Living Abroad: An Unmatched Education

It’s tough to admit that my time in Paris has ended–for now, at least! It was a period of enormous growth for me: academically, personally, and experientially. It never would have happened so smoothly and successfully without CEA as a jumping-off point.

This summer, if you had asked me “What are the environmental impacts of the wine industry?” or “Which soft intervention would best add to the architecture of Paris?” or even “Parlez-vous Francais?”, I wouldn’t have an answer to any of them. But now, I’d be happy to discuss and debate the answers with you and happily reply, “Oui! Je parle un peu Français!” I was lucky enough to learn about the construction of the Palais Garnier from within its ornate walls. To see the largest collection of Christian Dior garments alongside an expert in French fashion. Practice a new language with friends fluent in that language. CEA offered me a level of immersive learning that challenged and thrilled me.

On top of all the tangible knowledge I acquired à Paris, I enrolled in an amazing course at the School of Life. I learned how to plan trips on my own time and dime. How to live day-to-day in a city where I didn’t initially speak the language. How to handle credit card fraud from overseas (not my favorite lesson, truthfully). I even learned how to chant along with other fans at a football (read: soccer) game. Je suis fiers d’être Bleus!

And if we want to get really philosophical, I learned a lot about myself, my needs, my aspirations, and what brings me true happiness. Sometimes, a warm croissant is enough! But, sometimes it’s the freedom to explore a new place at my own pace. Or to make a new friend who I’ll have for a night (or maybe for life). And above all, it’s to capture the beautiful moments I never want to forget. Paris was rife with these moments.

There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote that I’m always brought back to in moments of uncertainty, especially when I’m confronted with something new (like studying abroad, far from home). It reads: “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” Let me tell you, Paris gave me wings that will carry me for the rest of my life.

Dana F. is the Fall 2017 MOJO Photographer in Paris, France. She is currently a junior studying Cinema & Photography at Ithaca College.

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