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Reasons Not To Study Abroad. And Reasons Why They're Wrong.

When I was 12, my dad drove me every Tuesday to French lessons. I don't remember the name of the woman who taught me, I only knew her as Madame. I would spend most of the car rides there asleep, hunched up against the passenger-side door, shielding my eyes from the September Texas sun.
 Paris, France
 Those days play like film clips in my head--choppy and discontinuous chunks of memory, each with a warm, slightly cross-processed glaze. Madame's house was wonderfully grand and elegant, surrounded by a white-painted fence and yellow flowers, with large open windows that filled it with sunlight. To the 12-year-old me, it seemed very French. Though I'm not so sure I really know what "very French" was.

The lessons are blurry now, but I can still taste my very first Orangina, the fizzy bubbles flooding to the back of my throat. I remember the day when she left me to my exercises as she vacuumed the salon, and when we took turns reading Le Petit Prince aloud. Madame's Parisian French was milky smooth like an Edith Pilaf record. I scribbled little Eiffel Towers into the corners of workbook pages as she read.

The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I think it was then that my fascination with France first began.

Of course, there were other contributing factors. For example, the 1995 remake of Sabrina. My parents loved "the scenery", and I loved Harrison Ford.
 Sabrina, 1995

In the film, Sabrina is a young, uncertain girl who goes to Paris, alone, for the very first time.  I had seen it many times, but for some reason had a habit of falling asleep somewhere towards the beginning. But I always woke up right at the moment when Sabrina's transformation occurs in Paris. And in a letter she writes to her father just before she returns home, is one of my favorite quotes. 

 La Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium


"Dear Dad, This is my last letter from Paris, I may even be home before you get it. Don't worry about picking me up I'd like to surprise you. It's strange, it's gone by so fast. Gertrude Stine said, 'America is my country and Paris is my hometown.' I'll always feel that way about Paris; I want so much for you to know what it's meant to me.   

Across the street, someone is playing La Vie En Rose. They do it for the tourists, but I'm always surprised at how it moves me. It means seeing life through rose colored glasses. Only in Paris where the light is pink does that song make sense, but I'll have it in my pocket when I get home, and carry it with me where ever I go."
 Brussels, Belgium

As a kid, the quote hooked me. I wanted to feel that way about France. I wanted to see exactly what it was about Paris that made that song made sense.

I had many reasons to study abroad. And there were plenty of obstacles--the cost, my jobs, clubs, my classes at Pitt, leaving my friends and family. Many the same obstacles, I'm sure, that many of the other MOJO's faced. But we made it, and you can too.

Whatever your reasons may be for studying abroad, don't let ANYTHING stop you from getting to wherever you're meant to be, whether it's France (which is the best, of course), Italy, Australia, Peru, or South Africa.

So please, let me convince you using the ways that hold so many people back:

 Brussels, Belgium

It's too expensive. Yes, studying abroad is expensive. And in my case, it was exactly as expensive as a semester at Pitt. Almost to the last cent. Of course, there is the airplane flight, and all those baguettes that I keep consuming, but isn't that why I worked 60 hours per week last summer? 

Also, what about grants? Study abroad scholarships? Financial Aid? All of these things are so accessible, so do your research! Study abroad truly can be affordable.
 Bruges, Belgium

You'll miss out. Everyone is so concerned that if they leave their friends to study abroad, that things will change while they're gone. But, I promise, with a little help from Skype and Facebook, communication will remain intact, and absence really does make the heart grow fonder. And let me tell you something--the opportunity to study in another country, with total immersion in a culture for several months, may not present itself again after college. And this is something you cannot miss.
 Le Vieux Port, Marseille, France

You just don't have time. One of the lamest excuses in the book. Speaking as a triple major, I understand exactly what it means to have limited time, credit-wise. And transfering credits can be difficult. But that's why it is so important to find the right program. Again, do your research.

You'll be homesick. A phrase that's often used in the context of studying abroad is "getting out of one's comfort zone". And it's true--you're in a different country, immersed in a different culture, speaking a different language. But isn't that the point? To gain the ability to be flexible enough to succeed in such a situation? 

To all those who doubted me: it wasn't too expensive, those who aren't here with me are missing out, I made time, and, rather than being homesick, Aix has become a second home. 

If you feel study abroad calling you, let nothing stop you.
 Brussels, Belgium

Now come join me, where the light is pink.

Lindsay Bayne is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.

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