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To Future CEA Study Abroad Students

Looking back on my semester abroad in the French Riviera, I’ve realized how much my priorities have changed since I arrived here in January. When I first flew into France, I was most excited about the opportunity to travel. There were so many beautiful places that were completely foreign to me that I was eager to visit, and there still are! However, after a couple months, I found myself more excited at the thought of staying in Antibes for the weekend, where I could hang out with the friends I’ve made here.
 Everyone (minus one person) in the CEA Spring 2014 French Riviera study abroad group
 
 We were all together for our farewell dinner, which of course was absolutely delicious, and included enough bottles of rosé for everyone to have a glass or two.

When you study abroad (notice I say “when,” not “if”), make time to get to know the place you’re living in. Studying abroad is an opportunity to do more than just see new places. Living somewhere for a long period of time lets you become familiar with the place in a way that a visitor never can be. You can learn to predict when shops will and won’t be open, you can become a regular at that café that plays good music and serves more teas than you’ll ever have time to try, you can make conversation with the strangers you pass and teach them something you never thought they’d want to know, and you can find friends who, like you, were willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar place. Traveling is great, but it’s people who change you, who teach you to approach life in a new way.

I’ve watched a friend here always make sure that everyone is a part of the conversation. I’ve seen how someone’s willingness to share a bit about themselves made everyone feel closer to that person, because it made others more comfortable doing the same. I’ve heard people get into heated arguments that end up having no negative effect on their relationship, because they do recognize that everyone has a unique perspective on the world. Studying abroad gave me the time to learn from these observations, time I have not had back home. 
 The two standing were giving a toast to our CEA contacts here, Kristin and Silvija, who were key to making this semester unforgettable.

So go abroad! If you’re afraid or nervous, don’t worry, that’s a good sign. It means you’re going out of your comfort zone, so you’ll be sure to experience new things that will teach you lessons you never realized you were missing. If you’re not afraid or nervous, and you’re only excited, that’s a good sign, too. That’s how I felt when I went abroad, because I wanted to experience something that was entirely new and foreign. The fear and nervousness came once I was here, in a situation that I could not have predicted. So you’ll still experience new things that will teach you lessons you never realized you were missing.


Lucy Havens is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in the French Riviera. She will be a senior this coming fall at Carnegie Mellon University.



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