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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Lillian in France

Lillian Shehadi ’19, a double major in Business and International Relations, has studied at the Universite Grenoble in France.

Moving to a new place, on a new continent, with limited language capabilities- can be relatively easy. Making that city feel like a home away from home, is a more challenging endeavor. I had the privilege of traveling to Grenoble, France in the Spring of 2018, and fell in love with my tiny beautiful town in the French Alps. The cobblestone roads that gleam under decadent street lights after the rain, the copious quaint bakeries on every corner drawing pedestrians in with the delicious aroma of fresh baked pan au chocolate, the local artists and musicians lining the streets, selling their creations on linoleum tables puffing on cigarettes and avoiding eye contact with passers-by. It didn’t take long for Grenoble to steal my heart, but I only truly comfortable after forging friendships to give it meaning.


This study abroad program was unique in the fact that every international newcomer was assigned a mentor through a school club dedicated to making sure the transition is smooth when entering Grenoble’s highly competitive business school. My mentor’s name was Antoine, and with his help, I signed up for three clubs, two new classes, a weekly fooseball tournament, and a snowboarding class. The definition of a full plate, I was determined to at least try it all. Through these activities and the mentorship program, I befriended new people- fellow international students and locals alike- with various passions and perspectives, people I would forge relationships with that withstand the test of time, language barriers and borders. Traveling creates this social dynamic and phenomenon that allows people to connect and share freely. The pace of relationships quickens because time is often so fleeing. 


If all we have is today, or a week or 5 months to spend time with someone, it challenges us to open our hearts and souls faster than we normally would. There is also this sense of fearlessness when getting to know a stranger when the time you have to know them is fleeting, embarrassing ourselves or feel too vulnerable are things international students must come to terms with on the daily. New interactions become plentiful and we become honest and careless, because if you feel the urgency of time passing, accidentally embarrassing yourself or oversharing in front of a becomes inconsequential compared to the friendships you will gain by doing exactly that. 


The fleeting nature of these friendships is beautiful and heartbreaking. As someone who cares so much and struggles to let go of friendships and disconnect from places, it has been an excellent exercise in detachment. I made some incredible friends on my journeys- some I may see again, and others I may never- but my time abroad wouldn’t have been the same without each and every one of them. I am grateful for every single person I met this year. Every professor that impacted me with their lectures, every local barista that took the time to learn my name, every kind local curious to where my accent was from. There were brief encounters that reshaped my perspective, moments that reminded me I was exactly where I needed to be, and days and adventures I will never forget. While the place of course shapes the experience, it is the people that provide meaning. This is why we find home so homely, and it is also how and why you can sometimes find home away from home.