My studies tend to lean towards a global view of the world; while it was great to study these things in class, I knew this paled in comparison to the real-world experience of studying abroad. As a French Studies double-major, I concentrated my search in France. I ultimately picked Sweet Briar JYF in Paris because of the immersive French university experience (classes are at French public schools) that still provided a close support network through the JYF facilities. Additionally, there is a spring internship opportunity, an English assistant-teaching program, and nanny job connections, all of which I found to be highly attractive additions!
My favorite part of studying abroad was the unique educational experiences that Paris has to offer. I took an Art History class in the Louvre, and a history class where we went all over Paris to unique monuments (typically not the most touristic ones) that demonstrated the evolution of Paris over time. Outside of class, most all museums across Europe were free with my student ID (for everyone under the age or 26), so I could take in even more. This experimental learning was one of a kind and allowed me to see a whole new side of a city that I thought I already knew!!
The greatest challenge for me was adapting to a new culture, especially the big-city French life. I’ve traveled my whole life, so I thought I would be well equipped for this, but it was harder than I thought! People in bigger cities like Paris tend to be brusquer in their interactions, something I wasn’t used to in the friendlier southwest US. It was an adjustment, but I quickly realized that this different approach didn’t mean the people weren’t nice or happy people; it was just a different way to approach an initial conversation. It was an incredibly valuable learning lesson as I prepare for the “real world” after Rice and head to new and even more different cities and countries.
My advice: With your free time, be “informed spontaneous”. Make sure you are aware of all the opportunities in the area you are going before you go and anything else you might be interested in doing, but don’t let that information box you in. Oppositely, don’t be so uninhibited that you have no idea about anything happening around you. With some planning ahead, I was able to affordably experience amazing cultural events across Europe like Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnavale in Venice, and the big England-Scotland rugby match in Edinburgh!