I’ve been abroad for a little more than a month now, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to go explore outside of my own comfort zone! It’s important to visit the highlights of every country– True. In France, many people automatically think of Paris: the Latin Quarter, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles. But, many people never allow themselves the opportunity to venture out into the rest of the country and experience more of what France has to offer. This semester marks my third time being in France but it is the first time I’ve visited other places in the country: amazing little French towns such as Arles, which is in the south of France, Mont St Michel in Normandy, the Loire Valley, Lyon, and Chartres as well. All of these places are quite special in their own individual ways. Whether it’s the accent, the local cuisine or the attractions, these towns have plenty to offer. Much can be learned from each unique experience. But you have to venture off the well-beaten path to find them.
Going outside of your comfort zone might also mean venturing out solo. Sometimes getting an authentic experience means getting up early Saturday or Sunday morning for the weekend market. Other times, it could mean taking a short day trip 20 minutes outside of the familiar to explore something new. It’s important to take advantage of your time to travel, to try new things, to go new places, to understand that sometimes Study Abroad isn’t vacation and other times it can be.
I’ve learned so much about myself and about France by having a willingness to visit other places rather than just stay in Paris. Don’t limit yourself to what you know, what you’ve heard, or where your older friends have traveled. It’s important to branch out and find places that interest you and also aren’t super touristy. The authentic experience is so much more valuable than solely the tourist one. It will be incredibly rich and rewarding. Trust me.
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