We caught up with Lisa Reid, an AIFS Study Abroad alum who spent the spring semester of 2008 in Paris, France. Below, Lisa shares a bit about her experience overseas and how it inspired her to go into travel and tourism, and later into the study abroad industry itself. Read on for her full story:
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career?
It took a few years for me to realize it, but study abroad opened many doors for me which I never would have had the opportunity to pursue had I not been abroad. While studying in Paris, my friends and I went on a bike tour called Fat Tire Bike Tours. After college I went back to Paris and worked for this same company for two years. Now I actually work in the study abroad office of my alma mater, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. It’s a very special opportunity to help students go abroad and have the same experiences I did.
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
My friends that I gained through studying abroad are still some of my closest friends ten years later. Having the opportunity to not just study abroad but work abroad as well means that I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many people over the years who also value international experiences and travel. It makes for great stories and very colorful conversations anytime we’re all together.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
Yes, after graduating college, I went back to Paris and worked for a bike tour company for two years. I thought it was the perfect complement to my time abroad. While the city was familiar to me from having lived there before, I was able to see Paris in a whole new light as someone who was living and working there, not just as a student. There is far too much to do in Paris to cram into one semester, so having more time to explore the city was incredible. And having the experience to be a true expat is something I will always cherish.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
Yes! I still have a few good friends that I see or talk to regularly. There’s a special bond that you share with people you study abroad with, and that doesn’t just go away when you return. My friends I studied abroad with, are some of the closest friends I have. I also still keep in touch with my host family. I lived with them again when I moved back to Paris to work there, and we still exchange Christmas cards every year.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
I have a greater appreciation for cheese now than before I went abroad. I also try to picnic whenever possible. In France, picnicking was such a common thing to do on a nice, warm day. There’s nothing like wasting an afternoon on a great picnic. I’ve also tried to maintain the French pace of life, although it’s hard. We Americans are always in a hurry and always trying to do as much as possible in as short a time as possible. In France, life moves much more slowly, and the culture as a whole values this more than we do in the US. I try to remember this and to take the time to appreciate long meals, good times gathering with friends, or the simple pleasure of meandering down a street.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
Do it! If you’re hesitating at all, take the plunge! The number one thing I hear from people who didn’t study abroad in college is that they regret it. I’ve never yet met someone who said they regretted going abroad. Believe it or not, college is one of the easiest times in your life to go abroad and live in another country for a few months. Once you leave college and enter the “real world” that gets a lot harder to do. So do it now while you have the chance!
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Don’t be afraid to take the leap and try something “crazy” after college. You never know what adventures are awaiting you. The time right after you graduate is the best time to try new things. There is plenty of time later on for “settling down.” Don’t be afraid to take the unconventional route and dive into something new! Speaking from personal experience, I did it, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Do you want to have a life-changing study abroad experience in France like Lisa did? Consider a semester, summer, or January term with AIFS in Paris.