“Go to a country where you don’t speak your language and a place that will be far from your normal life in the states.”
I had been set on studying abroad in Australia or Ireland for about a year before I was going to apply, but a month before I received this advice and changed my whole path. This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
I ended up going to Paris for the semester and despite taking two French classes at AU, knew about two sentences in the language: ‘Bonjour, je m’appelle Whitney’ and ‘Je voudrais un verre du vin rouge’. I also did not know one person in my study abroad group. But it turned out not knowing the language and other people made me take in the culture so much more. I took language classes every day, fell in love with the history of the architecture (mostly Napoleon III, he’s a genius), and have never loved trying new foods so much.
The reason so many people say they “found themselves” abroad is because that distance is one of the only ways to reach such clarity and perspective on your life. I’ve never felt so sure of what I wanted from life than those last few days walking alone down the winding streets of Paris.
So why now? Why when you’re in college? Why not when you’re 30 and need a break? Monetarily wise, most museums and sight-seeing locations are free when you’re under 26. But there’s something else. There’s this aspect of solidarity and amiability among you and other college students that you can’t get at other ages. For example, my friend in the program knew a girl that was invited to this apartment party that had 12 other people from different countries like Ireland, Germany, France, the US and a couple others. I ended up hanging out with one of the Germans a couple times more and we would just go on adventures out in the city. It’s hard to find that at other ages, that desire to discover and bond for no other reason than you are both in this amazing city.
– Whitney Livingston