Last time I wrote on this blog, I interviewed a faculty member who directed my own study abroad program, but this time I’m turning my attention to a friend who went abroad the time summer I did. Hannah Latta, a sophomore biology major who is a member of the Honors program as well as an Honors ambassador, took part in the Theatre, Culture, and Art in Paris program that took a small group of students to France to experience the things mentioned in the program title. Students were able to explore the city and surrounding area as well as go on day trips through Paris and experience all there was to offer.
When speaking with Hannah, I knew she enjoyed the program, but there was so much to be said about it that I wanted to know what she’d taken away. Her first answer was that she was able to make lasting relationships with her peers in the program, and now they’re all close. This summer study definitely enhanced her Honors experience because every person in her group had the same motivation, as she called it, “to explore the city in every spare moment and enrich our knowledge of the city and its people.” I think it’s safe to say that they all managed to delve more into the life of a Parisian and the culture behind that, which Hannah went on to talk about.
I asked Hannah about any differences between our American society and Parisian society she noticed as well as anything she was perhaps unprepared for while abroad, and one of her points was that while none of her peers were fluent in French, some knew enough to carry on a small conversation, their program director guided them, or even some people nearby were learned enough in English to help them get what they needed. One of the things Hannah noticed about differences in society was the true level of love felt in Paris. While she noted that Paris is the city of love, she was “unprepared for how literal the phrase was.” Hannah continued on to say, “Most couples kissed and held hands in parks, in lines, at the mall; some even kissed in between bites of their meal at restaurants. This cultural norm is definitely a testament to the French people’s commitment to those whom they love.”
Hannah’s experience did include some excursions independent of her program, including a detour to Givery, home of Claude Monet and his gardens. She also was able to explore historical sites, including spending a full day at the palace of Versailles and doing touristy things such as going up in the Eiffel Tower. Going on this program provided her with “invaluable connections and friendships,” and it’s inspired her to look at going abroad again.
Hannah wasn’t fluent in French, has a strenuous science degree course load as a biology major, and hadn’t studied extensively on Paris life before, but she thoroughly enjoyed her program and recommends it (and all other education abroad options!) to anyone who is interested. Whether on a program with Honors or not, spending any time abroad is enriching to an education and personal growth, giving international experience as well as providing connections and networks to people who might be able to become good friends or contacts in the future. It’s a life-changing experience that shouldn’t be put to the wayside because of language or financial concerns because the gains from it will far outweigh the cost. Take it from Hannah and look into it!
Sarah Warren is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in German.