Brielle has had a unique study abroad experience than most students. Instead of going abroad for a semester, she went for an entire year—in two different major European cities! She writes about the reasons she pursued this path, especially during her senior year in college, and how this became a transformative moment in life. Brielle also shares why there's no one-size-fits-all answer and gives some advice on how you can make this semester your own—and one to remember.
Two is better than one, right? That was my entire thought process into studying abroad for not one, but two semesters. There wasn’t much soul searching. There were absolutely no pros-cons lists. I just off and went for two of everything: two cities, two languages, two programs, and two semesters that couldn’t have been more different.
Paris was bold and challenging. It was my first time traveling abroad alone. It was my first time speaking French for more than an hour-and-a-half. It taught me the wonders of demi-baguettes, French phonetics, and how to live with an 80-year-old couple.
Florence was charming and refreshing. It was the first time I’d taken art classes since elementary school. It was also the first time I went on a solo trip. It taught me the joys of cooking, rolling your R’s, and how to take life slowly.
I loved both semesters in different ways and for different reasons. But my favorite part about studying abroad was the fact I did it twice.
Forget the Ticking Clock
I just went off and did it—from studying abroad twice to learning two new languages.
Anyone will tell you that your time abroad goes fast. Studying abroad for a year won’t make it go any slower, but it does help quiet the ticking clock. My first semester in Paris, it seemed like we were all aware of the little time we had left. By the time we got settled in, it was midterms. By the time we got back from fall break, it was finals. But as my friends all panicked when the weeks flew by, I still had another semester ahead. This of course made it easier to say goodbye, knowing that my time in Europe wasn’t over just yet.
Then when I started my second program in Florence, I already had a whole semester’s worth of experience under my belt. From language skills to hostel bunk beds to European culture, I got to use these lessons to my advantage, which helped me transition to Florence and settle into the Italian ways.
Broaden Your Worldview
Experiencing a new culture and history one at a time!
Another way my two semesters shaped my study abroad experience was by improving my ability to compare world cultures. When I moved to Paris, that was really my first time immersed in a foreign country, language, and way of life. So when I arrived and saw the Gothic architecture, the little chocolates served with coffee, their boutique-style doctors’ offices, and their lack of street signs, I didn’t really know what to think. All I had to compare it to was my experience in America. And because that experience was all that I had known to be “right,” it was easy to view anything different as “wrong.”
But by the time I got to Florence, I had gotten to live a plethora of cultural experiences. From Italians not drinking cappuccinos after noon to Greeks doing shots before dinner—I was able to view these cultures not as being just “different than America” but quintessentially their own.
Transform Your Time
Each experience in France and Italy allowed me to grow and fit in more than I could have.
By studying two semesters instead of one, I had a lot of time to make my study abroad experience what it was. This meant more time to work on my language skills—perfecting my French and learning Italian from scratch. I got to travel to new countries, some that I had wanted to see for years and some that I didn’t even know existed. I got to try out different foods (hello, octopus stew in Portugal), operas, ballets, and sporting matches. I had different living situations, classes, program sizes, and places to call home. I met entirely different types of people at every stop along the way. Because I had a year to do all of these things, I really fit in so much more than I could have ever dreamed.
With each of these opportunities, I had the chance to grow and learn a little more. It’s exciting to look back on my experiences and see how much they have shaped me since last September in Paris. Each moment taught me something or challenged me in a new way that made the last year the most transformative time of my life.
Make Your Study Abroad Experience Your Own
What's the best option for you? Do what you think is best and make the most of it.
There are a lot of reasons to study abroad twice, but in the end, it’s all about deciding what option is best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. For me, that happened to mean studying abroad my whole senior year even though most people thought that sounded crazy. But from my view, I had the credits, scholarships, and time to do it—so why not?
In the end, any amount of time abroad is an experience worth chasing. All you need to do is chase it the way you want.
Brielle Saggese was an official CAPA Instagram TV vlogger for Spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Media Advertising Major at Indiana University, she studied abroad in Florence, and has continued to share her post-study abroad reflections on the CAPA Blog.
See more of Brielle's journey.