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Study Abroad is a Challenge, But Worth It

The many faces (emotions) of study abroad

Being a part of the CEA program offered experiences in and outside the classroom. As a student of intercultural communication, I'd like to think that I have developed an understanding of other cultures. A large part of my growth I contribute to the opportunity of learning French in France.

As opposed to back in the states, where I had 40  minutes a day to improve my skills, in Paris I was totally immersed in the culture everyday. Over our fall break, I became a regular at a local restaurant/bar down the block from me. At first I was shy. With limited language skills, I would only speak the bare minimum to get my order across. But finally, one day, I just decided to go for it and start up a conversation with my waitress. And, yeah, I embarrassed myself, but it was fine. After a few days, I started having regular conversations with the locals and other staff members. They loved hearing about what it was like living in the States and I enjoyed hearing their stories about living in France. I was far from fluent, but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. They understood I was doing my best and that was all that mattered. With the help of an occasional hand gesture every now and then, I believe I did a pretty good job of communicating.

After fall break, my French class resumed and we took a field trip to a boulangerie in order to learn what it is like working there and learn some new vocabulary. I was coming off this new rush of confidence as a result of the whole restaurant/bar experience and was ready to put my skills to the test. Although the rest of the class’s vocabulary was leaps and bounds ahead of mine, I still insisted on asking the first question once we got there. Unfortunately, I ended up mispronouncing a word that meant something not so polite. But the owner of the shop could tell right away that was not my intention. Needless to say, I was forgiven. Class went on and somehow turned out to be one of the best classes I had all semester.

I guess what I am trying to say is that studying abroad is a challenge. I was tested in all sorts or ways; my emotions, my beliefs, preconceived notions I did not even know I had until I got here. But at the end of the day I had the time of my life. I spent four months in Paris and I feel like everyday I learned something new; not just about the French culture but about myself.

Zachary Wall is a sophomore from the University of Miami, currently studying abroad in Paris, France.
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