Studying abroad… The thought is terrifying to many and thrilling to others! I'm the latter. The thought of studying abroad always sparked my interest, not only because I would get to travel the world, but I'd also be able to engage within a different culture and learn more about myself. This is exactly what studying abroad did for me. Yes, it's very cliché because that's what most people who study abroad say, but it's true!
For a small insight on my life: I grew up living in Colombia, I was able to recognize the cultural differences between Colombians and Americans (when I began living here) and then observed cultural nuances of the French, along with a few nearby European countries.
Studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, took me back to a place like home. Not my home in the U.S., but my home in Colombia. The people were immensely welcoming, and I would go outside and feel the sun radiating extreme positive energies. I would take a stroll around the small town, listen to musicians playing on the streets and feel like it had a special place in my heart, regardless of whether I was new in town or not. I would see so many people who seemed to be enjoying their lives, eating outside restaurants every single day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and seeing them interact with one another without smartphones and being accompanied by their dogs! It reminded me of what it was like back in my homeland. I was able to compare living in Colombia with living in France. Things they had in common were feeling the hearts of people when you would talk to them, when you'd buy food from a market, when you would walk around so many people who weren't glued to their smart devices, but were actually aware of their surrounds and taking it all in. These were the things I noticed -- the things that made me feel so alive and so blessed to have been able to experience this.
Going from a third-world country (Colombia), to a first world country (USA), and then to another first-world country (France), made me gain so much more insight on how different people are, but also how similar they can be regardless of their culture and economic status. Comparing these experiences humbled me by encouraging me to become more observant of the small details, from the birds that were chirping outside every morning, to the way the streets were built and how people navigated them. Studying abroad allowed my mind to become so much more open to understanding how different and similar all people can truly be.
This was an experience I will always remember, thanks to CEA for preparing so many culturally immersive activities, along with a group of students I met, and trips to the most beautiful places I've ever visited in my life. Going out of my comfort zone was extremely rewarding, and I'm so glad that I did. I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.
Valeria Angel is the Summer 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at Montclair State University.