I studied abroad in Paris for a month after my sophomore year of college (2011). This study abroad program, in fashion, was one of the main reasons I went to Meredith College. It was quite the experience in every sense of the word. I spent a lot of time wishing I could come home, but once I got back home, I was able to appreciate everything so much more. Hindsight is 20/20!
- It’s not about you, be flexible. This was both the hardest and the most valuable lesson I learned. I like being in the know. I like having a schedule and sticking to it. We got an itinerary before we left, but that was essentially useless as everything was subject to change. We were warned that it would be, but it took some getting used to for this Type A girl.
- Appreciation for other cultures. It’s really interesting to see how other people live and immerse yourself in their ways. A lot of people in the US say, “If they’re going to come here, they need to learn English.” Yet, almost everyone I came in contact with in Europe spoke English.
- Culture shock is real. The first day we got there, I looked around and thought What have I done? I’m from a one stoplight, small town so this huge city was quite the eye opener for me. It took me a little while to get accustomed to things.
- I can live without Internet and TV for a month. Our apartment didn’t have Wi-Fi or TV and we couldn’t be on our phones all the time. I did use my cell phone from time to time, but I mainly used my prepaid Paris phone. I hated it because I couldn’t Skype with my family or post updates to Facebook, but it really allowed me to get to know my roommates really well. We only had each other!
- Time is a relative word in the fashion industry. If the show said it started at 2 pm, that meant anywhere from 2:15-2:45. They start when they’re ready and if you’re in the audience, you wait.
- Appreciation for home. I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town and explore what the world had to offer, but towards the end, all I wanted to see was farmland. I didn’t want to share the sidewalk with 8234903 people, I wanted to get in my car and drive to wherever I was going, I wanted to hug my dogs and my family, I just wanted to breathe in the country air. LaGrange never looked so good!
- Public transportation is not for me. We had to take the train, bus, or get a cab everywhere we went that wasn’t walking distance. After this trip, I knew that living in a city where I couldn’t drive would not be happening. Too many people in too little of a space.
- I can survive a 13 hour day on 5 hours of sleep. Y’all know I love my sleep, but somehow I was always the first one up in our apartment and I made sure that everyone else up too. We went all. day. long. When we got back to the apartment, we all showered and went to bed.
- Getting lost is half the fun. A group of us set out to find a Mexican restaurant one night and ended up wayyyyy on the other side of town. It took us almost an hour and a half to get to where were going. That wasn’t the ideal situation, but we had a lot of laughs that night and had a margarita to make everything better. I spent many an hour staring at the map we were given, like a true tourist, trying to figure out how to get home.
- Sometimes 3 girls you only kind of know quickly become your best friends. As I mentioned, we didn’t have Wi-Fi or TV and there were 2 of us to a room. At the end of the day, we couldn’t go off to our own rooms and do our own thing. We stayed up talking and learning about each other. My 3 roommates became 3 of my best friends and I still talk to them to this day. I talk to 2 of them every day.
I’m so glad I was able to go on this trip because it really helped make me who I am today. I did a lot of growing up and I learned far more than these 10 things in those 30 days. Most importantly, I learned about the true meaning of sacrifice. These was not a cheap trip and I know my parents gave up a lot so that I could go and fulfill my dream. Saying “thank you” a million times would still not be enough.