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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Melanie in Paris

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Melanie Baca-Ortiz ’16, a double major in French & International Relations currently studying abroad at the Lake Forest College in Paris program.

            I am both blessed and grateful to be the recipient of the Burke-Romero Scholarship. I want to thank the donors Mr. Stephen Burke and Mrs. Leticia Burke-Romero for helping to make it possible for me to accomplish my goal of studying in the beautiful city of lights, Paris. While in Paris, I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting Mr. Stephen Burke and Mrs. Leticia Burke-Romero. Mr. and Mrs. Burke are alumni of the Paris Program. I was fortunate to hear their stories on how the program greatly impacted their lives. I had the opportunity to personally thank them for establishing the scholarship and emphasized how this scholarship will give other students opportunities to advance their education.

            Currently, I am interning at the Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO). This organizations focuses on informing Americans living abroad of the issues that greatly affect their lives. Taxation, Citizenship, Social Security, and Medicare are some of the many topics that AARO covers and informsits members, Congress, the public, and media. My first project is to summarize two important surveys conducted several months ago of Americans living abroad.  The first survey documents their experience in filing their FBAR report to the U.S. government and the types of issues that they encounter whiling filling out the form. The second survey explores how US citizens are losing their bank accounts based on the new FATCA agreements. Most of the respondents were very unhappy with the U.S. government’s policies. I believe this internship greatly relates to my future goals. My double major in French and International Relations has encouraged me to live abroad in the future. Interning at AARO will prepare me to confront potential issues that may arise from living abroad, as an American citizen.  Furthermore, I often speak French with my supervisor. This is a challenge, but I believe that being able to speak French at my internship will contribute the improvement of my French conversational skills.

Along with the internship, I am taking two courses: an intensive French course and a history course, which is conducted outside of the classroom. I have never experienced this type of learning environment and I find it both fun and interesting because I do not have to imagine where these historical events took place. So far, my class has visited castles, museums, cathedrals, churches, and even cemeteries. We are required to go on private visits; one of our required visits is Les Catacombes, the underground cemetery. This underground cemetery is scary, but fascinating. In all, I enjoy the class and Professor Maria Al-Salem is an amazing teacher.

            Paris is a beautiful city. I have fallen in love with the city, its food, and culture. So far studying in Paris has been a great experience. I have not only improved my French speaking, writing, and comprehension skills, but I have learned France’s history, while also slowly adapting to the French culture. I have met great people and I have become friends with many of them. My internship and classes have encouraged me to further my education. Studying and interning in Paris has encouraged me to someday pursue a career abroad. Again, all of this was possible because of the founders and donors of the Burke-Romero Scholarship. Mr. Stephen Burke and Mrs. Leticia Burke-Romero, I will always be thankful for your dedication and generosity.