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.