If you have, are currently or are considering studying abroad, you’ve probably heard people say not go abroad with friends. Determined to understand why so many recommended traveling solo, I asked those who had gone through the experience to share their thoughts. Many said that being with friends left them feeling trapped in the University of Miami bubble, rather than pushing them to hang out with locals and fully immerse themselves in the culture.
After experiencing this situation first-hand, here’s why I disagree:
Looking back at my experience, I can confidently say traveling abroad with my two closest friends from UM was one of the best decisions I ever made. Keep in mind, not all study abroad programs are the same – however, the UParis program allows for a great experience with friends.
Unlike UParis, other popular programs, such as URome and UPrague, require students to live in dorm-like rooms. Those in the UParis program live in entirely self-sufficient, apartments throughout the city. Luckily, my best friends and I had the best of both worlds: we lived in an authentic Parisian apartment while still having the luxury of the UM support system.
For those of you wondering, the UParis program also offers a homestay option which allows students to live with a French host family. Homestay is a great option for those looking to perfect their French as it truly offers the ultimate immersive experience. Even though I considered the homestay experience, in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade living with my two best friends in the City of Lights. Trust me, after a long day of receiving fines on the metro, getting yelled at in French and navigating the Parisian supermarkets, there was nothing better than coming home and laughing it off with my best friends.
Although studying abroad is an amazing learning experience, it also comes with a certain degree of culture-shock. While abroad, I felt I was living in a different world, with different customs, educational system and language.
Living in Paris lead to significant personal growth. Although I faced multiple daily challenges, from enrolling in courses past due-dates to living without a dishwasher for half a year — I truly learned a lot about myself both personally and academically. Aside from my personal growth, my favorite part about studying abroad was creating closer relationships with people I already called friends. The three of us became inseparable for five months. We spent every second together, so much so, that when we went to class for a few hours, we missed each other. Of course, there were occasional fights and angry words, but I can now confidently say that the three of us will be friends for life.
One of the privileges of studying in Paris is its central location. Each weekend, my friends and I explored a new city together. While traveling, we met locals and bartenders who ultimately became our friends. We ran through Europe – always late for something. We taste-tested Duvel beer in Ghent, dipped cinnamon-sugar churros in hot chocolate in Barcelona, ate our weight in gyros in Athens, sipped ice-cold champagne in front of the Eiffel Tower, danced to the deafening techno in Amsterdam, strolled through the cobblestone streets of Rome and on those rare days when the sun would break through the seemingly endless expanse of grey clouds, we sat by the Seine in the beautiful city we called home.
words & photo_anya balsamides