Before I went abroad, I went through all of the pre-departure sessions, I did as much research as I could think of and I still didn’t feel prepared for what I experienced when I arrived in Europe for the first time.
My first trip was to France, I had taken French in high school but still wasn’t confident speaking. One of the program coordinators that picked me up from the airport had a think Northern accent and I thought there was no way I was going to be able to pick it up again.
However, one week into my trip and I was feeling more and more comfortable, I had begun to make friends and I was beginning to recognize more and more of the language. When the study abroad office tells you about the roller coaster that is culture shock, they aren’t kidding. Our residence was starting to feel like home and the people I was with were becoming like family, but we knew our time was limited. The program I participated in was 8 weeks in total, 4 on campus and 4 on an internship.
My internship was undoubtedly one of the hardest things I have ever done. My host family was nice and more patient with me than I could have asked for but it was still so hard to be living people I didn’t know and with another intern that was very open about how much he did not want me there and missing out on things going on at home.
The experience allowed me to grow as a person in ways I never would have thought possible before I went. I learned so much about myself and how to better deal with adversity. My trip to France was one of the hardest things I have done but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world and I would still highly recommend the program or any study abroad program. The life lessons and personal growth you get from being on your own half way around the world, surrounded by a completely different culture makes those experiences absolutely priceless.