This blog post was contributed by Carolina Sarria, an Education Abroad peer advisor who helped other Longhorns begin their own transformative education abroad adventures.
It’s been almost one year since I completed my year abroad in France. I spent Fall 2018 in the IRG program in Paris, France (for the first 3 weeks) followed by the rest of the semester at Sciences Po in Reims. I spent the spring 2019 semester in Strasbourg at the Institute for Field Education (IFE) internship program.
Both programs were incredibly worthwhile and meaningful to me, because my French skills improved so much, and I made lifelong friendships with both international and American students. I learned so much from my host families as well as from my courses and internship (done in French!), which was definitely scary but truly rewarding.
I still can’t believe how quickly time passed by that year. A lot of thoughts crossed my mind before leaving the United States in July 2018: What if I didn’t like my experience and ended up not going back for the spring semester? What if I missed out on important events and experiences back home?
Well, I’m extremely glad I went back in the spring because my semester in Strasbourg ended up being my favorite out of all the semesters in my undergrad career. It’s such a beautiful city, and I thought it was just large enough to have exciting events to go to and things to explore, but not so big that you’d feel overwhelmed by it all. Through IFE, I took courses in international relations, history, and sociology alongside other American students (but none were from Texas!), who were just as interested in the French language and culture as I was.
When we started our internships, I was extremely nervous, but from the very start there were a few colleagues of mine who made it clear that I could shadow them and ask for help at any point. My internship site, the Association Oberholz of GROUPE SOS, is a social services organization that assists unaccompanied migrant youth who come to France from other countries, mostly from the Middle East and Francophone Africa. It was an enriching experience for me to help these youth at the individual level and to be able to put faces and names to the migration statistics tossed around in public discourse.
My time at IFE culminated with a 30-page reflection and research paper discussing the status of the youth at Oberholz and their social integration in France. While I’m proud of this mémoire I wrote, the best part of the experience were the relationships I had with the people I met: my host grandma, the students and staff at IFE, and the people at Oberholz who welcomed me into their world, including the director, my mentor, and the youth themselves.