From Paris to Dublin, Learning from Experience

Studying abroad for me was a big step in the next chapter of my life at Champlain College and future career. I have always loved traveling and knew for a long time that study abroad would be a big part of my college experience. What I didn’t know when I decided to study abroad is how much it would change me as a person. Before I left to study in Paris last fall, I was full of magical daydreams of Paris and how I would travel the world in four months; clearly I had some slightly naïve and unrealistic expectations. Over the four months I lived in Paris, I become self sufficient, self-reliant, and by the end I realized I wasn’t the same naïve girl who had left the U.S. in August. Now, I’m in Dublin with Champlain Abroad and I’m glad I have developed the skills to feel more comfortable in a new city and at the same time am constantly learning new skills that are just as valuable.

Karisa Desjardins – Champlain College: A photo from my first week in Paris!

For example, budgeting and cooking with my roommates, interacting with locals, and taking advantage of easy travel in and around Ireland. My semester in Paris taught me the necessary skills to immerse myself in a new city and culture and now Dublin is giving me the second chance to continue building those skills and continue learning new ones!

I spent my first few weeks in Paris navigating the metro to and from school and around the city, eating lunch by myself in beautiful parks, and miserably failing as understanding the French language. What a culture shock. I didn’t study abroad with any of my friends, so that meant I needed to make new friends. It felt like the beginning of college all over again. Eventually I fell into a friend group and they are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I never knew I would make lifelong friends during a four-month period. We spent our time wandering Paris, hanging out in between class, and best of all traveling Europe together. Through traveling with them and on my own, I learned the importance of being prepared, keeping an open mind when things don’t go as planned, and learning to just relax and enjoy where you are.


My friends and I visiting the Colosseum in Rome.

Being prepared and keeping an open mind are very important not only in travel, but also in life. My friends and I spent four awesome days in Rome over fall break and then parted ways as they headed to Venice and I flew to Marseille, France. I went to catch a bus to the airport…but had arrived just as it filled up and left. The next bus wouldn’t come for an hour and by then I would be late for my flight. My friends had already left on a train for Venice and I was completely alone and in a rather sticky situation with no knowledge of the Italian language. After five minutes of panic and rambling to some man in English about my situation, I took a step back and problem solved my way out of it. I paid 15€ for a train to the airport, more than I had expected to spend, but it got me to the airport on time. Moments like that showed me that I am capable of dealing with difficult situations under great stress and pressure. It also taught me that there isn’t always someone to hold your hand and guide you along in life, which I believe is one of the most valuable lessons anyone could learn.

After nearly missing my plane in Rome, I managed to make it to this beautiful view in Marseille, France.

Not only have I learned many personal lessons through my time studying abroad, I have also had the opportunity to gain professional experience and develop as a global professional. In Paris, I took a Career Development Seminar; a class that consisted of learning career basics like how to write a cover letter and resume, class excursions, the chance of presenting at the Reflections Abroad Conference, being paired with a mentor, and completing an externship with our mentor or someone in an industry we want to work in. My mentor was a former Vogue model who had traveled the world during her modeling years, but also had worked in the French Ministry of Education for a number of years. Through my mentorship with her, she connected me with an account manager at Disney Paris for my externship. I was able to shadow at Disney for the day as well as sit in on a product and branding meeting between Disney Paris and a French phone company. The experience of having a mentor and being able to shadow a project manager at Disney gave me a clearer view of the possibilities for my future as well as an inside view of what working in France is like. Besides having the opportunity to get hands on experience, I was also invited to speak at the Reflections Abroad Conference in Paris. My presentation focused on the expectations vs. the reality of study abroad, as well as some of the stages we go through as we adjust to the culture shock of living in a new city. The presentation was a great way to encompass my study abroad experience in Paris as a whole and to show peers how much we have all learned and matured during our time abroad.

Before I gave my presentation at the Reflections Abroad Conference, “Wait…This Isn’t a Vacation?” for my Career Development Class. Photo by CEA Paris Staff Member, Devon DeRousseau

As I’ve mentioned in a past blog post, I am currently interning at the Irish Council for International Students here in Dublin. I am learning cultural differences between Irish, French, and American styles of business as well as developing my skills as a global professional. One skill I’ve noticed that I have learned through my time abroad is communication. In France, there was a language barrier that meant I had to find other ways to communicate and in Ireland people are very friendly and the work environment seems more relaxed. Working in and experiencing these different work environments will help me be a flexible and communicative employee wherever I work. The skills I gain through my professional international experiences are invaluable and will last a lifetime.

Through both personal and professional international experiences I am gaining the valuable life skills that will allow me to be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future. Studying abroad has taught me the importance of independence and self-reliance as well as the importance of cultural differences, especially in the workplace. It feels as though everything I learn while I am abroad will be applicable to the rest of my life. It has helped me mature as a person and see a new side of myself. I can only suggest that everyone take the opportunity to study abroad if they can, you will see a new side of yourself that you never knew existed!

Until next time!

You can also follow my travels and thoughts on Instagram and Twitter @karisachan

Karisa Desjardins
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2015
Champlain College Business Administration major, Global Studies minor
Class of 2016



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