Welcome to our 5 Things I Learned blog series, where UNH students from all colleges and majors share the UNH experience that changed everything for them and what they learned from it. From studying abroad and summer internships, to research and leadership in student organizations, follow along to see what you can learn by stepping out of your comfort zone and saying "yes" to that new opportunity on our campus.
Today, Jordan talks about studying abroad as a UNH student in France. While it initially seemed scary to live and study in a new country, Jordan is walking away from the experience with the beginnings of an art minor at UNH and lots of lessons about trying new experiences and reaching outside her comfort zone.
1. Trust the process
Being on your own in a new area is scary, especially when the future awaits you. My first time traveling alone, not just abroad, was my second semester sophomore year. I can clearly recall the dread I had sitting in Logan International Airport about what I had just done, contemplating walking out of the airport doors. But pushing through the long flight, the first two homesick weeks, the jet lag and the fear was all worthwhile. By my third day in Aix-en-Provence, I had a wonderful friend group, met so many people and was out and about… I felt so free!
2. Learning new things in a new environment
As a science student, it was really bizarre to have literature, French and art courses. Creating assignments where I would need to break down author messages or spending three hours a week on a drawing that I thought was adequate was initially really frustrating for me, especially when I was not writing equations or doing my work in James Hall. I spent some time exploring different locations to study in, and times that worked best with my schedule. After a bit, I found that the right spot, times and the power of list-making helped me adjust and balance all of my new work.
3. Never say no to new opportunities
Many of my favorite memories are from spontaneous trips and adventures I decided to go on. My school offered trips to visit unique places and I got to see some amazing sites, such as Pont du Garde and Palais des Papes. My literature course brought us on a weekend trip to Paris to connect the material to the sites. We saw all of the famous literature locations as well as some of my professor’s favorites from when he lived there. I find myself constantly looking back at photos from this experience.
Communicating with non-English speakers was tough, especially when I couldn’t think of the correct words or sentence structure in French to ask for something as simple as a sandwich. The best contributor to communication is an open mind and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable, reflect and learn from each experience. Learning can be many things, from asking my professors different phrases I should use, downloading certain apps for translating and just listening to the people around me. By the end of the semester, I could understand and communicate with locals, buy my sandwich with no trouble and live within the culture without feeling like an outlier, even if my French wasn’t stellar!
5. Relating what I learned about myself back to UNH
After I returned to the United States, I did a lot of reflecting on all the classes, experiences and interactions I had in France and ultimately realized that I wanted to make a few changes to my academic career to combine my passions for science, art and travel. My Drawing into Painting class at Marchutz School of Art exposed me to a whole new world and I fell in love with it … so much so that I’m working towards an art minor here at UNH. Alongside that, the joy I had from studying abroad influenced me to begin applying for different research opportunities, such as the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) to study volcanoes and igneous rocks in France.
Abigail learned how public speaking can get easier with practice and that the experiences you have as a college student can shape your future career trajectory. read more about abigail