Gabriella – Exchange: University of Paris IV – The Sorbonne
“Since I was living on my own and had to make all new friends, I had no comfort zone in which to retreat, and was thus forced to become stronger in my interactions with others. Although the year I spent abroad presented me with many challenges, I was able to overcome all of them and enjoy the year. I would not trade the experience that I had or the friends I made for anything.”
I participated in the philosophy department’s exchange program with Université Paris IV, a division of the Sorbonne, in Paris. Although participants in this exchange program can choose to study abroad for one semester, I decided to study abroad for an entire academic year. I jumped at the opportunity to spend such a prolonged amount of time in Paris, improving my French and learning philosophy. I knew that if I wanted to do these two things, Paris was the place to go and this study abroad was the perfect opportunity.
I arrived in Paris at the end of August 2014, thrilled to start this new and exciting chapter in my life. I was the only person participating in this study abroad program, so although I received wonderful and much-needed help from my program director and my parents, I was essentially on my own in Paris. I loved it. Getting accustomed to the French university system and Parisian daily life in general was like piecing together a puzzle, and in my free time I was able to explore the city. My love for art, literature, and film was definitely satisfied, and I always enjoyed living in the midst of the vibrant combination of cultures that makes up Paris. It was definitely overwhelming at times, since the university system is completely different from the American system, and when I started off the year I did not have any friends in Paris. However, the benefits of living in such a exciting and culturally rich city outweighed any longing to go home that I felt.
The year that I spent studying abroad helped me grow in numerous ways, many of which I only realized when I returned to Atlanta.
It was when I came home that I noticed the transformations in myself that I could have only gained through challenging myself by immersing myself in a different society. First, it was obvious that my French skills had immensely improved through my constant communication with French people for almost a year. The philosophy program at the Sorbonne is extremely rigorous and presupposes a relatively extensive familiarity with philosophers and philosophical concepts, so I was forced to learn a lot in order to catch up with my classmates. The papers that I had to write were very different from the ones I write in the philosophy classes at Georgia State, and they helped me learn to think in a new way. In addition to my academic knowledge, I gained a deep sense of my own capability to support myself. Since I was living on my own and had to make all new friends, I had no comfort zone in which to retreat, and was thus forced to become stronger in my interactions with others. Although the year I spent abroad presented me with many challenges, I was able to overcome all of them and enjoy the year. I would not trade the experience that I had or the friends I made for anything.