It’s been nearly one week since I’ve returned to the U.S., and honestly, I have been putting off writing my final blog post because to me this post concludes my study abroad experience. I am not ready for this chapter of my life to end, but when I reflect on the past four months abroad, I am eternally grateful. Another reason it has taken me some time to write this post is because I haven’t quite found the words to describe and expound how the past four months have impacted me. Here is my attempt…
The USF Dance in Paris Semester Program has significantly changed my life. It probably sounds cliché; what college student wouldn’t want to travel around Europe for four months, right? True, but this program has done far more than allowing me to travel the world. This is an intense program and is suited for students who are serious about furthering their dance education and career. That being said, my main priority for my four months abroad was dance. The knowledge I have gained by learning from a variety of professionals in the dance field as well as attending 24 live dance performances has helped me grow as an artist in ways that would not be possible had I not done this program. I now have a new appreciation for all forms of art, and I find art in everyday life. Working with approximately 25 different choreographers/teachers has not only expanded my dance vocabulary, but it has helped me to determine which techniques, styles, and teaching methods I am most attracted to and therefore want to continue exploring perhaps post college graduation when I am in search of a job in the dance field.
There are a great deal of ways I have transformed as an artist (most of which are probably more apparent through my dancing itself and the way I approach a class), but this experience has also changed me as a human being. Living in a different culture and navigating a city has made me more independent in that I encountered many obstacles that I had to resolve on my own (not to mention my lack of French speaking…it’s a work in progress). I have developed an even greater desire for adventure, and through that, I have learned to bask in every moment because you will never have the exact same moment twice in a lifetime. One major difference I see in myself is that I am more willing to formulate my own opinions on subject matters and share them with others.
I am still struggling to express how I have changed as an individual. Truthfully, I was terrified at the thought of returning to America for the sole reason that I was unsure how to explain to the people I love that I am a different person than I was prior to my experience abroad. It’s not possible for me to share every detail of my experience, and I battled with finding the things I wanted to share. I have come to the conclusion that by sharing my favorite memories from studying in Paris, I am able to give a glimpse to my family and friends in America of the “amazing” time I had abroad. One thing that I feel is perhaps slightly more difficult for anyone who has not studied abroad to understand is that I was living in Paris; I was not a visitor and it was not a vacation. For four months I had a France address, a French phone number, and a place I called “home” in Paris. It was not a break from reality, it was reality. There truly is no one word to describe my experience in Europe, so when people ask me how my semester was, what do I say? I’ll leave it at: life changing.