"I learned to not be afraid to try new foods, talk to new people in your new language, go places and do things independently because in the end they’ll make you a better person, or at least give you some funny stories to tell afterwards."
As a Global Studies major, I knew it was important for me to live in other parts of the world and experience new people and places, but I also knew I wouldn’t have time to study abroad during the regular semester. I looked on the Berkeley study abroad page for summer options and Paris seemed perfect, since I was already learning French and it fit within my time frame!
The most interesting cultural experience I had was when my friends and I would go out to eat and insist on speaking French with the waiter, even though we weren’t able to fully understand their responses. It was funny to realize we would rather be confused in French than sure in English.
The biggest challenge I encountered was around the 3rd week in Paris, when it felt too familiar to be just visiting but still to foreign to feel fully comfortable. I responded by taking more time just to wander the streets of Paris and become more familiar with the city. By the end, the unknown parts of the city felt like treasures to be discovered.
My typical day in Paris always started with coffee and some sort of baked product (usually a baguette or croissant). Then I would go to class until the early afternoon. From the late afternoon to evening, my friends and I would visit museums, go shopping, lounge in the parks, and explore the city. In the evenings we would find a new restaurant, go back to an old favorite, or picnic along the Seine. Watching sunset on the roof of the Foyer was also a nightly endeavor.
The most meaningful aspect of my time abroad was realizing how many things I can do for myself, by myself. I learned to not be afraid to try new foods, talk to new people in your new language, go places and do things independently because in the end they’ll make you a better person, or at least give you some funny stories to tell afterwards.
This program improved my French skills so much!! Having incredible professors teaching you a language and then getting to immediately use it in your daily life is so helpful for retention, plus living in a Francophone country means you can pick up on some fun slang. Personally, living in a foreign country and making the most of every day opened my eyes to how much more there is to discover wherever I am, even in my hometown or Berkeley. It has made me more willing to seek out adventure everywhere.
Apply!! It has been my favorite part of college so far! Paris is a beautiful city, your instructors will be excellent, you’ll make wonderful friends, and you’ll get to experience a culture very different from the one we have in Berkeley. There will be challenges, but I had such an amazing time and I hope you will too.