I have always had a diverse group of friends, and I fell in love with languages early on in my life. I also come from a bilingual household and wanted to learn as many languages as possible. In high school, I had an opportunity to take a language for an elective and if we studied it for four years, we would take a trip to that country during our senior year. I chose French since it was similar to Spanish (which I already knew) but when senior year came around, everything changed. September 11th had changed our lives and the way we travel for years to come. For my high school and many others, class trips were out of the question. This meant my trip to France was halted. However, my desire to go and visit the country I learned so much about was still there. I promised myself that I would study abroad when I got to college.
And I did! In 2010, my senior year in college, I finally had enough knowledge about financial aid and how higher education functioned that I knew my dream of studying abroad was feasible. I had researched multiple study abroad programs in France, and CEA met all of my needs. I knew I may not have this opportunity again and wanted to immerse myself completely in the culture and learn about another region of the country. I studied in Aix-en-Provence and still talk about my experience today!
|Weekend in Seville, Spain|
My study abroad experience started with me being scared because it was different than what I was used to in the United States, but it ended up being a thrill of a lifetime. I learned so much about myself and the world around me. Did I mention that the food was amazing? I am not sure how I ate so much and STILL lost weight. The French way of life is more relaxed than in the United States, and it forced me to slow down and appreciate my surroundings.
Appreciating my surroundings is exactly what I do now more than ten years after my study abroad experience. I try to take small trips in and around the U.S., because there are hidden gems right in my backyard and a decent amount within a short driving distance. I also try to plan at least one major trip out of the U.S. per year. I try to interact with others more while on my trips, especially when I take public transportation or while I’m standing in line. A lot of things have changed with COVID-19, but some good friendships may come out of simple conversations. I went to France alone but I left with so many relationships, including one with my homestay family. There is something special about being able to communicate with others in various parts of the world.
If you are thinking about studying abroad or hesitant about going to another country, stop! Stop thinking about it and stop putting negative thoughts in your head. Your mind is a powerful tool that can lead you to your biggest success and your hardest downfall. You have one life, and I can tell you that it is so much richer once you have traveled. Your hardest decision should be where to go first. You may experience some discomfort, but this is when you start to grow. Embrace it! You will thank yourself for it later.
|At the 2019 Australian Open with the family|
Traveling is a part of my life, and I always find a way to make it possible. Travel does not have to be expensive if you plan in advance. My children have traveled with my husband and me to various countries, including Australia! You have great resources at your fingertips with technology being so accessible. Use it to your advantage, and do not be afraid to ask. During my study abroad experience, I had the opportunity to travel within Europe. I asked our program director about a nice place to travel to in Spain that I could do in a weekend. She mentioned Seville, and she connected me to another CEA student there. We instantly hit it off, and I practically had a tour guide. I also got to see the FIFA World Cup, which was added bonus, and I had no idea it was in Seville when I went to visit. Your experience is what you make of it.
A friend of mine once told me: don’t let your age exceed the number of places or countries you have visited. This may not be always feasible, but you can always try and this will make your life more fulfilling. It’s a motto that I live by and share with my children.
Ana Estevez is a CEA alumna who studied abroad in 2010 in Aix-en-Provence, France. She currently works at La Salle University.
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