Now that international travel can be safely accomplished despite the tenacity of COVID-19, several Drake students took the opportunity to study abroad this fall.
Although many of these study-abroad students are currently fast asleep on the opposite side of the world, two of them agreed to stay up late and share their feelings about their new life across the sea.
Ashley Johnson, a junior pursuing a double major in politics and international relations with a minor in French, said it has been “incredible” to be fully immersed in the language and culture at L’Institut Catholique de Paris in Paris, France.
“In an area such as international relations, it can be really difficult to understand global concepts from a textbook or classroom and being able to learn from another perspective has been very rewarding,” Johnson said.
Johnson said her experience abroad is allowing her to not only grow in her knowledge of foreign affairs, but also explore her passion for French language and culture.
“Connecting with people from France and around the world has honestly been my favorite part of this experience so far,” she said.
According to Johnson, she is taking two classes that each last for three hours. She was surprised when she learned that the campus-wide allotted time for lunch is two hours.
“I think the difference in schedule structure really reflects the difference in prioritization of work-life balance between the United States and France,” she said.
As far as COVID-19 procedures in Paris, Johnson said she thinks the policies are comparable to those of the United States. She has been impressed at how easy it is to access COVID tests and vaccination sites throughout the city.
Overall, Johnson said she is thrilled to be studying in a city that she has wanted to visit her entire life.
“There is nothing quite like visiting places that you grow up seeing in books and movies, especially places with so much history to understand and appreciate cultural differences on a personal level,” Johnson said.
Another study-abroad student, junior Tori Oliver, has also “loved every minute” of her time studying global workplace culture at the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) in Lisbon, Portugal.
Oliver said there have been several things about her new school that have surprised her, primarily the difference in the relationships between students and professors. She said students tend to participate a lot more in the classroom.
“The pace of life is just so different here, and I think that is also reflected in classes and people’s attitude towards school,” she said.
Furthermore, Oliver thinks the pace of life in Lisbon creates a culture which allows more people to live a “happy and healthy” lifestyle. She has noticed that Portuguese people take a more “codependent” approach to everyday life.
“They have amazingly efficient and clean public transportation and walkable cities, because that’s what’s best for the greatest number of people,” she said. “Restaurants also close in the afternoon and open later in the evening to give the staff time off and to prepare dinner.”
Oliver said she really enjoyed this “slower” pace of life as compared to the “career-centered” mindset of America.
Oliver has also noticed that there is no tension around people who still choose to regularly wear a mask, even though the national mask restrictions have been lifted.
All-in-all, Oliver said she will always appreciate the perspectives and experiences she has already learned in her brief time away from Drake.
“I’m looking forward to being able to apply what I’m learning inside and outside of the classroom to different business cultures,” Oliver said.