Today we have a very special guest on our blog. We are honored to feature the lovely and VERY well travelled Angie Orth, who studied abroad in Paris back in 2003. Today Angie has a successful travel blog that documents her jaunts through the slums in Kenya to gelato in Rome and everything in between. We asked Angie if she could reflect a bit on her own study abroad experience and how it’s shaped who she is today. Here’s what she had to say.
Life changing doesn’t begin to cover what my study abroad experience in Paris meant to me. I wasn’t always the gung-ho, adventurous, up-for-anything world traveler I am today. Boarding a plane and flying across the Atlantic all by myself was terrifying at the time, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of exploration.
While my program was a dream come true, I do have a few aspects I would change if I could do it all over again.
Stay Longer. I wish I’d spent more than five weeks abroad. When I was a junior in college, signing up for a five week program was daunting and at that point, it was likely the most adventurous thing I’d ever done. I’d never traveled by myself and my family was terrified of me going solo, so a tiny program seemed like a manageable first step.
But it just wasn’t enough. Paris itself warrants much more than a month and change to experience, not to mention all the extra time I could’ve spent seeing the rest of Europe on weekends via train. I’ve since been back to Paris five times and learned that one can never have too much of the City of Lights.
Spend More. Finances were a huge concern while I was in Paris. I used a portion of my student loan to pay for the program and to be honest, I’m still paying it off 10 years later. But keeping myself on such a strict and tiny budget confined me to fewer experiences and I could’ve spared another $1,000 or so to see, do and taste so much more.
Leave Home at Home. Every single day in Paris, I pined for my boyfriend back in Florida. While I was on the Eiffel Tower, I wondered what he was doing. While I toured the chateaux of the Loire Valley, I counted the days until we’d be reunited. The family I lived with in the 13th arrondissement didn’t have a computer or WiFi in the apartment, so I spent a decent amount of time schlepping to the nearest Internet café to email him.
He promised to come visit during my program; he never did. Looking back at those five weeks with almost 10 years of perspective, I can see our differences so clearly. He wanted a comfortable life of ease and familiarity in a small town and I wanted… well, I didn’t know what I wanted exactly. But it wasn’t the easy, well-worn road.
Not surprisingly, the college boyfriend and I are ancient history by now. In hindsight, I really should’ve left home at home, and focused more on my Parisian experience than what was going on back in the US.
Ultimately my choice to go abroad was more than just five weeks studying French and photography in a foreign country – it was a life defining moment in time where I unwittingly chose the future of a fearless adventurer and left the familiar behind. Now, I’ve traveled around the world by myself, visited 40+ countries and have found a way to make a living doing what I love. I’ve come a long way since the scared, shy, homesick gal who boarded a flight to Charles De Gaulle in 2003. And studying abroad was the first step.
Angie Orth is a location independent travel writer, blogger and social media consultant. She’s passionate about the Florida Gators, trying everything at least once and storytelling at www.AngieAway.com. You can follow her worldwide adventures at www.Facebook.com/angieaway or on Twitter at @AngieAway.
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