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Study Abroad Blog

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The Real World: CEA Alumni

Although I’d once only aspired to be a contestant on The Real World, I now find myself settling nicely into the wonderful field of International Education. That’s right, this is just another story about how studying abroad changed a life and jump started a career. Cue the cliché music swell. My eyes are already glassy just thinking about it.

My first foray into International Education was as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 17-year-old during a summer in New Zealand with the Experiment in International Living. It was the story of 11 teenagers, picked to travel a country, living together, learning together, getting real. My only thought after that summer? Where to next? I’d officially caught that travel bug.

 A day trip to Fox Glacier with newfound lifelong friends. Circa 2011.

I just earned my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Communication. What I really got a degree in is insatiable curiosity about the world, how we find meaning, and each tell our stories. That curiosity led me to, right before my semester with CEA in Aix-en-Provence, where I spent the summer working as their Public Relations and Outreach Intern. I still wasn’t entirely sold on this whole field of International Education. Travel was fun and all, but I had bigger and better things to do.

Aix-en-Provence, a Francophile’s dream! All cobbled streets and sun-kissed stone buildings with a fountain on every corner. It was bright, it was warm, it was home. In four months I learned more about myself than I think I ever would have otherwise. I learned about grit (yes, even studying in a cushy Western European country), resilience, dedication, and hard work. Seriously hard work. Learning a language is tough and it really teaches you an important life lesson about return on investment. You learn and improve only as much as you are willing to put in work.

 I seriously can’t believe I lived here for a semester.

I also learned a lot about transitions, from life abroad to life back home, from college life to post-grad life and the working world. Vivienne and Dylan, our on-site CEA staff, showed me what it looks like to truly love what you do everyday—and in Aix, no less! You mean to tell me I can feel good about my work, AND travel? #Goals.
 Me and my roommate strolling down la rue 4 Septembre on a sunny afternoon.

I’m now celebrating two years with My case might be unique, since after studying abroad I chose to start building my career in study abroad, but I think the value of international experience can’t be overstated. In my work, I share stories of study abroad alumni and meaningful travelers who have all found their passions and paths through life in their travels. This is the real, real world.
 At NAFSA with

Erin O. is a CEA alumna. She studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence in the Fall of 2014. She Graduated from Colorado State University in 2016.

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