Semester Abroad Essay

Studying abroad had always been a desire of mine. Since high school, I wanted to study in France because the teachers and professors who mentored me had grown up with some aspect of French culture in their lives. Their shared experiences fueled my desire to immerse myself into the culture to experience it head on.

Centre D'Etudes Franco Americain De Management (CEFAM) interested me because I would be able to study business and French simultaneously. I am an entrepreneurship and international business double major, with a minor in French, so a business school in Lyon was right up my alley. CEFAM’s summer semester started when Rider’s finals weeks began. Let’s just say that I had approximately five hours after accommodating sleep to unpack Rider, pack for CEFAM, and get on a plane.

I have previously been to Paris, but not to Lyon. I preferred Lyon because I admire the countryside more than dense city life. Even though Lyon is the second largest city in France, the pace of life was much slower than Paris. I lived in an apartment by myself, which was something I had never done. There was no meal plan, so I had to cook for myself or go out to eat with classmates. I was surprised at how friendly all of my neighbors in the building behaved. It didn’t matter if you personally knew anybody or not — if two people passed, a bonjour or bonsoir was exchanged. To this day I still don’t know when day turns into evening — I would accidentally say bonjour when it was 8 at night!

CEFAM summer semesters usually have more American study abroad students than natives however, I would have loved to have more time to get to know native students. It didn’t bother me, however, because I enjoyed exploring Lyon, and especially Vieux Lyon, at my own pace. I am fairly independent, so I had no trouble navigating France’s public transit systems to get around. Outside of Lyon, I went to Arles to visit Claire, a friend whom I met online three years ago, then to Paris, Grenoble, Annecy and Paris again. After my semester, I spent another two weeks with Claire in Nice, where we enjoyed hiking with her father and taking a day trip to Monaco.
 

During my time abroad, I had the opportunity to participate in events that were part of my program. I loved the cultural trip to Beaune where we learned how to conduct a wine tasting, as well as tour a museum that used to be an ancient hospital. At the end of the semester, the class had the opportunity to visit a company warehouse and learn the interior workings of Intersport, a French sporting goods company. 

Outside of my program, I attended Epitanime, a weekend-long anime convention in Paris. I previously knew of this event (grace à Claire) and I was excited to see the differences in how the French run their fan conventions. I was immediately thrust into speaking non-stop French for the entire weekend to the point where my own English sounded foreign to me. 

I am normally timid with speaking French because I do not have the best grammar, but forcing myself into this position helped me get out of my shell. I gradually became comfortable to the point where I didn’t think of my grammatical mistakes, and simply focused on conversations with the new friends I made. A group I met was actually the reason I went to Paris a second time, because they were having an outing in the city while in costume to make short live action films, and they invited me to join them.  
 

Overall, my experience abroad was something that I doubt I could ever recreate. The friendships I formed while abroad followed me back home. I enjoyed trying new food (especially bread and desserts), quietly exploring my surroundings and being able to live French culture instead of reading about it. I finally got to meet a close friend in person, which only strengthened our bond more. 

I miss the ease of traveling across the country within a few hours. It was incredible to witness cultural differences within France’s geographical regions for a day trip.  However, I don’t miss how the trains sometimes decided to go on strike and mess with my plans. But hey, c’est la vie. 

I loved my experience at CEFAM, and I would gladly attend again if I still had some time before graduating, but being in a classroom does not teach experience. That kind of education is received by going out into the world and embracing it head on.

Home > Students > How to Write an Outstanding Study Abroad Application Essay

For some students who wish to study abroad, the statement of purpose can be one of the most daunting components of the program application. The good news: it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first! After all, you’ve come this far in the study abroad research process, so chances are you’ve already given thought to what the essay requires you to write about. As long as you don’t rush and take the time to create a solid outline, your study abroad application statement of purpose will truly shine.

Common statement of purpose requirements

Although each program application may have program-specific essay requirements to address, most will ask students to address the following two components:

  1. Goals for studying abroad (i.e. academic, career, and personal) – Most likely, you will have to briefly describe your goals, outlining specific ways in which studying abroad will help you achieve these goals.
  2. Reason you chose this program/location – This aspect of the statement of purpose is more specific to why, out of all the programs and locations on Earth to study, you’re applying to this one.

Creating an outline

Before rushing into writing out your statement of purpose, make sure you’ve carefully read the instructions and prompts for the essay. The worst way to sabotage an otherwise excellent essay is to miss a key requirement outlined in the instructions. To help keep essay requirements fresh in your mind, consider copying and pasting the requirements at the top of essay document so that they are there for quick reference.

After you fully understand what points you are required to touch on in your statement of purpose, drafting an outline will help keep your essay organized, clear, and succinct. Consider following the steps below to help make this process easy and straight-forward.

Open up a blank Word document, and get down the general essay components:

Introduction

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

Conclusion

Now that you have the foundation laid out, you can complete your outline by creating a couple compelling sentences for each paragraph. Having these sentences drafted will help you quickly move forward after your outline is complete. Let’s take a look at each paragraph, and sample sentences for each.

Introduction – Create a strong thesis sentence that sums up your overall purpose for studying abroad.

  • Example: Studying abroad at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid will be a monumental step in realizing my personal, academic, and career goals to my highest potential.

This thesis sentence portrays to the reader that you have identified personal, academic, and career goals in relation to studying abroad in a specific program, and will describe them below.

Paragraphs 1-3 – Draft a sentence that sums up your response to the each point, then a second sentence that provides a specific outcome that this study abroad program will provide.

Paragraph 1 (e.g. personal reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):

  • Example: My grandfather migrated to the United States from Madrid, and since an early age I’ve wanted to see and experience the city and culture he grew up in. By the end of my study abroad program, I plan to have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for my family heritage by becoming more fluent in Spanish and familiar with Spanish customs and cultural practices.

Paragraph 2 (e.g. academic reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):

  • Example: As a history major, I plan to utilize my time in Spain to contribute to my overall academic success and focus within the history program at my home university. Throughout my time studying abroad, I will visit historical sites around Spain relevant to my intended topic for my graduate thesis topic: Moorish architectural and cultural influences in modern Spanish society.

Paragraph 3 (e.g. career reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):

  • Example: I plan to one day teach Spanish history and culture at the college level, and this program will give me the first-hand experience I believe necessary to be qualified and successful in this position. By being completely immersed in the Spanish culture, and by having access to a large number of relevant historical sites and resources, I will enter this study abroad experience with my career development in mind.

For the conclusion, come up with a strong sentence to sum-up (again) why this program and location is the best choice.

  • Example: After extensive research of all possible programs, I am convinced that studying history and Spanish culture at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid is an ideal match for my personal, academic, and career goals outlined above.

Drafting suggestions

Now that you have a strong outline, filling in the rest should come easily and naturally. As would be normally expected in college-level essays, it’s important to make sure that each sentence you write relates directly to the main sentences in its respective paragraph you came up with in the outline.

After you’ve written your completed first draft of your study abroad application statement of purpose, save the document and take a break for a week. After you’ve had some time to clear your mind, you’ll likely come back to edit your essay with a fresh perspective and as a result more easily catch mistakes you may not have otherwise caught!

Finally, before you send it off, double (and triple) check to make sure that you haven’t overlooked any requirements for the statement of purpose. Also, consider having at least one other person look at your essay – your campus’s writing center is a great resource you might consider utilizing!

Congratulate yourself

After you’ve sent in your essay, congratulate yourself! You are well on your way to one of the most exciting journeys of your life, and you certainly deserve to be proud of this accomplishment.

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