I knew I wanted to study abroad before I started college. Lets be real I knew I wanted I wanted to study abroad before I started second grade. I’ve always been excited about travel and new experiences. Going into my first semester of college I wasn’t thinking too much about study abroad I was just trying to find my footing at a new environment. College is defiantly a new experience and it’s a large move from living at home to living in a dorm situation.
The way my college is structured requires students to write a thesis during our fourth year. Most students usually take their third year to plan our their thesis or do preliminary research on their chosen topic. This was a big consideration when I was first thinking about study abroad. Before I had really talked to anyone I was planning to do my study abroad during the fall or spring semester of my third year. This would give me time to get accustomed to my college and to get most of my major credits out of the way so I could really enjoy my study abroad; but, it would take time away from preparing for my thesis.
It wasn’t until the beginning of my second semester that I made a concrete plan, which wasn’t at all along the lines I thought it would be. What really made up my mind was my inability to learn french in the classroom. I had taken french for three years in high school and for the first semester of college. That college class was what had really cinched it for me. The class was a immersive model where the teacher talks only french from the beginning. I think this is the best way to learn a language and my teacher was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately the class itself moved at very fast pace that I found increasingly hard to keep up with.
In the end I barely passed the class and my teacher recommended that I not take the following course in the second semester. It was a low moment for me because I was counting on French for my language credit as at the time I was set on being an International Studies major which requires 4 semesters of a language. During winter break I thought a lot about my options and came up with the idea to convince my teacher that I must be allowed to take the second part of the class.
The day after I got back on campus from winter break I made an appointment to discuss my continuation of French with my teacher. She was extremely hesitant to sign off on me coming back to the class for good reason, I was not ready for the pace which this iteration would take. Even so I eventually convinced her to let me take the class on probation to see if I could handle it. I promised to study every day and to put a lot of time into the class.
It wasn’t until I stepped out of her office, having accomplished my goal that I realized what I had just committed to. Long hours of studying a subject that I had proven to myself I could not learn within that setting. I also knew that I would lose any progress I had made within the class that summer as I had done with all my other French classes.
So I sat down on the picnic benches outside my library and pondered my options. Learning french was not an option, I had wanted to become fluent in this language my entire life and eventually I wanted to expand to other languages too. I decided my first step would be to talk to my study abroad adviser for my school, so I went straight to her office which is actually in the library. Luckily she was there and had time to discuss my options. She was extremely helpful and one program she mention sparked my interest immediately.
It was the National Student Exchange (NSE). I will go into a greater detail about this program in another post but the gist of it was that I could go abroad through exchanging with another US University. Through this program I would be able to keep my financial aid from my home college and pay tuition back to them.
Another topic that we discussed was timing, I had originally been considering going on study abroad during my third year however my study abroad advisor made some good points about going earlier. One of the most important which I had already thought was my thesis and giving myself enough time to plan and execute it the way I would want to. Becoming fluent in French was a big point too. This was probably the reason I decided to go for two semesters instead one. It was also going to be a lot cheaper going through NSE because I would only have to pay living expenses and extra fees not an entire program at another college.
I was already set on doing this program for my entire second year of college halfway through my conversation with the study abroad adviser, but there was one more person I had to convince before I officially started the process. That was my academic advisor. I also had to discuss my changing major with him because if I wasn’t taking a language I couldn’t do International Studies. Having wonderful luck that day he was also in his office and was on board once I had explained my thought process. He agreed to let me go on study abroad and it was decided that I would change my major to Economics which consequently was the major he first suggested based on my interests.
Going back and forth from both advisors offices I eventually got all the paperwork to start my applications. I did this all in the same day I had convinced my French teacher to let me continue learning. She wasn’t too disappointed when I told her since I’m sure she knew just as I did that it would not have turned out well if I had continued with the class. She was excited to learn that I would be continuing my pursuit of learning French; admit in a different fashion. I’m hoping by dropping myself in the middle of France I will be forced to become fluent. I feel that if it’s either learn French or don’t eat I’ll end up learning French.