What Study Abroad has Come to Mean to me

12/15/2015, Blog by Ashley Potter, American and Ethnic Studies , Comparative Literature in Paris, France

I had waited my entire life to be in France; it’s been a huge dream, turned into goal, turned into reality. One day, I stopped waiting. I saw an opportunity, one that seemed so unattainable on so many levels, and I dove at it. When I finally did, my life had already changed. Even four months before I would embark, the one choice I made one day to study abroad had a domino effect on every aspect of my life—professionally, academically, and personally. There is no better way for me to describe the entirety of my adventure than to use the cliché term, “life changing.” As a result, I have come to know me as someone who welcomes change, someone who isn’t afraid to make sacrifices to work towards my dreams. Along with those things has come a strong sense of self agency and excitement about exploring not only the world, but all the opportunities I have in life.
Before my one hour conversation with Natalia Dyba, I was convinced that I was not going to study abroad anytime sooner than a year to three years. And honestly, I wasn’t even convinced that I would ever make it to France. But what she did is open up doors of opportunity, even when I would shut them. What about the cost? Will I have enough time in my academic schedule? I haven’t studied French in years. She buried each doubt with solutions. I was sold. We looked at each study abroad in France for each quarter, and when I saw this one, Comparative Literature Paris in the fall, I knew. That was the one I wanted, with a host stay and classes that I knew I would enjoy in Paris, the heart of France. The deadline for application had already passed. All doubts came back until I was relieved to hear that I could still apply.
After that, everything fell in line because my determination to go was so strong. Following your dream is a strong motivator, and I had never been so ready to do what it took. Sometimes that meant hours in each of my three counselors offices, piecing my senior year together around this two month program slightly outside of my framework. Sometimes it meant biting a couple of bullets and taking a summer class on the Seattle campus, or spending a couple of hours in finals week working on my scholarships. However, the most monumental change came when I had to have the courage to let things go that weren’t a part of this new path, jobs and relationships that had become just space fillers. The months leading up to my adventure made me realize that the changes had already been seeded, and this was the beginning of an experience of exponential development and growth as a young adult.
By time I got on the plane to Paris, I had already transformed my sense of identity and self-agency. The wildest realization was that the real journey had not even begun. I was just reaching the peak of a mountain after a long hike. But all of the hard work I had put in to make it to that day prepared me mentally to take on the rest of the trek. I went in excited for this amazing opportunity, but even more excited for the obstacles I was about to face living in a foreign country with people I had never met who spoke a language I did not yet fully understand. With my new found welcoming attitude towards big changes, I was curious to see what changes I could trace in my identity through one of the most life changing events I could have. I was attaining a goal that I had thought was impossible through my own will and individual agency, and that was already such a life changing realization about myself. But also I remembered all the people who pushed me, prepared with me, and were excited to share these life changing events with me. Many of which people, I’m proud to say, are a part of my UWB community. After realizing I could take on Paris, France, I’ve come home and thought about taking on the world because I know I could.