In February of last year things we’re going great for me. I was happily entrenched in my major coursework, I had secured two campus jobs that I really enjoyed, it was (as always) obscenely warm for the season, and I was surrounded by an amazing group of friends. I go to Claremont McKenna College in California; we’ve been ranked the number-one happiest school in America several times and – trust me – we’ll gleefully shove that factoid down your throat should you join us for a campus tour. My life I knew it in the liberal arts bubble was perfect, so why on earth did I pop the bubble and move to Paris, France for a semester?
In the beginning it was peer pressure. I looked around me, saw that everyone else was applying to study abroad and thought, “well, this is the next step, isn’t it?” But even as I was turning in documents and sending in transcripts I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this? Why leave behind everything I have here to go somewhere where I know nothing.” As privileged and spoiled as it seems now, I didn’t see the point in leaving a good thing for an opportunity I wasn’t sure I was even invested in. Still, my friends and family convinced me over and over again, “you’ll never get a chance like this again.”
Staying at your home school is easy, I promise you that. If you’ve been attending your school for two years, chances are they aren’t going to abruptly kick you out and make you reapply, you wont have to worry about all your teachers suddenly lecturing in French, and it’s unlikely that every friend you have on the planet will suddenly disappear. Going abroad – I assure you – ain’t easy, but it sure as Hell is worth it.
You will make friends – not just temporary, fill-in friends either – and they will struggle with you to order the nachos at local cafes, gallivant around Europe on thirty euro (questionably safe) flights, and they will still be important to you four months later when you’re back safe and sound in your own respective daily American lives.
You will learn the language. I can’t understate how amazing this feels. I am not a French major; I never was, I never planned to be, but all the same I wouldn’t trade my ability to speak and write French for anything. The feeling is incredible, to walk out of a two hour final and, after talking to your friends for twenty minutes, realize you’re discussing the content, not your ability to write in coherent sentences in, oh I don’t know, A WHOLE ‘NUTHER LANGUAGE. Plus, be honest with yourself, is studying abroad really studying abroad if you get to speak English the whole time, if you don’t put yourself in unbearably uncomfortable situations every once and a while because you didn’t know a crucial bit of vocab? As Beyoncé might say, these experiences are irreplaceable.
You will be reminded every single day why you’re glad you came abroad. Whether it’s crossing the Seine at night to meet friends, seeing children giggle and pop the human-sized bubbles at the Hotel de Ville, looking down at a whole city spread beneath you from atop the Grand Roue Ferris Wheel, or staying up all night to see the sun rise behind the Eiffel Tower. When it comes down to the last few weeks you’ll panic, realizing there’s so much more you want to do and see.
But the one time you’ll truly understand most how important your decision to come abroad was is at the moment when it comes time to leave. If the experience was a throwaway, if the people you met were just fillers, if the beautiful city you spent four months in didn’t make you feel like you belonged there, you’d have no problem hopping on the plane home. I promise you, it won’t be that easy. If you spend yet another semester at your school taking required classes, hangin’ with the same old group, then yes, everything will be easy. If you study abroad you’ll experience road blocks and rough days; it wont be easy, but my God will it be worth it.
p.s. ok, fine, I couldn’t resist:
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Clancy Tripp is a junior at Claremont McKenna double-majoring in Literature and Film Studies with a minor in Gender Studies. In the past few years she has lived in Indiana, California, Washington D.C., and Chicago studying and working in arts and literacy education. Good luck keeping her in the same place for more than a year. True to form, she will be spending the Fall semester in Paris, France where she will spend as much time as possible with local French children, explore every arrondissement, and sample every pain au chocolat available!</span></p>