Studying Abroad: The Best Choice I’ve Ever Made

Today’s blog post comes to us from University of Denver student & #APIabroad Global Leader Elizabeth Hawkes. She’s sharing more about her time in Caen, France where she was enrolled in our French Language & Culture program. If you are considering a fall 2019 program in Caen, keep in mind applications here are due June 25th!

Studying abroad was one of the best choices I have ever made.

I was very much on the fence about studying abroad. As a career-minded student, I was determined to finish my B.A. in three years and continue on to graduate school. I was convinced that this plan was not entirely conducive to spending a semester in a foreign country. I fell into the myths; the trap of cost-benefit analysis and fear about where I was going, and how I was going to make it happen. If I am truly honest, I was held back by fear. I had never been more than a two hour drive away from my family, and being halfway across the world from them was a near-impossibility.

Now, in reflecting on my experience, the hardest part of it all was coming home. Not the application, not in securing the resources to make the semester a reality, not the culture shock and homesickness, but coming home from one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

I chose to go abroad to Caen, France with API because I wanted to improve my linguistic competency.

I found ample opportunity to push myself and not only accomplish my goals, but exceed them by getting DELF B2 certified abroad. Alongside work, I had time to play, too, and indulge my inner history buff through excursions around France; Basse-Normandie, the D-Day beaches, to Rouen where Joan of Arc made history, and even to the Loire Valley to Amboise where I saw Clos Luce, the final residence of Leonardo da Vinci. I formed meaningful connections with my cohort from all around the world. I encountered perspectives from China, South Korea, Syria, and even my native Russia.

My semester abroad opened my mind to the wealth of possibilities and perspectives.

I came away from it more prepared to think critically about my place in my community, to encourage positive, constructive dialogue among my peers. In terms of professional development, this international experience made me a more competitive and ultimately successful candidate for my first-choice graduate program and opened potential international career opportunities. It has given me the opportunity to be an API Global Leader and share my incredible experience within my community.

My advice to those considering, but unsure of studying abroad? Approach it with an open mind.

Think of what you can gain and the opportunities in store instead of the barriers standing in the way. Take advantage of your university’s study abroad office, and dig deep for those key opportunities that take your abroad experience from a consideration to feasible reality. They’re there to help, and to make sure your abroad experience is positive and safe.

The study abroad experience is valuable in many more ways than we initially realize when we apply. It’s more than a semester in a foreign country, but a challenge and opportunity to make you a better version of yourself personally and professionally. There is no better time to explore these opportunities than now, the world is truly wide open, all you have to do is take that first step.

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