What? For my STEP signature project, I spent my spring semester of my junior year studying in Dijon, France with the CIEF program. I took a five classes, ranging in topics from French grammar and writing to French music and culture. As a double major in French and International Studies, this trip fell perfectly within my interests, both of learning a foreign language and getting experience living abroad. I spent four months living in the international students dorm (which I’ve included a picture of below) and spending my time mainly in Dijon, but also travelling throughout Europe.
One of my favorite things about studying abroad was the ease with which I was able to move around France and Europe itself. I was able to visit six countries (France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic) and it was relatively inexpensive. Even within France, I visited some friends in Normandy, I toured wine country and visited a small town known for its nearby vineyards, spent time in Paris looking at the typical touristy sites and toured Lyon. I would definitely recommend taking the time to not only travel Europe as a whole if you study abroad there, but also spend time in the country in which you’re staying. The weekends I spent with my friends in Normandy (who are French) were really helpful for my language skills. My teacher even noticed the following Monday that just after pending two short days speaking only French, my speaking skills had noticeably improved.
So what? In addition to improving my language skills, I gained OSU credit (not just transfer credit, because this was an approved OIA program). My semester abroad was actually academically my best semester in college; I finished with a 4.0. So I was able to take classes that I liked, boost my overall and major GPA and gain real world experience living in a foreign country. I also learned a lot about myself. I realized despite not always being the loudest person in the room, I am very much an extrovert. I always prefer to be with people, which was hard in a single room in a city where I only knew two other OSU students that I had only recently met. I had to learn how to be independent and make my own community wherever I went. (I talk more about this in my digital story, which you can find here.) I tried to take every opportunity I could to experience my study broad, from big decisions, like roadtripping across the Autobahn to Prague even though I had an awful cold, to small decisions, like asking a classmate to have lunch even though I didn’t know her well. My favorite thing about the trip is that I became really close friends with the other two OSU students and I was able to carry those friendships home and continue them throughout my senior year here.
Now what? As I look for jobs, mostly in the realm of international relations, I find that a lot of employers want people to have a good working knowledge of a foreign language as well as experience living abroad. Studying abroad gave me the ability to claim both of those things, which I’m sure will be invaluable as I start my career. Academically, as I mentioned before, the classes I took abroad gave my GPA a huge boost, and all of them I was able to apply towards my major. Because of this, I’m going to have time to get a dual degree instead of just a double major, despite the fact that I didn’t add French as a major until my junior year. Personally, studying abroad has allowed me to find inner strength and resilience that I didn’t know I had. I had a tough few weeks, being away from my family and friends, but by the end of my trip, I felt like I had a new family, one that included friends from all over, California to Colombia to Denmark.