When considering study abroad for a semester or a year-long trip it isn’t always clear whether the emphasis will be on academic study or on other activities associated with living and traveling overseas. It may seem like the prevalent opinion today about studying abroad it that it is actually a guise for time off of school and that students don’t exerts themselves very much during the period that they are away, but this is not an accurate assessment of the institution. In the end, the studying to non-studying ratio is never going to be an equivalent dichotomy, and regardless of the destination and the way that you approach studying there, you will gain incomparable life skills.
Although some students may profit from study abroad as a means to escape from a more rigorous academic course load, others approach it as a way to engage in a deeper and more specific set of studies than they normally would. However, in the case where the academic load may be lighter overseas, the opportunities that one receives in the face of fewer classes to take or papers to write are equally impactful. Although the studying may sometimes concede to the “abroading” portion of the whole package, in the end what you have the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom could be more valuable.
While I was studying abroad in Paris, France during the spring of 2015 I would often post pictures on social media for my friends and family members to follow my adventures. One afternoon, after posing a huge slew of pictures from my two week spring break trip to seven cities in France and Italy, a family member jokingly commented on the installment to ask if I was doing any actual studying while abroad. Perhaps this was a fair question to ask considering that I had been traveling a good deal recently, but I also took my classes at the Institut Catholique seriously and devoted a lot of my time to preparing for them. This occurrence caused me to look back over my stay in Europe and I realized that I had been acquiring new skills that I employed frequently.
One of the most invaluable skills that I refined during my time living independently outside of the U.S. was being able to plan. In order to enjoy Paris to the fullest I spent time familiarizing myself with its neighborhoods and figuring out the best ways to get around so that I could easily pass from one activity to the next. When it came to traveling outside of the city coordinating transportation timetables could sometimes be a challenge, but being able to complete a trip without serious issue was truly rewarding. In the end, however, I had be able to adapt quickly to less than ideal circumstances and react to what life handed me (or in many cases threw at me or tried to trip me up with) on the regular. In that space of unplannedness, you can gain the opportunity to wander freely and experience people (the locals and other Americans who are sharing your abroad experience alike) so that you can more fully observe, absorb, and share all that you encounter which results in crucial intellectual and personal growth.
If you would like to read about my adventures in Paris, check out my personal blog at:
“Roaming Les Rues Parisiennes”
Middle Eastern Studies Minor
Institut Catholique de Paris, Paris, France (Spring 2015)