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A Bit of Advice Before that First Croissant - par Kevin McNiff

Le coin des anciens

Greetings reader,
I spent my junior year of college—from September 2008 to June 2009—in Paris via the EDUCO program. Those 10 months represented a new turn and phase of my life. Never before had I been abroad, but I came back with European friends and acquaintances, greatly enhanced foreign language skills, and a more international view of the world.

Before moving forward I’d like to make a point. Prior to leaving the U.S. I read, as I’m sure you have, many students’ blogs exclaiming about how mind-blowing their trips were. However true this may be, let me be frank: Paris, Florence, Madrid, etc. are all wonderful historic cities, and there are many cool things to do there. But this isn’t a weeklong vacation. You’ll have to get used to spending an hour on the subway every day, buying groceries, and going through the tedium of everyday normal life.

My biggest piece of advice is that how great your semester abroad is depends entirely upon what you do with it. My biggest regret in Paris is that I caught myself following old habits and sitting at my computer like I do here at home, instead of taking the time to explore all the nooks and crannies of La Ville de Lumière that don’t show up in the guidebooks (1).

That said, I still got to see and do more than I ever thought I would, from the Catacombs at night to birthday dinner at the top of La Tour Montparnasse (2). EDUCO was helpful in encouraging people to take advantage of their surroundings, with numerous events and short trips to historic cities like Nantes, Mont Saint-Michel and Rouen. Outside of France, I took the opportunity to travel to cities in eleven other countries, from Sweden to Bulgaria. I discovered a fascination with Eastern Europe, which I incorporated into my academic curriculum in senior year. I experienced living in a French household with a host family, which gracefully put up with my shenanigans longer than I would have.

This next part may be disappointing to you career planners, or it may not. When I returned to New York that summer, I still had no idea what to do with my history degree (although all the classes in Paris allowed me to get a French major at no charge), or my career. However, without doubt I was (in many ways) a far more worldly person than when I left. I STRONGLY urge you to pursue a study abroad program, even if for only semester, because you won’t get many like opportunities—with so much free time on your hands—again. Unlike many of my fellow students, I didn’t spend much effort on academics abroad because that wasn’t the reason I was there (3).

I know that I want to live and work abroad some day, whenever and wherever that will be. I was considering the possibility before I left, but my year abroad solidified it. To wrap up, before you go to France/Brazil/Kazakhstan, keep your goals in mind, stick to them, and go with the intent to enjoy yourself! I hope you find everything you’re looking for and more.


1 -I also caution you to keep practicing French. I made strong progress at first but became lazy after a while.

2 - Kissing a French girl at the top of the Eiffel Tower was nice too.

3 - The classes were all Pass-Fail anyway. Monique and Val are cringing right now…

(photo de Danielle Czirmer)

Printemps 2011