“You should never go abroad starry eyed” was the advice from the Paris program director to Andrea Bouchaud, author of The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored, a book where she unveils, through her memoirs, the crude reality of what she faced as a study abroad student in “The City of Light”.
Those of us involved in study abroad tend to talk about it as this transcendent, magical, exciting -and why not even romantic?- life-changing experience that everyone must undergo at some point in their college career. We are not lying though, we might be just biased. The outcome is very likely to be a positive one, however, the journey could be rough. The Paris Diaries puts in evidence that there are many aspects that affect the pathway of this journey: your own personality, frustration with the host culture, eagerness to blend in, long-distance relationships, host and own families, just to name a few. However, I hold to be true that:
- Students: you are the one building this pathway, so a lot depends on you.
- Advisors: we need to do a much better job getting students ready before we sit them on the plane.
Andrea Bouchaud’s The Paris Diaries is a testimony that study abroad is a worthwhile experience but to reach nirvana you might go through some difficult times which can be initially avoided by preparing yourself before leaving while arming yourself with positive attitude as soon as there are signs that something is off.