour after I landed in France! Lastly, just take about 10-15 minutes every day to clean up your area. Whether you’re staying in an apartment or with a host family, you probably won’t have a huge space so just taking 5-10 minutes before bed or when you wake up to clean and straighten up your space will make a huge difference in staying organized.
As for adapting to a new environment, I suggest bringing some easy to pack things from home to help make your space your own. For example, I stayed in a single apartment, so I brought some pictures of my friends and family from back home and taped them up on my walls. I also brought some fairy lights to put up for some soft lighting at night, and I even brought my favorite coffee cup that I use in the US. Just bringing little comforts from home to help make the space yours will be helpful to create a familiar space while you’re in a new and unfamiliar place! Also, my biggest piece of advice is to explore!! As an introvert I really had to push myself to go do stuff even alone while abroad, but I am so glad I did. There will always be time to watch Netflix or read a book when you get back home, but you’re only abroad for a limited time. So go out sightseeing, go to cute stores, or take yourself to dinner, as long as you feel safe just get out there and explore your host city and you won’t regret it!
Inspired by Emma’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!