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Seniors look to experience new cultures abroad

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

For many seniors, it’s an exciting time of year: the last semester before graduation. After graduation, though, the future is open to many possibilities. For many, college is a time to explore, a time to discover your passions. While the majority of the St. Martin’s Episcopal School seniors will undertake this exploration in the United States, a few bold ones are daring enough to investigate the world. Seniors Elise Lafleur, Enzo Marcello, and Alana Tessman are excited about the possibility of attending a university abroad.

“I think living abroad would give me an opportunity to start the rest of my life in a way where I would be able to experience things with an open mind and be extremely receptive to discovery and exploration,” Tessman said.

Some students look forward to and are nervous about discovering a new culture and embracing the shocks they may experience. On the other hand, students such as Marcello, who is considering studying in Rome, expect to feel far more comfortable.

“No, (I’m not expecting a culture shock),” Marcello said. “I’m Italian.”

For Lafleur, traveling to a new country to seek out an education is almost like a leap of faith. Lafleur is interested in a few universities in the United Kingdom.

“Both of my parents went to the (University of New Orleans), and all the rest of my family has either (gone) to UNO or Louisiana State University,” Lafleur said.

In contrast, others have grown up traveling and have developed a love for it. Tessman hopes to take her sense of adventure to a university in Paris.

“My parents were huge travelers, so it was instilled in me this desire and this passion for travel,” Tessman said. “My mom and dad worked for National Geographic, so they traveled all over the world and did film and photography of different cultures. I just find it really fascinating.”

Lafleur was particularly attracted by the possibility of studying something that is typically not taught as thoroughly in the U.S.

“At first, it was because I wanted to go specifically into the field of archeology,” Lafleur said. “Schools in the United Kingdom do have better archeology programs, while schools in the U.S. tend to only see it as a subset of anthropology.”

Traveling abroad allows these students to study in new ways and take unique courses.

“Something that I really liked about the American University of Paris in particular was that their humanities program incorporated all the museums because it’s right in the heart of Paris,” Tessman said. “There’s just so much (to explore) and connect the curriculum to, which is something I thought was just so priceless.”

Upper School Math Department Chair Julie Laskay is a strong advocate for students studying internationally and is excited for those who are able to pursue this opportunity.

“I think that traveling to parts of the world that are culturally very different from your own can help develop empathy and understanding, and that’s missing in the world today,” Laskay said.

Another advantage, according to Laskay, is the ease of travel in Europe.

“Once you’re in Europe, you can go to so many places quickly and easily,” Laskay said. “Europe has such a great train system, and geographically, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is a very small region. You can fly from Paris to Cairo in five hours. That’s amazing—that you can be studying in Paris and go visit the pyramids on the weekend.”

Although a large number of college students jump on the opportunity to study abroad for a term, Lafleur, Tessman, and Marcello agree that actually living in a foreign country is a necessity in order to truly integrate themselves into the culture and country in which they will hopefully study.

“A term would be nice just for the experience, but having all four years (there) really gets you immersed in the culture,” Lafleur said. “I feel like that’s a major experience in itself.”

Tessman seconds Lafleur’s feelings that spending her entire college experience abroad would open so many more doors.

“Also, like somewhere in Europe, if you are living in one area, there are endless possibilities for discovery and those types of things because you can take your weekends or any time off to go travel and explore,” Tessman said. “I think that opens a lot of possibilities that you couldn’t otherwise do in a shorter period of time.”

However, living in a foreign country can present some obstacles, such as language for example.

“The language barrier is a big aspect,” Tessman said. “I think that in and of itself would take a lot of adapting to, even for basic communication and trying to interact with the society.”

Regardless, Tessman, Lafleur, and Marcello all have their sights set on English-speaking universities, in Paris, Scotland, and Rome respectively.

Despite any difficulties they expect to face, these seniors are looking forward to the new experience.

“That’s what I love about it,” Tessman said. “It’s unpredictable, and you don’t know what you’re going to learn and what you’re going to experience. But I feel like that’s when a lot of growth comes. (…) I’m extremely excited for discovering things that are now unknown to me.”

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