By Claire Clayton ’17, Business Honors and finance
It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad in Europe. Before I even knew I would be an Aggie, I had the summer of 2015 flagged as my “summer abroad.” The anticipation of five weeks spent halfway around the world in a foreign country, learning a new culture and looking at life from a fresh perspective made my decision to apply for a study abroad program a simple one. In exploring the various programs available through the Mays Center for International Business Studies office, I saw that my options were unlimited. After hearing the incredible stories of a student who had previously been on the trip, I eventually decided that Strasbourg, France, was my dream study abroad destination.
Looking back on my five weeks in France and the experiences I was fortunate to have there, I can truly say that my perspective and values were changed by my time spent abroad. This trip gave me my own little Aggie family to make memories with, the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to five countries in five weeks and to see the world from someone else’s perspective. Memories of canyoning in Switzerland, watching the Eiffel Tower light up at night, riding a gondola in Italy and visiting Neuschwanstein castle in Germany will remain treasured moments that I know years from now I will share with my children with the same excitement I felt the day those memories were made. In five weeks, I checked off countless “bucket list” items and was able to finally see the places that I had dreamed of seeing since I was a kid.
My time in Strasbourg did more than just provide me with a photo book stuffed full of precious memories, it changed me as a person. Initially, the idea of traveling throughout Europe on my own intimidated me. All of that changed when I landed in France and saw my home for the next five weeks. Living life alongside the French, I gained a confidence I had never known in who I am and in what I value. I adopted the French mindset of slowing down and taking the time to savor each moment of the day rather than rush through life from one thing to the next. I sought out local residents in France and other travelers we encountered on our weekend trips to hear their life stories and was surprised to find that, while our upbringings were very different, our outlooks and values were very much the same. Through the classes I took while studying at the École de Management Strasbourg, I came to understand the magnitude of significance each event taking place within the European Union has on the United States. I gained insight on various countries’ perspectives on current issues like Greece’s financial standing and the migration crisis, and what I learned ultimately enabled me to better understand the attitudes and personalities of people living within those respective countries.
Moving forward and applying what I have learned from my time abroad, I have come to realize the full value of my international experience. In recruiting for an internship this past semester, I was surprised by how inquisitive my interviewers were about my time in Strasbourg and about what I learned while I was there. One of my interviewers had even studied abroad himself in Strasbourg, France, and together, we reminisced on our favorite foods and landmarks in the city. I found that people, in general, appreciate and value someone who has proven themselves to be open to the culture and ideas of people from another country. It demonstrates that you, as a person and an employee, can look beyond your own set ways to consider how another person may choose to live their lives though it may be very different from how you live yours.