Join in a brand new series with us as we take a look at where American undergraduate students are studying abroad to get a unique insight into places around the world and the journeys that led these explorers there.
Meet Cahner, University Nebraska-Lincoln ’17, who spent the last semester in Europe attempting to connect her passion for language with her interests in international studies and journalism!
Q: Where did you study and visit?
A: My home university was in Paris, France, but I spent almost every weekend traveling to different locations around Europe to get a broader vision of that area of the world and to take the most of my experience outside of the US. The places I visited that were most different from what I knew before were Croatia and Morocco.
Q: What motivated you to go to France?
A: While most American students do go to European countries, I wanted to go to France because minoring in French but I felt like I wasn’t getting enough exposure just in the classroom. In my program, I was able to study French as well as government, society, and classes on the European Union. I also chose Paris specifically because I wanted an urban experience. Going into the program I knew that I wanted to travel outside of Europe and they had planned a visit to Morocco for spring break.
Q: What most surprised you about study abroad?
A: The language factor was huge for me— I learned a lot of French through discovering how many words do not have a direct translation into English. I learned how to learn a language, and I surprised myself with how much I was able to grow in that area. I now feel like a more confident learner.
Q: Given what a critical factor language was in your experience, how did you follow up with French upon your return?
A: This whole journey of being immersed in a language has really motivated me to continue learning through the summer and to practice every day. Before I sort of shrugged my language outside of the semester and now I would never dream of doing that.
Q: What were you most nervous for or scared about?
A: I didn’t know anyone in the whole program which was incredibly intimidating, but I was able to easily make lasting friends, one of whom is even coming to visit me in Omaha! For the French friends I made specifically, we practiced English and French together, which opened my eyes to how valuable a simple conversation is. I wanted to learn so bad and I was learning, but there was still so much that I didn’t know— I couldn’t get into deeper conversations so I would have to have people help me translate.
Q: Can you share one of your most memorable moments with us?
A: In Morocco, my friends and I were in a medina in Fez and one of the girls strayed from the group a bit. When I went to find her, I came across her in the room where the local women were making the rugs that were being sold in the stand we had just been standing in. Although neither of us could speak Berber, they taught her how to make a rug!
Q: At SLE, we are redefining study abroad as not just a trip, but a journey. How do you think your experience fits into this?
A: I’ve had the privilege to participate in a three-week study abroad program and now a semester-long program, and I have found that you have to be able to get a routine and then break it, or to be able to experience the more unnoticeable details of being in a place such as seeing the differet seasons. You grow so much in your confidence—now I know how to define myself and my true interests.. I’m closer to who I am than I was before just by having opened up a new perspective.
Q: Any advice you’d like to share for our world travelers?
A: Don’t stress the details and keep an open mind. I don’t regret Paris at all, but it also made me realize that I want to go somewhere completely different. It was still very similar to what I was accustomed to in the US. If I could study abroad again, I would want to go to India to experience a culture and belief system so separate from what I know and to broaden my worldview even more.