Since my freshman year, I knew that I would study abroad, somewhere, somehow, for some length of time during my college career. I knew that I wanted to explore a new part of the world, make new friends, and learn about different cultures. What I didn’t know was how drastically this experience would change my life.
In the fall of my junior year, I began seriously preparing for my study abroad experience. I had been considering my options over the summer and was pretty set on attending KEDGE Business School in Marseille. I filled out all the necessary paper work, mailed in the required documents, and was accepted to the program at the end of October.
I booked my flight, spent hours filling out forms and paperwork, registered for classes, got my visa, and packed my two suitcases about thirty different times, trying to fit as much as physically possible in them. On January 4th, 2014, I woke up, said goodbye to all my friends, and headed to the airport with my parents.
Seven hours later I arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. That’s when it hit me. What had I just gotten myself into? I didn’t know a word of French. I didn’t know a single person. I didn’t even have euros. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. By the end of the day, I (somehow) made it in one piece to my new home in Marseille, France, and more specifically, Alotra.
Alotra is the international dorm for exchange students at KEDGE. The second I walked in all of my anxieties disappeared. People of all different nations offered me food, wine, and their helping hands. I was completely overwhelmed by the sense of family had already been established. Without our family and friends we had relied on our whole lives, we realized that all we had were each other.
Within a week, I felt completely at home in Alotra with my new friends. My neighbors were from India, China, South Korea, Iran, and England. Living in the same hall with these people became my new norm. Cooking dinner with 20 people, all from different places, all making different foods, became the highlight of my days. Within weeks, I was planning trips all around Europe with my new friends.
Over the next 5 months, I traveled to Spain, Ireland, Germany, England, Croatia, Monaco, Italy, Morocco, the Sahara Desert, and numerous places around France. I ate the some of the best food I have ever eaten, I saw amazing places, I learned more about the world, life, and myself than I could have ever imagined. I made some of the best friends I will ever have, and most importantly, I made memories that will forever define my life.