Ashley McClure - 2014 Program Participant

Rowing on the pond at Versailles, France

Ashley rowing on the pond at Versailles. It was a huge chateau and the gardens were one of the most amazing things she’d ever seen

What attracted you to study abroad?

I always knew that I wanted to travel internationally, and doing it as a student seemed like the best option. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and really try to experience a more global perspective while expanding my education.

What were your housing arrangements like in Paris?

I lived in a studio apartment with one other girl, and I will say at first that I was shocked by how small it was. I ended up loving the simplicity of it though, because you could only have so much stuff before it was just too crowded. It taught me what I really actually needed with me. I did, however, lack a more complete immersion in the language because my roommate and floormates spoke primarily English, but I tried to find more opportunities to go out and learn in the city itself because of it. 

View of a street in Paris, France

Ashley looking out the window of a friends apartment. She loved the way all of the old buildings in Paris looked. One of Ashley’s favorite views of Paris is from the rooftops!

Describe what a typical day was like during your program.

I would wake up and take the metro to school every morning, and by the third or so week of being there I felt very local. School took most of the day, but I always tried to add some sort of activity or experience somewhere in my day either after school or during lunch. I worked really hard to immerse myself in the local culture and although sometimes I stood out, it helped me to create relationships and experiences that I wouldn’t have had without the extra effort.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

There were a couple weeks where I was pretty homesick and I just felt very foreign to the entire culture around me. I was struggling in class and communicating within my daily life, so I found it hard not to be overly frustrated. I just tried to breathe and realize that if study abroad weren’t a challenge, you wouldn’t grow from it.

What advice would you give to other students as to why they should study abroad in France?

Take advantage of easy and cheap travel to see the hidden gems of France. Definitely see all the major tourist attractions, but try to find places that maybe aren’t so populated, a small café or a hidden castle. Those are the places that you will have the most genuine experiences and that will create the best memories.

Why would you travel back to France if you were given the chance?

To have more time to explore, because there are always more things to discover, and to expand my knowledge of the language. I felt like I was just beginning to really get in a groove when I had to leave.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

It’s really hard to put into words. I learned so much about France, about French people and about myself. My experience inspired me to take more time to really appreciate every moment in life. Be present and chase what makes me happy. It inspired me to pursue a career in international work, and I think everyone who goes abroad feels they come home changed for the better.

Tuileries metro sign in Paris, France

Ashley by one of the many different metro signs. The metro was one of her absolute favorite parts of Paris and this stop was one of her favorite designs.

Why would you recommend CEA Study Abroad to other students? What makes the Paris program so special?

CEA Study Abroad is not just a school program, it’s a family. The teachers and faculty want to be a part of your experience and are excited to watch you grow and explore. One of the hardest parts of being abroad is not having those you love by your side, but my experience with CEA made me feel like I was never alone, and that someone was always helping or cheering me on.