Meghan is an Ambassador who studied abroad in France
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
While I was deciding on what college to go to, I specifically looked at schools that had well-known study abroad programs. Also, with that, from the time I was about 12, I knew I always wanted to go to France. Once I decided on St. Ben's, I started taking French classes, since I wasn't given the opportunity to study French in high school, after my first semester, I knew that I wanted to apply to study abroad in France. I fell in love with the French language and since it has been a dream of mine to travel to France, studying abroad just seemed like the perfect thing for me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
When our group had an excursion to Paris, we had some free time and a small group of us went to the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is pretty much a large garden area and a lot of French families go to this garden to have picnics or to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. When we got there, we were soaking in all of the views and my friend pointed out that you could see the faint outline of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It was at that moment when I saw that faint outline where I felt what every movie, book, or any person that has been to Paris appears to feel; I felt love. This feeling continued as we were standing by this small pond where kids could push these sailboats around and chase after them. I was standing next to this little French kid and he was speaking French to his mom and I couldn't help but smile because it was such a French moment, I felt like I belonged in France. Again that feeling of pure love from a city came through. I think it is very rare where one feels love from a city and that feeling I got in Paris was something that I will hold in my heart forever.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I am sure if you asked anyone who studied abroad about their experience, they would have a hard time explaining to you how amazing it was. Coming back from my trip, this was true for me as I tried to explain to my friends and family about my time in France but I found that my experience left me speechless. Being able to study in France, which was a place I have dreaming about traveling to since I was a kid, was a literal dream come true. Studying abroad taught me how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You are in a country that challenges but also encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone and it takes time to have that feeling of normalcy. After time, a sense of belonging becomes real and it is an amazing feeling. Another thing I learned is that each day brings a new adventure and it is important to go and find it. Every city, country I went to and every moment I had, I was awestruck by and I hope that all those students interested in studying abroad can have that same experience. CSB and SJU are truly remarkable schools and I am so blessed that they were able to give me this incredible opportunity that will forever be a piece of me.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
With studying abroad being such a special and life changing experience there are so many benefits. You learn things about you that you didn't even know existed, you meet the most incredible people, you gain such a unique outlook on the world, but most importantly you are given a second home. As for the academic part, every program allows you to enrich yourself in the country's culture as well as letting you challenge yourself especially if you are in a country where English isn't the first language. In France, I learned an immense amount about French culture, language, as well as religion in France and I loved every minute of it. Learning in a foreign country allows you open your mind to different perspectives and that ultimately gave me a refreshed outlook on the world and the seeing every person as a unique individual. Being given those opportunities and new outlooks, I came back to the States a revived courageous, strong, and bold Bennie. :)
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Studying abroad for any amount of time is something that can be very scary for some, I know I was very nervous to leave the U.S. by myself for the first time. I think it is normal to have fears about leaving home for up to 4 months but you will be surprised how quickly the place you choose to go will become your second home. The opportunity to study abroad is something that is once in a lifetime and I believe that every student that is able to, should study abroad and be given the opportunity to have the same adventures, self discovery moments, but also the unique challenges that I had while abroad.