As the time came for me to write my last blog as the Paris On-Site Ambassador, I wondered how I could ever sum it all up in 600 words. Well, the truth is, I can’t. There’s no way to squeeze 3 months of an experience into one piece of writing. But, I can share what I’ve learned after coming full circle from my first study abroad experience two years ago.
Recently, I took some time to reflect on my experiences as a study abroad student, an Alumni Ambassador, and as an On-Site Alumni Ambassador. I decided to walk through Paris while I did this, and funny enough I began to stumble upon places where I have some of the best memories. Adventures with friends I made abroad, exploring the passages with students on our Balade Composée, and riding a velib down the banks of the Seine on my own; it all flooded back to me. When I think back, I realize many of these memories include connecting with people and sometimes meeting new ones. From the family I babysat for in Paris, to the friends I made abroad, to reaching out to new communities and making friends outside of my small bubble, every person I met along the way contributed to my experience and made these adventures more incredible than they could have been on their own.
What does this mean for those of you thinking about studying abroad? Well, I hope that it can have an impact and inspire some of you to take a leap, get out of your comfort zone and have a life-changing and culturally rich experience. So, with my final blog I will bestow a few words of wisdom for those of you getting ready to head out on this exciting adventure:
No matter how many monuments you check off your list, nothing will ever compare to the people you meet, the connections you make, and the experiences you have. Yeah, the Eiffel Tower is pretty cool… but what about attending an international student meet up at Parc de la Villette? (Trust me, you’ll be glad you went off the beaten path and met new people!)
Your experience is your responsibility. No one will force you to go out and get involved, it’s up to you to make the choice to break out of your bubble, to try new things and meet new people. It’s also not always easy to take steps outside of your comfort zone… but it’s far too easy to stay home and watch Netflix. Take it from someone who’s stepped out of their comfort zone countless times (from French yoga class, to international student events, to language meetups)…Just get out of your apartment/homestay/studio and explore, I promise you won’t regret it!
|Beautiful Notre Dame|
Learning doesn’t end when class gets out. As a recent graduate, I can tell you from experience, I am still learning! Every day I learn something new, especially as an On-Site Ambassador. For example, who knew knowing how to say “I would like to borrow the stapler” in French was so important? (Not me, until the other day apparently…). Seems like a small thing to learn, but sometimes the small learning moments can be the most valuable.
Overall, my journey from study abroad student all the way to On-Site Ambassador shaped who I am today. Not just the experiences, but also the human connections I made. These connections taught me so much about life and played a crucial role in broadening my perspective and shaping my professional future. I walk away from this incredible experience with a fresh outlook on life, confidence in myself and my abilities, and more cherished memories than I can imagine.
|Every place in Paris is beautiful|
As I complete my online check-in and print out my boarding pass for my next adventure to Montreal, I leave you with this quote by Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
À bientôt Paris!
Karisa D. is a CEA alumna from the Fall 2014 semester in Paris, France. She is a recent graduate of Champlain College, where she studied Business Administration and Global Studies. She is currently the CEA On-Site Ambassador in Paris, France.
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