OPINION: Take a chance on study abroad

Addison Laird, Staff Writer and Digital Team

For most, a summer in the City of Love sounds like a dream come true. It can be a peaceful getaway from everyday life to an exciting time of learning, growing, and experiencing new things. But for someone young, inexperienced, and riddled with anxieties, it has the potential to be a waking nightmare. For my summer 2022, I was given the amazing opportunity to spend a month in Paris, France with Loyola’s study abroad program. Though I was wary, I knew that after a lifetime of dreaming of Paris (and two years of travel plans being canceled by COVID-19), I would never forgive myself if I didn’t take a chance. Now, back in the states, I look back on my time abroad with a critical eye, wondering if my time, stress, and more importantly, money, was worth it.

While the cost of studying abroad varies between different trips, it’s costly regardless. There’s an initial cost to claim your spot on the trip. Then, there’s paying for the trip itself. The payment covers most of the trip, such as housing, food at the hostel, tuition, and class excursions. However, it does not cover anything extra, such as flights to and from Paris, personal shopping or eating, as well as additional excursions or travels you take on your own time. Laundry is also not always included or available wherever you’re staying, and most laundry services do not come free. It’s a costly experience, especially for a young student.

Once you’ve saved and spent the money, then there are other matters to consider that can be overwhelming. Personally, I do not travel often. And I never travel alone. The idea of flying to Paris alone was daunting. I already experience a great deal of anxiety in day-to-day life, so the mere thought of being on an airplane and in airports, navigating one of the biggest cities in the world, and then having to meet and make friends with the group of strangers from Loyola all by myself was absolutely terrifying. But of course, I refused to let my own fears scare me out of the trip. I secured my spot before I could spiral further about all the things that could go wrong.

I boarded a flight from New Orleans to Chicago, and from Chicago to London, and then from London to Paris. Navigating airports and flying alone was not nearly as awful as I thought it was going to be. My boarding passes were on my phone, my mom was on speed dial, and thankfully, every flight attendant and airport worker was friendly. It was only upon my arrival in Paris where things began to go wrong. Back in New Orleans, my flight had been delayed. I was rerouted in Chicago to have a brief layover in London before catching a short flight to Paris. Somewhere along the way, between all the flights and changing between airlines, my luggage was lost. Of course, I didn’t know this until I arrived in Paris and waited thirty minutes for it to appear on the luggage carousel. Except, it never appeared. Me, being already late to meet my group from Loyola and now in a foreign country with no clothing or toiletries, had a quick cry in the airport bathroom before catching a cab into the city.

Thankfully, the other members of the study abroad group were beyond friendly. After missing the first group excursion to the Eiffel Tower, I was greeted back at the hostel with a t-shirt and toiletries. My anxieties about making friends melted away as I realized that no one else within the group really knew each other either. We were random strangers, but we were Loyola students, so we had to stick together and look out for each other. Over the first three days of the trip, whilst the Paris airport and British airlines searched for my luggage, I was taken good care of by the others on the trip. My luggage was eventually shipped to our hostel, and everyone celebrated with me.

Unfortunately, about a week into our trip, another tragedy struck. We had known from the beginning that COVID-19 was still a prominent concern. We had been instructed to pack masks and frequently wash our hands whilst traveling the city. Although we were very cautious, one morning I was informed that my roommate had tested positive for COVID-19 and that they would have to quarantine for seven days before being able to get tested again. I was also tested. I walked alone down to a pharmacy near our hostel and paid for a test. I waited an excruciating 30 minutes to receive my results. Thankfully, I tested negative. The group masked for the remainder of the trip.

The next three weeks managed to pass without issue. After my luggage and my COVID-19 scare, I was finally able to enjoy and take in the experience. Every morning began with my two classes, lunch, and then, we’d leave as a group to explore a new part of Paris. We visited many museums and famous landmarks. After about an hour or two of exploring as a group, we were free to spend the rest of our evening how we pleased. I would shop, eat, and sightsee with friends until sunset (which was around 9 p.m.). Class the next morning was always tied into whatever we’d be visiting that day, which further enriched the experience.

I will never forget my first trip to Paris. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel and everything the trip taught me. Not only do I feel more knowledgeable about the culture of Paris and the world, but I also feel more knowledgeable about myself. I am extremely proud that I was able to overcome my anxieties and the situational mishaps that occurred while abroad. Though costly, I do believe it was worth it for me to experience. I believe that anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad or get out of their comfort zone in the slightest should take the chance. Don’t let your own fears and reservations stop you from doing incredible things; life is too short for that.