Now that international travel can be safely conducted despite the persistence of COVID-19, several Drake students jumped at the opportunity to study abroad this fall.
Although many of these international students are currently fast asleep on the other side of the world, two of them agreed to stay up late and shared their feelings about their new life on the other side of the sea.
Ashley Johnson, a junior pursuing a dual degree in politics and international relations with a minor in French, said it was “amazing” to have a full immersion in the language and culture at L’Institut Catholique de Paris in Paris, France.
“In a field like international relations, it can be really difficult to understand global concepts from a textbook or classroom, and it was very rewarding to be able to learn from a different perspective,” Johnson said.
Johnson said her experience abroad not only allowed her to broaden her knowledge of foreign policy, but also to 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 takes two courses, each lasting three hours. She was surprised to learn that the campus-wide lunch break 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.
Regarding the COVID-19 procedures in Paris, Johnson said she thinks the guidelines are comparable to those in the United States. She was struck by how easy it is to access COVID testing and vaccination sites across the city.
Overall, Johnson said she’s thrilled to be studying in a city she’s wanted to visit her entire life.
“There’s nothing quite like going to places you see in books and movies, especially places with so much history, to understand and appreciate cultural differences on a personal level,” Johnson said.
Another international student, Junior Tori Oliver, also “savored every minute” while studying Global Work Culture at the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) in Lisbon, Portugal.
Oliver said there were a few things about her new school that surprised her, most notably the differences in the relationships between students and professors. She said students tended to be much more involved in class.
“The pace of life is just so different here, and I think that’s reflected in the teaching and people’s attitude towards the school,” she said.
Additionally, Oliver believes the pace of life in Lisbon is creating a culture that allows more people to lead “happy and healthy” lifestyles. She has noticed that the Portuguese have 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 most people,” she said. “Restaurants also close in the afternoon and open later in the evening to give staff time to prepare dinner.”
Oliver said she really enjoyed this “slower” pace of life compared to America’s “career-centric” mindset.
Oliver has also noted that there is no tension around people who still choose to wear a mask regularly even though 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 short time away from Drake.
“I look forward to applying what I’m learning in and out of class to different corporate cultures,” said Oliver.