I am so happy to say that I have officially survived one month abroad… how has this been possible? I honestly have no idea! Just within my first week of survival in France, I felt as if I had already learned enough to say I had been abroad for a year. My first month abroad has been full of highs, lows, growth, and adventure.
I think one of the reasons that people love their experiences abroad is because they can look back and realize how much they grew and how they were somehow able to survive all the crazy surprises that came to them. I know that in a few years I will be able to look back and laugh at my 20-year-old self, panicking, as I tried to survive and install myself during my first week of classes in Poitiers, France.
My first month abroad has been incredible. I was able to travel to London and Paris, and I have meet so many amazing people with incredible life stories. Although my classes are rigorous, especially because they can change between four different languages in just one lecture, I love the rich, academic experience I am receiving at Sciences Po. Take my class about Colombia: La Cara al Post-Conflicto for example, the professors for this class were flown to Poitiers from Colombia specifically just to teach this class! Although it is challenging to constantly be switching between English, Spanish, French, and now Portuguese, I find it so amazing how everyone at Sciences Po manages to communicate regardless of language or culture barriers.
Although I have loved my time at Sciences Po, not everything has been smooth sailing; the culture shock of moving to a French town that has less people than can fit in the UF stadium has been mind blowing, and the hostility I face when I identify as a U.S. Citizen is overwhelming at times. My first month abroad opened my eyes to many different perspectives, it has made me question why and how I identify myself of Mexican- American, and it has already shown me how history and international relations between countries directly influence day-to-day interactions between people. More importantly, it has taught me the magic of a piece of paper and written instructions; it completely blew my mind how I was able to find my way around without Google Maps or Siri talking to me every step of the way. 😛 My time abroad has not been perfect, but it has been beautiful.
It has taken some time, but I am happy to say that as I reflected on my first full month here last Friday, I was able to do it at a dinner with other students who have become my family away from home. I am so blessed to have found a church to call home (I live a block away from the Cathedral), and I have found a group of friends that accepts my crazy self and understands the adventure of studying oceans away from loved ones.
Cathedral St. Pierre- Can you believe I live a street away from this beauty?!
Nothing like celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day with my new friends!
A month ago, I never thought I would be able to pack up my life in a suitcase and move to the other side of the world. It was a very hard choice to decide to study abroad and to ask those who rely on me to put their needs on a pause as I continued my education away from home. As a first-generation Latina, the first-generation guilt of traveling throughout Europe and receiving an education while my parents struggle to put food on the table follows me every day, but I believe that it is for this very reason that I am studying abroad. As much as I wish I could change the world at this moment, I know I need an education first. I know that I have to grow, to go on my own adventures, and to see the world through my own eyes in order to understand how exactly I can serve it. It is for these reasons that I study abroad.
When people ask my what I hope to gain from being abroad, I think back to this past month and how it has not only changed my life, but also how I hope it has motivated others to go out and achieve their dreams regardless of the stereotypes and social structures that threaten to hold them back. Although I may not have the same privilege as others, I do recognize that I am still very privileged and blessed in my own way. My parents sacrificed their whole lives to help me get to where I am today, and although they may not have a college education I believe that I am repaying at least 1/1000th of their sacrifice every time I walk through the prestigious doors of Sciences Po in Poitiers, France.
My month abroad has not been all painted pink, but it has not been completely gray either. Life has given me an opportunity to see its beauty and that is what I attempt to do every day, so all the way from Poitiers, France I wish you all the best for this incoming week- that any obstacles you face you may turn into motivations and challenges to test your own limits and reach your dreams because I know I am doing that every day.
Sending love all the way from my little town- Poitiers, France