Name: Joel Freeman
Program Location: Pau, France
Program Term: Yearlong 2012
1. Why did you choose the program that you did?
I chose to go to Pau, France because I had been studying French for about 6 years and I have always been passionate about French culture, language and people. I was a francophile since I started learning the language and going to Pau was a no-brainer.
2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?
If and hopefully when I study abroad again, I would like to go to a French-speaking African nation. Since I am very passionate about the French language, I would like to continue to learn it in any number of countries such as Chad, Congo or Senegal that are quite different than France. In addition to that, all that we hear on the news about Africa is negative—I would like to have an experience in which I can see the positive sides to these countries because I truly believe that every place in the world has something positive to contribute.
3. What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?
Besides learning an immense amount of the language and culture, I especially cherish the bonds I made with my fellow USAC students and other international students. I have been lucky enough to stay in contact with some very great people that I met while abroad that I will undoubtedly be friends with for the rest of my life.
4. In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?
I am a firm believer that studying abroad is the single most important choice a college student should make. Not only does it expand the student’s horizons, it improves their confidence, leadership abilities, empathy, career path and perhaps most importantly, it gives the student memories that will last a lifetime.
5. What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?
I strongly believe that, if they have the chance, every student going abroad should stay with a host family. I had a great time and my host mom took me hiking a few times with a group of her friends. I wish I had the capacity to describe the beautiful landscape I was able to see. Also, the excursions that we went on with the USAC staff allowed us to go to places that we might not have considered. I was able to see things that I thought only existed in my dreams.
6. What was a funny cultural experience?
Nothing specific come in to mind besides funny language barriers in which I misspoke or used words that were contextually in the wrong place. Since the French language has so many levels of formality, I would often times write a paper and use slang words. Pretty embarrassing.
7. What did you learn about yourself?
I learned who I really was. I came back with a new focus on life and even more driven than ever. I learned about who I am and what I like and perhaps even more importantly, who I am not and what I do not like.
8. How did studying abroad change you?
It reassured my absolute love for other cultures and people. It made me become more sympathetic to people and to celebrate the differences between people from all over the world.
9. What’s one thing you would have done differently?
I would have stayed away from my laptop and social media. During times of homesickness I would often spend too much time talking to friends and family back home when I could have been enjoying Pau and finding my niche in France.
10. Now that you’re home, how do you see the impact of study abroad on your life?
On a personal level, I see the impact everyday because it was an experience that greatly changed me. I think about what I did while abroad every single day and what kind of positive changes occurred. On a more professional level I have seen doors open for a potential career that I did not envision before going abroad.
11. How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?
I just graduated in May 2014 and it took me 4 years.
12. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths about studying abroad?
While a student at Loyola University, I worked at their study abroad office and the most common things I heard were: “I want to go abroad but, I don’t want to graduate late” and “It’s just too expensive”. I took a lot of pride in debunking these myths that were common thought for a lot of students. I would constantly tell people that graduating on time is easy to manage and so are finances so long as they plan ahead!
13. What advice would you have for students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?
DO IT! Studying abroad is a life changing experience that affected me and all of my study abroad friends in such a positive experience that not going abroad would be a terrible shame. Also, studying abroad looks like gold on a resume and greatly improves chances and gives students an extra boost in their professional career no matter what the job.