Study abroad tests life skills

I was never the person who dreamed about going abroad. I never fantasized about developing a British accent or hopping on a plane for a weekend trip to Sweden. No, I was content with being a USC student basking in the 80-degree weather and eating lunch at the Campus Center nearly every day.

Therefore, when I was accepted to the London study abroad program for journalism, I was still a bit hesitant and uncertain if I was even going to take the opportunity to live across the pond for a semester. I had only been outside the country twice and had gotten a bad case of homesickness both times.

But an exhausting weekend trip outside of London showed me that living overseas is providing much-needed perspective in my life.

Like most study abroad students realize early on, higher education curriculum differs greatly from country to country. The British school system isn’t as homework-based as the American one. More emphasis is put on reading and final projects than weekly assessments. This difference has afforded my study abroad peers and I more opportunities to explore museums and markets, to complete our readings in historic buildings and libraries around the city and to take weekend trips to other countries.

So my friends and I spent this past weekend in Paris. It is a country so beautiful and rich with literary and artistic history and a reputation for love that when you’re there it’s difficult to imagine being anywhere else. We ate crepes and toured the Eiffel Tower and saw the Mona Lisa. Though it was not as warm as in Los Angeles, we walked along the Seine River, marveled at the padlock bridges and took in the melodic sounds of the French language.

The distance from campus has contributed immensely to my own personal development. In an average day at USC, I don’t have to figure out how to get to a particular location because I’m familiar with Los Angeles. Nor do I need a translation of a menu because I don’t speak the language it was written in. But overseas, I’m constantly learning new bus routes and ways to get around the city. In Paris, I was relying on Google Translate and my French-speaking friends to help me order at a restaurant. Being lost and overcoming language barriers can be challenging. Yet through the realization of my shortcomings in languages and blind spots in independence, I’m learning to overcome those frustrations and grow as an adult. I believe this can only help any student returning to the United States and inching forward into the “real world.”

My trip to Paris was another opportunity to just appreciate the simple moments in life. Taking the time to sit in a pastisserie for an hour or two reminded me of how easy it is to get in a schedule so much so that you forget to appreciate the beauty around you. When I return to campus in the fall, I’ll be sure to take an extra few minutes to appreciate the cardinal and gold flowers that spell out “USC” in front of Doheny and make my way to the top of Runyon Canyon more often.

When it was time to leave Paris and go home — I mean, back to our temporary home in London — I realized how important it was for me to say “yes” to study abroad. Before this experience I had never booked my own plane ticket and hadn’t regularly cooked my own meals. I preferred the convenience of a car compared to the hassle of the train. But the difference between European and American culture has encouraged me to troubleshoot in new ways. Every day I am faced with new opportunities to extend myself and grow as a student.

Therefore, I view study abroad as a series of tests. But the tests you face while studying abroad are not the same as the ones given in Taper Hall during midterm and final season. Instead, living abroad tests your resilience to change, adaptability to new cultures and willingness to immerse yourself in the experience.

Sometimes deciding to take the plunge into a completely new experience can be daunting. It definitely was for me. But if I didn’t choose to study abroad for the semester, I don’t think I would have the same confidence as I now have. So for anyone considering studying abroad, please consider saying “yes.” And more importantly, make an effort to visit Paris. Because like Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

Jordyn Holman is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. The column, “Troy Meets World,” runs every other Tuesday.