By Emily Klingman
Going from a small town to a big city is a scary leap for some. Such a drastic lifestyle change didn’t stop senior marketing major Kara Schwartz from spending a semester abroad in Paris.
“I really took in the beauty of the city,” said Schwartz. “I live in a small town at home; I go to Rider, which is a small school, so when I went to a big city, it was nice to be a nobody and be unknown and explore the city.”
During her explorations, Schwartz could often be found in some of the various parks throughout the city. She also frequented little coffee shops and bookstores tucked along the Seine, the river that cuts through the city.
Schwartz was originally drawn in by the educational opportunity of being able to take many of her core business classes in Paris. This schedule she achieved, which fit so well into her core, is not an experience most obtain. Out of all five courses she took, the one that interested her most involved marketing.
“I personally liked personal selling the best,” she said. “I want to do pharmaceutical sales and it came really easily to me. I understood the techniques and tactics, and I loved it.”
According to Kim Algeo, assistant director of the Center for International Education (CIE), the ideal study abroad experience is one that matches a student’s major and intersects with course offerings and experiences abroad.
Schwartz was able to enroll in the American Business School (ABS) in Paris and take courses such as personal selling and international marketing.
“I can honestly say that those courses have helped me with my major and I was able to take away great knowledge and experience from ABS and my time in Paris,” said Schwartz.
In addition to her classes, Schwartz took the opportunity to learn more about the culture around her with Europe’s incredibly rich history.
“I really just indulged in that sense, in that side of me that I never really thought I wanted to do,” Schwartz said. “I went to all the museums, I love art, and there was art all around me.”
Besides her stay in Paris, Schwartz also took side trips around Europe, including Barcelona and Amsterdam.
“Barcelona was really gorgeous. I live in a beach town, so it was nice to go back to a different kind of beach town,” she said. “The Spaniards’ hospitality is through the roof.”
Schwartz also had high praise for the people of Amsterdam, saying, “The Dutch are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.”
What Schwartz loved the most about Amsterdam was how it reminded her of home, being a city of canals.
“I come from a town full of water, and the Dutch canals are just gorgeous,” she said. “The architecture is something I didn’t think I would love, but it was actually incredible.”
While traveling and living in Europe, Schwartz was amazed by all the art and thought that went into creating these old cities.
Schwartz also enjoyed the opportunity to explore Paris. She was photographed during Paris Fashion Week by professional bloggers and photographers, and had dinner in the Eiffel Tower.
Although she went on many adventures during her time abroad, there were some challenges that she faced. For one, there was the language barrier that she had to overcome.
“I did not know a lick of French when I was traveling over there,” said Schwartz. “It was difficult trying to read the street signs, and understand what people were saying to me, but after taking some lessons in my French course and studying the language, I quickly adapted.”
The difference in currency was also an issue for Schwartz. She had a hard time managing her money when there were so many things for her to buy to bring back home. One euro is worth about $1.50, but it was hard to take this into account when she was buying things.
“Whenever I saw a cheap item in euros, I always forgot to do the math and convert that price into dollars,” said Schwartz. “To say the least, my bank account was very sad when I returned to the States.”
As she enjoyed her experience so much, Schwartz would love to go back.
“I always dreamed and thought I was going to live overseas. I never pictured myself staying in the U.S.,” she said. “I’m really open to traveling because I’m going into sales, and those companies are going to want people who are willing to go places.”
Schwartz will always remember the people she was with while in Paris. She says she has made lasting friendships with people from all over the world.
“I met people from Korea, California and Venezuela and we all were in the same district that was in France,” Schwartz said. “Being with them was really the best part of it because I can honestly say those are my lifelong friends, whether they are in a different state or a different country.”
Students often keep in contact and visit the people they’ve met around the world, Algeo said. “The friendships students make abroad are for sure long lasting. They have created a special bond while studying in a foreign place.”
Living abroad has helped Schwartz see how other people live, and also how to have a positive outlook on life.
“I take life really seriously, but not too heavily at the same time. Every day is a new day, a new adventure,” she said.
Additional reporting by Danielle Gittleman
published in the 10/22/14 edition