DSC06288By Mikaela Harris

Senior, Major in English and French

Four countries.  Four months.  And don’t even get me started on the number of cities.  Tours.  Montpellier. Paris. London.  Berlin.  Milano.

When does it end?

When you reenter American customs.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to step out of your comfort zone, but that is part of what makes the experience all the more rewarding.

Study abroad might just be the scariest thing you do during your college years.  I know it was for me.  I left everything and everyone I knew to stay with two girls I met through a Facebook group for our program for four months in Paris.  But what initially scared me half to death became one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I lived in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, which is also known as the student district, or Latin Quarter.  It was about a 10-minute walk from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, right down the street from the Jardin des Plantes and not far from the Jardin du Luxembourg.  Every morning, I took the metro past the Eiffel Tower on my way to class.  Sometimes I even stopped by a bakery to pick up a hot, fresh croissant from the little patisserie near my classes.  Everything was perfect.

I’ve heard stories of the French being snobbish toward Americans.  But let me shed some light on this misconception of the French.  In Paris, you do not find French people, you find Parisians.  Just like New Yorkers, Parisians look down upon any who are not actually from Paris.  Now, before you get carried away thinking, “Well, I live in the suburbs, so I’m good,” let me correct you: The suburbs don’t count.  They are NOT, let me repeat, NOT a part of Paris.  You can’t judge the French based on the representatives in one city.  Plus, I did actually meet some pretty awesome Parisians.  Even though they occasionally laughed at my non-Parisian fashion sense, especially the winter wardrobe of a Floridian, they are honestly some of the coolest people I know.

Leaving that fairytale was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I made countless friends from all over the world: Mexico, France, Poland, and beyond.  And that experience taught me a lot about myself as a person and what I want from life.  I gave up security in the known for four months, and I found myself as person.

Study abroad is a life-changing experience.  Even if you can’t see yourself going for four months, try it for a summer term.  Give it a chance because I promise you, it is the most rewarding experience ever.  As the saying goes, “Nobody said life would be easy; they just said it would be worth it.”  And study abroad will make it worth it.