Learning and Growing

My time abroad has been a great learning experience, and has been filled with highs and lows. My university in France is not as academically rigorous as Pitt, and I have had a lot of time to do the things I enjoy.

Here are some of the things I’ve had time to do while abroad:

-I’ve learned to cook new recipes, and I’ve experimented with some of my own recipes to make healthy meals.

-I’ve spent time strolling through the streets of Nice and started conversations in French with people working in shops and restaurants.

-I’ve read a lot of books and news stories (some in English, some in French).

-I’ve gotten to know people from many different countries and cultural backgrounds.

-I’ve traveled and learned about other European cultures. Nice is very close to the Italian border, and it was especially interesting to pay attention to the culture in Italy and to see how it differs when you go to a different country within the same region.

Through traveling, my ability to navigate has improved drastically—I went from not being able to go anywhere without Google Maps, to being able to get around a new city by paying attention to landmarks and memorizing the way back to my hostel or Airbnb. I realized I just need to look up and pay more attention to my route.

One of the biggest things I’ve improved upon is my ability to start a conversation with anyone, and to not be shy. I’ve met a lot of people that have left a lasting impression in my memory. Living abroad and traveling has helped me really step out of my comfort zone and start conversations with people I encounter in train stations, on planes and busses, and even in restaurants. On Saturday evening, I found myself and a friend joining tables in a restaurant with two people from Denmark who had been friends since they were four years old and were celebrating their fiftieth birthdays with a weekend hiking trip. The four of us discussed politics in the US and Denmark and talked about the startup environment in Pittsburgh and Copenhagen. Encounters like these with people of different ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds are some of my favorite moments from my time abroad. It is also interesting to see how people from other countries view the US, including our culture and politics. I’ve become a better communicator over the past few months, which will help me in the business world.

I’ve learned far more outside the classroom than in the classroom. However, the skills I’ve learned at SKEMA will help me in life as well. For one, I’ve learned to take charge and lead a team of students with different cultural backgrounds during my various group projects that I’ve had to complete over the semester. It is important to find out what everyone’s strengths are so that different parts of the project can be assigned accordingly. I’ve also grown more comfortable presenting in front of a classroom, as we’ve had quite a few presentations for our projects. In one of my classes, we worked on mini projects during class time, and a few groups were chosen to present at random at the end of each class. Although I didn’t always enjoy being put on the spot to present, I saw improvement in my skills as I gave more presentations throughout the semester.

I will be returning to Pitt with greater confidence, communication skills, a greater understanding of myself, as well as a stronger sense of appreciation for my own culture and for different cultures. I am excited to return to Pitt in the fall for my senior year.