I chose to study abroad with CEA French Riviera because of how highly recommended the program was. Everything from school schedules to housing to public transportation was taken care of by the specialists at CEA, which I knew would make the transition to a foreign country much easier. They also partner with SKEMA Business School which was fully accredited toward my home university. I was able to attend a university that specialized in my specific major and earn the credits I needed to stay on track with my four-year plan at Cedarville.
Katie studies Global Business at Cedarville University. She grew up in the Grand Rapids area in Michigan, but considers many places her home. She is still uncertain about after-college plans, but she hopes that her many passions will land her right where she belongs.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
CEA assisted me with the Visa process by informing me of the steps I needed to take and when so I can get my Visa on time. They completely set up the housing for all of us and assigned each of us roommates based on a survey of our preferences. Once we got to France, the site specialist sat down with each of us individually to talk about our class schedules and adjust them accordingly. CEA also coordinated multiple day trips for our group where we went to nearby cities and learn about the culture and history of them.
My university, Cedarville, had different presentations for all the students studying abroad to give us tips on how to deal with culture shock, how to get the best deals traveling, and get the most out of our experience abroad.
I had to organize my Visa appointment on my own, which I think almost everyone does anyway. I also had to organize my own spring break and weekend trips. Other than personal travels and activities, most things were organized for me, or I was assisted in organizing.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I wish I would have known how culture shocked I'd be by my fellow American students. I grew up in a very Baptist community and attend a strict Christian college, so being around the major drinking culture for the first time was quite shocking.
However, I could not be more thankful for the opportunities I had in France to become more open minded of not just another country's culture, but of another worldview's culture.
Because my faith is so important to me, it is the main thing that stuck out while I was so far removed from my comfort zone. Advice I have for others who are devoted to faith or religion would be to get plugged in. I found an amazing church that translated in both French and English where I was able to get connected with people from all over the world. This kept me grounded and allowed for me to get cultural experience without having to compromise my personal convictions. Do not let fears of discomfort, uncertainty, or anxiety keep you from experiencing one of the greatest gifts: a broader perspective of this planet and its beautiful people.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The classes at SKEMA Business School are set up differently than my classes in America in that each class is only once a week for three hours. I had classes every morning, Monday-Thursday. I usually got done with class around 11 AM, so the rest of my day was free to study, grocery shop, go to the beach, hike around the Cap d'Antibes, and hang out with friends. I also had every Friday off which allowed for a longer weekend to travel around Europe.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear going to France was that I didn't know any French. Although the school I would be attending had English speaking classes, I wasn't sure how I was going to communicate with waiters and waitresses, grocery clerks, or anyone outside of school. However, once I finally got there, I found out that many people in Europe speak more than one language. More often than not, they know enough English to communicate. For those with whom I didn't share a common language, we communicated through gestures, charades, and facial expressions.
Sometimes we never got to the point of fully understanding each other, and sometimes I ordered the wrong thing, but in the end it didn't matter. Every baby step toward learning a new language and every successful interaction is a small victory. I no longer look at it as a language barrier, but an opportunity to grow in my overall communication skills.
What did you miss about the US while you were away? Now that you’re home, what do you miss about southern France?
While I was in France, I missed random things. I missed my friends from my home university the most, but that was to be expected. I also really missed American-Mexican food. For some reason, the French do not eat Mexican food. Their grocery stores have a limited supplies for making anything Mexican, and what they do have is overpriced. Also, where I was living was a small city, so there was minimal green spaces and never the smell of a back yard BBQ which is the epitome of the American suburbs I grew up in.
Now that I'm back in the US, I miss all the things that I took for granted. I miss the small city! I miss being able to walk five minutes down the road to grab my groceries for the week, or go to the beach, or out for dinner with friends. I loved that everything was walkable. Surprisingly, I miss public transportation probably because I didn't have to pay for gas, and being able to hop on a train to Monaco for the day was a plus. Lastly, I miss the friends that I made overseas. My heart is spread throughout the world after meeting so many new people, and it was an adjustment going from seeing them every day to being back in the US.