Today’s post comes to us from ACCENT San Francisco’s new Programs Assistant, Samantha Proteau. Sam participated in an 11-month exchange program in Paris, living, studying, and working for nearly a year among native Parisians. In her first post for the ACCENT Blog, Sam tells us about how overcoming stress and shyness allowed her to achieve a whole new sense of independence and personal growth.
In a very last minute decision, I extended my college experience to participate in an exchange program in Paris. I was hesitant in the beginning, eager as I was to transition into the professional world; but then I remembered how remarkable my first study abroad experience in Florence, Italy had been and became certain that another study abroad trip would meet such great expectations. How different could this new experience be?
Florence had been a trip that was filled with hometown friends and with living arrangements primarily organized by my institution. I was 19 and anxious for adventures abroad. Weekdays were spent studying and wandering the city. Weekends were for traveling and enjoying every museum, landmark, and specialty food possible. Florence allowed me to flourish for the first time in my adult life. I discovered a new surge in self-confidence and realized how powerful I could be when I was given this new form of independence.
To my initial dismay, the move to Paris was very different. Living arrangements would not be organized for me and no one I knew would be coming along. It was difficult to arrange a move alone; I had forgotten about the little details that go into searching and setting up a new home and my limited French did not make the transition any smoother. For the first few weeks I felt defeated and began to question my ability to live on my own and make a new life in Paris.
Two weeks and 3 Airbnbs later, I finally found my new Parisian setting – 98 swirling steps above Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine. Comfort and confidence began to set in while I moved into my new apartment and neighborhood. Establishing this Parisian lifestyle provided me with a renewed sense of courage and self-confidence. I learned how to just spend time with myself and take care of myself whenever I felt homesick or lonely.
Shedding my shy persona, I made a point to create relationships within my new community. I became acquainted with my local fruit stand vendor, was welcomed into a new social group by the staff of the café below my apartment, and had breakfast with my neighbor Maggie every Sunday. If I had no plans on my blossoming social calendar, I relished the opportunity to explore, dine, and soak in the time I had alone. I could no longer dwell on the difficulties Paris had presented me in the beginning: I was here now and I refused to waste a single moment. What began as a precarious journey had been transformed into a year full of new friends and newfound independence.
Moving to Paris was the best thing I have ever done and I am thankful every day that it was not a repeat of my trip to Florence. I learned that setting such expectations had been partially why I struggled in the beginning and that once I let those expectations go, I experienced a trip that taught me more about myself and my capabilities than I had imagined. So do not fear the challenges that study abroad may bring your way. Continue to climb those 98 steps – I promise the discovery will be worth it.
Did this post inspire you to study abroad? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.