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            Deciding to study abroad through a program where I would not know a single person was nerve-wracking, but exciting, much like freshmen year of college. The program included Tulane, Emory, Cornell, and Duke students, but I knew that most Tulane students had gone abroad in the fall, so I expected everyone from the other schools to come in knowing each other and having friendships formed before I arrived. That could not have been further from the truth as I stepped into my hotel room for the first night and met a girl from Cornell, Lexi, who would end up being my very first abroad friend and one of my absolute best friends throughout my experience there. She said that she knew a few people from Cornell just because they had taken French classes together before or met at the pre-departure meeting, but, for the most part, we were in the same boat. A completely fresh start in a new country where I didn’t know anyone during the second half of my junior year of college was definitely not something I had anticipated, but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.

           Just like the beginning of college, our small group of 24 students stuck together and friendships began to form. The very first night, a group of 8 of us ventured out to get our French SIM cards, metro passes, and dinner and had our first taste of life in Paris. Throughout that night I realized more and more that, although some people did kind of know each other, pretty much everyone was in Paris without their friends from back home and had all the same feelings of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation that I had. From that first day at the first group meeting or our first dinner, I never could have pictured that I would call some of those people my best friends in less than five months’ time. 

            The shared experience of being in a country where we were learning the language and moving in with families we had just met definitely brought us all closer as we shared stories over lunches at boulangeries during orientation week and helped each other pick out classes. As the semester progressed, I grew closer and closer to the people in my program as we travelled around Europe, explored Paris, threw surprise parties, went to concerts, and made countless memories that I still hold so close to me with photos all over my room at school. 

            Because the semester was a whole five months, my routine there with my host family and my friends began to feel like normal life as we grew so accustomed to taking the metro to meet for lunch or going to a park after class. As amazing as the five months were, it made the end that much harder. For context, I left Paris on a Friday and I cried every single day from the Sunday before up until the day I left at the thought of leaving my host family and my friends. This isn’t to say that I ruined my last week for myself by spending the whole time crying, but that I made every single second count, so that when the seconds ended, it was hard to accept that my time was winding down. The last night, I went to a goodbye dinner with my friends, which was full of reminiscing, laughing, and photo sharing that only ended when we realized we all had flights the next day and needed to get home to put the finishing touches on our suitcases. The attempted exit only lead to more laughs and hugs and tears on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant in the second arrondisement before we finally went our separate ways.

            I do wish that I could have some of my semester back with these wonderful friends that I made and sometimes I feel like we should’ve had more than one semester together. However, the best part about great friendships like that is that they don’t just end when the semester does. I still talk regularly with a bunch of my friends from abroad and I just got home from visiting the Emory group of students this weekend who were abroad with me. The memories we shared will last a lifetime and always warm my heart and I thank each and every person from EDUCO for making the semester as special as it was. To anyone nervous about studying abroad, take the chance and do it because it might end up creating some of your best memories!

My name is Madison and I am from Glen Mills, PA! I am currently a senior at Tulane and am excited to be Tulane's Campus Correspondent this year.
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