Studying Abroad in France: Becoming Who I Want to Be

BY MEGAN BANIA

When I first chose to attend St. Norbert College, I knew I wanted a college with culture– someplace that would enhance my understanding of the world and challenge me to learn as much as I could.

After a semester I realized that studying abroad was the perfect addition to the experience that SNC provides and so I chose to go to Lille, France.

Since being abroad I’ve grown not only as a person but as a friend, a family member and a scholar. I have been able to take a moment away from my hectic American life and look from the outside in at who I am and who I want to be.

As my experience is coming to a close, I can look back at my time through a rose tinted glass. I arrived in Lille with little understanding of European culture and am leaving with a deeper knowledge than I had ever imagined.

The first few months were hard. Adjusting to a new setting is not easy or simple. You feel isolated and alienated but when you can overcome these feelings, you realize how strong you are and that is what has changed me.

It is one thing to be independent in America; it is home, it is familiar. Becoming entirely independent in a foreign country forces you to think outside you own boundaries and become confident in yourself.

Although school is very different abroad, I didn’t find the transition too difficult. My French has surprised me with its improvement and my professors have been more than understanding with the barrier. While class material is important, the perspective you gain is the most worthwhile education. I have learned about American culture and European culture alike through the eyes of the French education system.

Traveling Europe has been, well, amazing. It is all that it’s supposed to be– the pasta in Italy, the lights of Paris, and the beaches of Spain. Nothing compares to the experiences you will have when you are abroad. You have to see it for yourself, accept being the tourist with wide eyes absorbing everything around you. It is liberating to just wander the streets of another city and enjoy their way of life, food and sights.

I wouldn’t trade one moment of my trip. I have made friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not to mention that they are scattered around the globe and I will always be able to travel and see them again. Even meeting Americans in my program has taught me more about home and has given me a new passion to travel the states.

To be honest, I debated going abroad, but now I am so happy that I didn’t let the fear and difficulty of leaving home discourage me. The places I have been, the friends I’ve made and the experiences I have had that I will never forget have made me into a person that is someone much better than who I used to be.

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