A short-term study abroad program wasn’t something I ever considered until after I turned 22. I thought I was too old to study abroad and I certainly didn’t think I could commit to leaving my full-time job. I had dreams of traveling and being abroad, but I told myself it just wasn’t realistic.
And then, Notre Dame burned.
My mom was a seasoned traveler. My favorite memories are always the ones where we’d be having a conversation about something irrelevant, and all of a sudden she’d say, “You know, this reminds me of something I saw when I was living in Jamaica.” She always hated talking about herself but I loved seeing her face light up when I would exclaim, “What? When did you live in Jamaica?” and a beautiful story would begin. I loved hearing about the times she’d go to Jamaica, Toronto, the Philippines, back around to Toronto, and anywhere else in between. It made me so happy to hear that mom in her twenties took a beat-up car with her best friend and drove around as many states as they could, with just enough money for gas and snacks. We’d sit for hours and talk. Perhaps the travel bug is genetic.
When we watched the news about Notre Dame burning, I could feel my bucket list burning up with it. My mom and I were both upset, as we’d never been before and desperately wanted to see Paris.
I really thought I was too broke to travel, let alone study abroad. But when I heard about a short-term study abroad program in Paris, my mom was the biggest supporter. And it ended up being the most perfect experience for me. My academics earned me a scholarship. It didn’t cover my full cost, but it cut the cost down enough that I knew my upcoming shifts at work would cover the rest.
My short-term study abroad program gave me such an incredible time that I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s perfect for people like myself who couldn’t financially commit to going abroad for a semester or a year. And, honestly, it can be tough if you have a significant other or lots of family back home. But with a short-term study abroad, you’re doing a shorter course, and you’re likely only going to be gone for a couple of weeks, but you still get a really immersive experience. The short-term study abroad classes are also more budget-friendly. You’re generally only taking one course all day, so it’s definitely intense but it’s a great way to immerse yourself in a new language! And short-term courses tend to have smaller class sizes. I loved every day being in class, making friends with all the other students, and hanging out with my roommates. Just walking through Paris and seeing how breathtaking the city was astounded me every day.
The restaurant I was working at shut down about a week before I was heading abroad. I was terrified.
Suddenly I didn’t have a job to go back to. It ended up being a blessing in disguise. With my scholarship earnings, I ended up having extra money saved up. Since I didn’t have a job to go back to, I booked a hostel and stayed longer in Paris. In the hostel, I met a girl who was just about to start her study abroad program. She was from California on her way to Germany for her master's degree. Another girl was from Montreal and headed to Paris on a whim because she saw a cheap flight.
Just by taking a short-term study abroad program, I learned how much I loved getting to experience all these new things. I learned how much I actually love hostels. I learned how liberating it can be to travel solo. I learned that despite how much I hated moving around as a kid, I love to travel. And yes, I was able to find another job not long after I came back home.
I remember heading to class on my first day in Paris seeing the remnants of Notre Dame. I was struck with the realization that my bucket list wasn’t actually burned up, and neither was the church. From one side, you see crumbling rocks. But walk around the building and you see these fantastic stone gargoyles, looking proudly over Paris. Perspective is everything. It’s an incredible privilege to be lucky enough to travel, but it also comes with a lot of saving and hard work. If you have dreams of studying abroad but don’t want to go for a semester, check out some options online! There are tons of short-term programs across the world that can provide a great experience.
When I was boarding the plane to go back home, I knew I would be planning my next trip as soon as possible. Traveling in my twenties was just as incredible as my mom had described. My short-term study abroad experience was everything I had hoped for and more. I hadn’t traveled much before Paris, but I know I’ll be heading out again as soon as I can.
Asha Swann is the Spring 2020 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Sheridan College.