In college, we all try to figure out what our purpose is. As young adults who feel lost in our career paths, our studies and in finding ourselves, we seek adventure and new opportunities. How can we escape the madness of being a busy college student without wasting precious time and money? Studying abroad is the answer.

In Summer 2018, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Annecy, France, through UTSA’s French language program. As I was already enrolled in elementary French courses, I saw this as a way to continue learning French through immersion of language and culture. I had no idea what to expect from this experience except that I would be staying with a host family, attending classes and spending time with locals and other study abroad students.

Annecy is a small town located in eastern France which borders Switzerland near the Alps. Annecy offers a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, a city that looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale and locals who embrace the myriad of American students who visit each summer. I was assigned to a host family whose apartment was just a scenic ten-minute walk to the city’s center. I strolled along the Thiou River each day during my walk to class, gazing at the crystal blue water and swans that would swim by me. I would attend class in the morning then get out around lunch time to sit in the park with my classmates to practice our French, drink wine and eat cheese to fully immerse ourselves in the local culture.

My home life in Annecy was the highlight of my study abroad experience, and my host family quickly became an extension of my own. My host mom Hélené did not speak a word of English, but thankfully, her son Maxime was fluent and guided me through the culture and language shock I was experiencing. Each night, Hélené would cook us French cuisine, followed by a cheese platter, dessert and cigarettes on the porch. French dinners are centered around conversation and bonding with loved ones. It is common for meals to last multiple hours due to lengthy conversations and several courses. These dinners allowed me to become more skillful in my French and to feel loved and accepted by my host family. After a month of this routine, the goodbyes were so painful because these people had become a second family to me. I cried, Hélené cried and Maxime cried as we held each other in a long embrace when they left me at the train station.

The students I met through study abroad have become lifelong friends because of the unique bond our shared experiences formed. I now have friends who live across America and in South Africa, France and the Netherlands. We even have plans to return to Annecy and reunite once we graduate.

My study abroad experience is easily the most exciting and soul-igniting experience I have had thus far, and I highly encourage every student to take the risk and travel for their education. The two-month trip cost a total of around $10,000, which is a high price-tag, but the experiences and education I gained were worth every penny. UTSA has a number of unique study abroad opportunities available, which also apply to your graduation credit hours. Ask your professors and advisors about which trip would best suit you because I promise you will come back changed and enlightened in the best ways possible.

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