A Reflection by Anna Cogbill

I had three goals going into this semester abroad, and I am thrilled to say I accomplished all of them.

The first is a little administrative, so I’ll get it out of the way: I passed the DALF! The DALF is basically a proficiency test for the French language, and if you pass, it’s essentially global proof of proficiency at a certain level. It was hard fought, and I absolutely could not have done it without the help of my amazing French teacher abroad, as well as the many professors who have supported me domestically. The test was a great experience, as it offered a chance to practice listening and reading comprehension, argumentation, writing and grammar, as well as public speaking, all in my target language. Even if I hadn’t passed, surviving the test was enough to make me proud, but when I got my results the other day, I managed to pass after all! This was a great experience, and a satisfyingly concrete goal to accomplish, but some of the less concrete goals, in my opinion, are equally important.

My second goal was to try things. I tend to cling to my comforts, which is not to say that I don’t like to try things, it’s more that if I don’t make a conscious effort I just won’t remember to. But while abroad, there was so much to try, I barely had to try at all! I got to experience new foods, new music, new cultural expectations, and new celebrations. I went to museums and aquariums, I took the ferry to school some mornings, I went beachcombing for ocean inverts at night and found a steampunk bar with videogames and incredible mocktails. I talked to so many interesting people and have come back to the states with so many shiny new experiences to look back on. One thing I loved about this semester abroad is that as long as you approached it with an open mind, it was so easy to try new things. I am so happy to say I accomplished my goal.

And finally, my goal was to have fun. I say this affectionately, but I can be a real killjoy. I frequently take things way too seriously and stress myself out. I was worried, going into this, that I’d get so caught up in making the most of it and succeeding academically and doing “enough” that I’d get to the end of the semester and realize that I didn’t enjoy it. Oddly enough, this one took some conscious effort, but I did it! I pulled my head out of the sand and looked around. If I had been shut up in my room working all afternoon, I’d do something fun after dinner. I made time for myself to do what I wanted to do: to explore museums, to visit the cat café, to have a picnic with friends, and to write letters to my friends back home. I did things in a way that was safe and comfortable for me, even when going outside my comfort zone. I’m sitting here now, looking back, and I really, really had fun. What a great semester.

This post is already a little long, but I wanted to leave a note for anyone considering going abroad: you know what’s best for you and make your goals accordingly. If you have no problem having fun, remember to make room for academics. If you tend to overwork yourself, prioritize taking a break. Regardless of your tendencies or eccentricities, remember to make the most of your experience, however that looks for you. Meet people, spend time in nature, explore museums, try new foods, whatever’s your jam, do that, and enjoy it! I did, and I wouldn’t change a thing. 😊

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