Author: Safa Siddiqi
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Paris, France
I have always wanted to be a global citizen. I believe that travelling and learning about other cultures is essential to personal and professional growth. When I found out that Seneca’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications program offers a semester abroad, I was nothing short of ecstatic.
I chose Paris because I made a five-day visit during the previous year and really enjoyed my trip. Nonetheless, my expectations were low because five days and five months are very different. I really had no idea about Parisian culture or what living there would be like but I wanted to dive in head first and figure it out along the way. I truly believe that is what made my experience so exciting.
The institution called EFAP – l’ecole des nouveaux métiers de la communication, is centrally located right off of the Champs Elysees which is one of the most well-known streets in Paris. I found this really helpful because there are many English speaking locals and foreigners in the area. I found myself asking these people questions all the time in order to navigate through the city.
I also asked my instructors lots of questions; they were always willing to help and came from a range of backgrounds, both educationally and culturally. I learned so much about communications in the European world because of their vast knowledge and global experience.
I could go on forever about Paris and all the wonderful things about it but I’ll just name a few. In terms of food, I would recommend trying escargot at least once, macarons are a must, crepes, and croissants of course. French culture is all about having a work-life balance so spending time with family and friends are essential. You will see people enjoying picnics with baguettes and pastries at all hours of the day. Some picnic locations include the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Seine River, Tuileries gardens, Luxembourg gardens and endless parks. One night my friends and I had a picnic from 10 pm-6 am – it was amazing! It is important to move away from the very middle of the city to other areas as well called “arrondissements” (there are 20), the more you move away from the core, the more authentic your experience. Taking in Parisian architecture by day and all the lights at night is mesmerizing- the city never ceased to take my breath away.
I get really shy when I’m pulled out of my comfort zone. Though I wish I was a fluent French-speaker, my knowledge of the language is limited. I would often struggle with communication and get embarrassed quite easily. Eventually I took it as an opportunity to practice my French as much as possible and soon enough, Paris became my comfort zone. I was pleasantly surprised because many locals were happy to help, thereby increasing my motivation to improve.
This experience has changed me in an incredibly positive way. I am able to adapt to a variety of situations and have gained an awareness about the world that I would have never developed without this program. I have made international friendships and my eyes have been opened to opportunities that transcend North American borders. Beyond the educational aspect, this experience has been about personal growth and development. I now know that I really enjoy the French way of life and I would happily live there again.
I should also mention that I was able to travel to multiple cities in Europe including, Amsterdam, Bruges, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Milan, Florence, Chianti and Rome. Just having the ability to travel to other countries and soak in other cultures during my time off was such a great opportunity.
I think having this experience will be beneficial to me in my professional career because it expresses that I am open to new ideas, well-cultured, self-motivated, creative, and culturally aware. Many employers are looking for individuals who have these characteristics, especially in the global arena.
Author: Safa Sidiqqi