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USAC - Study Abroad at the University of Pau in France
Sarah is a 20-year old student from Carson City, Nevada who is currently studying International Business and French at the University of Nevada. She studied abroad in Pau, France during the Fall 2012 semester and in Luneburg, Germany in the Spring of 2013. Sarah hopes to continue her international studies overseas with the eventual goal of working abroad.
Why did you decide to study abroad with USAC in Pau?
Sarah: A few years ago, I never even imagined I would have the opportunity to travel overseas, let alone study abroad. I started taking French in high school as a required course, but I quickly fell in love with it and the French culture. When I went to university I knew International Business paired with French was a perfect fit for me, and studying abroad was the perfect way to get both international experience and study French in a completely immersive environment. Luckily, the USAC central office is located at the University of Nevada, so I was very aware of the program and had easy access to plenty of materials and info from the get-go. They made it so easy for me and helped relieve a lot of the stress and worry that comes with going abroad.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Sarah: Even though I decided to study International Business before I went abroad, I think studying abroad has really helped direct and solidify my future academic and career plans. I would never have considered continuing my studies overseas if I hadn't already lived and studied abroad, nor would I have considered eventually working abroad. Additionally, I know the experience really impacted me personally in more ways than one. For example, I'm much more adventurous and outgoing now, and I made dozens of lifelong friends who live across the country or on the other side of the world. I feel like the world has truly opened up for me, and I think I will have a lot of opportunities in the future that I would never have otherwise.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Sarah: I feel like that's just about every experience I had while I was abroad! There are just so many amazing things to see and places to visit that are nothing like anything in the US, let alone Nevada. I really love history, so for me exploring the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne and touring the prehistoric caves of Gargas were just two of the amazing things I was able to do during my semester in France. Even Pau boasts medieval architecture around the castle of Henri IV. I could just never get over seeing these types of places every day.
What did USAC do for you and what did you need to do on your own?
Sarah: The USAC staff in Pau is absolutely incredible. Right from day one they made us feel really welcome in our temporary home, and were really involved and accessible the entire semester. USAC provided a lot of great opportunities during the semester but it was up to the students to make the most of them. They organized amazing field trips, matched us with the perfect host families, and kept us up-to-date on the goings-on around the city. They also gave us a great tour and orientation upon our arrival, but they were not at all overbearing. We had a lot of freedom and independence while we were there and were able to explore France and Europe on our own. USAC held mixers and offered language partners to help us integrate with local students, but in general we were responsible for meeting and interacting with local students.
Lauren is 22-years-old and a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. She traveled to Pau, France with USAC in 2011 and is planning on going to Accra, Ghana in Fall 2013. She was born in Guam and raised in Vegas before moving to Reno to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. She studied journalism, French and speech communications and hopes to keep traveling after her time in Ghana.
Why did you decide to study abroad with USAC?
Lauren: I knew I wanted to study abroad before I really knew what studying abroad was, or even if it was possible. I dreamed of traveling to Europe ever since I was in fifth grade and could only read about these fantastic places. I started taking French classes when I was thirteen and came to the university knowing, that at some point, I was going to finally make it happen. Thankfully, I didn't have to look too far. USAC was well-known and well spoken of by the people on campus and made it extremely easy to not worry about going and just go. USAC was friendly, helpful and never let me down.
What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Lauren: My host family still writes me, now speaking French no longer scares me and in France I met some of the most interesting and amazing people. As wonderful as all of those things are, there's also the feeling of just being there. I would constantly stop, at a bus stop, at a store, at a discotheque, and just think, "I'm here." I'm in a country I've been dreaming about for so long. I'm experiencing a place I could only imagine and even if what I was doing was simple -I was simply doing it in another country. I imagine that could be the best part for anyone, knowing you're finally doing something and being somewhere that you spent so long trying to get to. Although most study abroad experiences are the same, they also have the amazing ability to be completely unique. I loved it.
What is one piece of advice you'd give future USAC in Pau students?
Lauren Three important things -stay as long as you can, live with a host family and bring your walking shoes. Pau is a small city, but what it may lack in size it makes up for with culture and beauty. There's no place like it and I can guarantee no amount of time will feel like enough, so stay as long as you possibly can. Living with a host family is the best way to immerse yourself into a new culture and language. You'll learn and experience more, and if you're lucky like I was, you'll get delicious meals made for you every night. Europe is covered in cobblestone streets and you're going to want to be ready for walking on that.
Besides that, my advice would be to go and be ready to experience everything that city and USAC has to offer. Go on the field trips, pay for the optional Paris tour, make local friends and USAC friends. This can be the most amazing time of your life, but you have to be the one to make it happen!
If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?
Lauren:Take advantage of everything that the city had to offer. As I was packing up my bags and dreading saying goodbye to my host family that had just become my real family, I realized all the things I didn't get around to doing. I imagine this happens to anyone who didn't get to see a city or place as much as they wanted, but Pau was just becoming my home and I was leaving! Stay long, experience everything! You'll go home eventually and things will fall back into place, but you'll never be the same person. It's not a cliche -studying abroad will change you and always for the better.
About USAC Study Abroad
USAC is a non-profit organization made up of 33 U.S. member universities that has provided quality and affordable study abroad programs for almost 30 years. USAC currently offers programs in 24 countries at 39 program sites and provides a broad spectrum of assistance with housing, visa assistance, academics, field trips, internships, field study courses and more from the point you apply, your arrival and stay, to your transcript and re-entry.