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Study Abroad Blog

Active Learning in the French Riviera


The classes taken, people met, and adventures had while studying abroad create constant active learning opportunities. Classes provide history and facts that you can relate to your environment and enhance your knowledge. There is nothing like learning about Michelangelo in Art History class and then going to Rome for a weekend and sitting underneath the Sistine Chapel and gazing at the ceiling until your neck hurts. Active learning is relating what you learn in the classroom to what you see in the world, but it also consists of the little moments and unplanned experiences.

Taking a western civilization class while studying in Europe could not have been a better decision. Everyday material is presented which relates to the country I am living in and the places I am visiting. A few weeks ago our CEA program director took us on an excursion to the region of Provence. While visiting the town of Avignon we toured thePopes’ residence in the 14th Century which Pope Clement V moved to because of violence in Rome. The week before this trip I had a midterm on this exact subject and events. Not only did this experience further my understanding of the matter, but I felt like I could relate and understand it so much more as I was walking through the same halls as the Pope did so many years ago.

Along with applying classroom knowledge, a great deal can be learned from the unexpected. Over spring break I had planned to travel with a friend, but she decided last minute to meet me in the middle of the week. I started the journey nervously on my own, but it ended up being full of eye-opening and self-discovering moments. Being alone made me much more conscious of my surroundings and helped me gain confidence in myself and my ability to navigate foreign places. Traveling independently is an unbelievable experience and I would recommend anyone studying abroad to take off for a weekend and have an adventure by yourself. The people met and memories made are unforgettable. 

Every day I am learning from my surroundings. I have an innate curiosity with the world, cultures and people.  Because of this curiosity I have found myself in situations such as sitting at a café in Campo de' Fiori, Rome eating the best pesto pasta of my life and talking to the owner of the restaurant about politics, food, wine, and injustices in the world. My curiosity leads me to chatting with the old French lady next to me on the train, to the cab driver zooming me around Barcelona, or to the waiter in Florence who takes us on a tour of the ancient catacombs below the restaurant. Never stop asking questions and be curious about everything because there is so much to learn and appreciate in this world.

Chelsea Heil Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in the French Riviera

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