By Maria Scardetta
Master’s Student in Mass Communication
My London-Paris study abroad trip was the experience of a lifetime. Leading up to the trip, I was excited but I rarely showed it. Friends and family would call me out on my seeming lack of enthusiasm, but deep down, my expectations were tainted with apprehension. Europe had endured some terrible events prior to my departure; I was traveling with colleagues with whom I was only acquainted, at best; and, for the first time in quite a while, I had to leave my loved ones. Needless to say, I was nervous…but it really is true: “you won’t know until you go”! I am beyond happy I went.
I made new friends that probably had similar reservations but when we all got to know each other, they seemed to melt away. I learned how to be even more independent than I already thought I was. I can work a metro system so well now it isn’t even funny. Unfortunately, it is useless here in San Antonio, but I will be prepared for my next visit! I also gained a lot more perspective and confidence going abroad. I found a new side of me that is adventurous and forward and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Before the trip, I felt more timid around other people, but I now feel like I can strike up a conversation with anyone since we were all forced out of our comfort zones.
The field visits that we attended as a group included global media and communication organizations such as CNN London, The Guardian newspaper office, Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm, UNESCO, Paris, and Sorbonne University’s communication department. Every field visit was not only intriguing but also educational, providing us with insights in international advertising, public relations, and journalism.
The field visits opened my eyes to the working world. I went from my undergraduate studies straight into my graduate degree: the “real world” is still a little bit of a mystery to me. While studying abroad, I met people who had been in the same shoes as me but who are now very successful working in their dream jobs. The field visits educated me on my future after graduation. The trip also provided an opportunity to learn hands on. I found that I prefer hands-on learning to the traditional test-taking I’ve had in prior undergrad or graduate courses.
The study abroad program in itself is a life-changing event. I used to think this was a little exaggerated when people would say that but now I completely understand what they mean. It does not mean you go home with a job or you pick up and move to Paris (and to those that do – kudos!). For our group, it simply means that each individual person experienced something that changed him or her for the better. The trip made me realize I have always been the confident, outgoing person I wanted to be — I just needed a little push to get me to realize it.
My study abroad experience was amazing and almost impossible to put into words. I am so thrilled have traveled and explored with a really fun group of people. I would advise anyone to go study abroad after this. Save up, work overtime, and apply for scholarships, because some experiences are just priceless.