We caught up with Emma Smith, one of our alumni who spent the summer of 2016 studying abroad with AIFS in Paris, France. She weighs in on how that summer in Paris has impacted her professional career and personal growth, as well as reflects on what it was like to return to Paris after a few years back home in the United States.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career?
My study abroad experience opened my eyes to the importance of international education and experiencing other cultures. Once I returned from my study abroad experience, I began to work as a Student Assistant in my home campus’s Study Abroad Office. After becoming plugged in to study abroad at my home campus I felt so much excitement helping students prepare to embark on their own study abroad adventure! I loved it so much that after graduating in May 2018, I began a full-time position as a Study Abroad Advisor at my undergraduate university. In just three months I have learned so much more than I expected and am so excited to see where this career takes me!
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
After returning from my study abroad experience, I am so much more independent because I was forced to figure things out on my own. I am more willing to go into unfamiliar situations and talk to anybody I don’t know. I can communicate better with the people around me because I interacted with a variety of cultures while I was in Paris. Studying abroad has made me more professional, I experienced a whole different culture where I had to keep up with the culture norms that were different from mine. Now I can pick up on cues better than before I had lived in a different country.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
Yes, I went back over Christmas break in 2018. It was a completely different feeling being back without all my AIFS people. I studied abroad during the summertime so the Paris I knew was warm and sunny and filled with tourists and locals, there was always something going on. During the winter time it was a completely different Paris; it was cold and rainy, none of my friends were with me. It was weird to go to the different places we hung out and be by myself, I have a new appreciation for my study abroad experience after returning without all the same experiences. I would love to go back again with my study abroad friends and experience some of the different things we did in a new way.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
Yes, I am still in very close contact with my roommate and keep up with others on social media.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
Since I’ve been back from France, I’ve kept up with how they dress. I didn’t realize prior to leaving how dressed up Parisians were every time they left the house. Now I feel weird if I leave the house in Nike shorts and a t-shirt. I didn’t realize before leaving how important it was to look nice when I left my house.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
My top travel destinations are in Eastern Europe, I want to go to Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia — all the countries!
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
Search all the program options available to you, find the best fit for you! Take advantage of all the opportunities you have while you are abroad, travel as much as you can, but don’t forget to get to know your host city!
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Find a way to be involved with your university’s Study Abroad Office, keep in touch with all of your friends and visit them in the United States!
Anything else you want to add?
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, studying abroad will be the best decision you make in college!
Want to have an unforgettable summer in Paris, or have a life-changing study abroad experience like Emma did? Learn more about our semester, academic year, summer, and J-Term program options worldwide.