Bin Nguyen, France & UK, Global Cities Urban Realities, London & Paris (Communication)

bin1.jpg     1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

My biggest fear prior to leaving for my host countries was the inability to make any friends. I was very concerned with being unable to make connections with my fellow program mates. This fear quickly went away when I had met awesome people whom I still talk to as of today.

  1. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

I wish I had brushed up on my French to prepare myself. I studied the language for four years in high school but did not continue once I entered college. As a result, I lost much of the knowledge. Although I retain a few words, a crash course on basic French would have helped tremendously.

  1. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

My favorite class abroad was a gastronomy course on French cuisine. My professor taught us about French culinary arts and took us to a wine museum where we studied French wines, their origins and the regions where the beverages are made.

  1. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

My favorite memory abroad was spending quality time with my fellow program mates. Whether it be a museum or a small restaurant, spending time with friends in an exciting, foreign city was everything and more.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

The biggest challenge abroad was the language barrier. While many people spoke English and were very helpful, it was still difficult to express ideas and interests with French people.

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  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of my host culture was the cuisine. I love French food and to be able to eat delicious pastries and cheese every day was an extraordinary experience.

  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

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  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I miss the cheese, croissants and chocolate pastries in Paris. I miss the cheap Indian street food in London.

  1. How have you changed since your time abroad?

My life has changed in so many ways. I am more independent than ever before. Going to Europe really taught me about being alone and doing things on my own that I was fearful of before. Now, I am much more inclined to do go out and enjoy life by myself.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

My advice for prospective students is to research tools that will make their experience easier. If there are concerns about transportation or safety, do the research beforehand so once they arrive, they feel much more relaxed to be in a foreign country. In addition, I think it is very important to budget once you go overseas. It could be very expensive to live in a new country, so please be cautious of spending.

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A love letter to my study abroad friends:

After 15 hours in the clouds and a mild case of delirium, I arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris on a spring afternoon for a twelve-week study abroad trip in Europe. As I pick up my luggage from the conveyor belt, the main concern in my mind was not about living in a new city or the difficulty of my studies, but instead, the people whom I would encounter along the way. “Will I make friends? Will I have people to hang out with?”—these were questions that flashed across my brain before the plane even took off. I was mentally preparing myself for the worst-case scenarios such as, being alone.

When I arrived at the study abroad center in the heart of the sixth arrondisement (French for district), a familiar face greeted me in the lobby. I was delighted to see an acquaintance on the trip, which immediately put me at ease. However, this was a big program with many students and I would have to make new friends. Two days go by and everyone had been acquainted with each other, but I have yet to make a connection with anyone. On the official third day in Paris, I went to lunch with a group of people. One of the people was a student from UCLA—Lorraine. We introduced ourselves and quickly bonded over our home base in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition, Lorraine was funny, honest and very witty. She was not afraid to speak her mind and she made sure everyone at the table heard her. I find people like her very charming, largely because I would consider myself to be the same. She was unapologetic and confident—all qualities that I resonate with.

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We quickly became great friends and partners for class projects. We spent most of our time in class brainstorming over ideas and after class, going on adventures and trying out French food. Through Lorraine, I met her friend from UCLA—Renee, a smart and ambitious third year. Together, the three of us spent our days in Paris visiting museums and eating amazing food. Alongside with our trips, a fourth-year communication student from UCSB—Daniel came along with his professional camera and photographed our daily adventures. We were like a little group who would do everything together and I’m so grateful that they were a part of my time in Paris.

Once our program moved to London, I bonded with even more people as we all lived in one big apartment flat together. Some these friends include Kylie, whom I adore and respect for her warmth and generosity. You cannot find one mean bone in her body and she has taught me so much about being kind and compassionate. Ozi and Darian—two beautiful, and I must add, tall girls from UC Berkeley, taught me about political awareness and self-care. Angie, an arts student whom I bonded with over for our passion for the arts and design. I will never forget our deep conversation about our distaste for white privilege while we were inside a London train, surrounded by you guessed it, all Caucasian people. Mackenzie, a sharp tongue, genius from UC Berkeley, taught me that it is okay to be alone and travel by myself. Aileen, who made me laugh and taught me to love my flaws. Last but not least, Sarah—my MVP, was willing to try and accomplish every adventure that I had sought out to do. I am so grateful to have these memories with these amazing women. They taught me so much about myself and I am forever indebted for their life lessons.

In our student apartment in London, Lorraine and I ended up living one floor next to each other. I would come to her flat for homework help and raid her pantry for snacks. In her living room, we would share our fears, our dreams and our hopes in life. We laughed and cried together. I never expected to find a genuine friend in such a short amount of time. I felt that Lorraine had my back and I definitely had hers. On the day our trip ended, Lorraine handed me a letter and told me not to read it until we had gone our separate ways. Once she did, I decided open the letter alone in my apartment. All the memories of the last twelve weeks came rushing in and I was reminded of our special time together.  In the last sentence, Lorraine thanked me for seeing her for her true self and giving her the confidence that she needed. Her words left me with tears and a running nose. I did not expect to find a close friendship, less alone make an impact in someone’s life.

The women in my study abroad trip changed my life. Even though the experience in the foreign countries was also life changing, these women were the life lessons that I needed.bin5.jpg


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