For my beyond the classroom experience, I spent a semester studying at Aix-Marseille University in Aix-en-Provence, France. I was in the International Program of Business and Economics and was one of two American students in my program. Everyone in the program was eager to make new friends and learn about each other’s home countries and cultures. Due to our shared curiosity, I instantly felt a deep sense of comradery with my peers. I was the most comfortable I have ever been in a classroom. I felt like I could walk up to anyone in the classroom, even if we had never spoken before, and talk to them. My time in this program was particularly impactful for my leadership journey. These friendships taught me that powerful connections are formed when differences are celebrated, and values are shared. For me, leadership is all about creating connections. I am eager to apply this lesson as I continue to learn and grow as a leader.
One of my goals and expectations for this past semester was to gain a greater understanding of my GLI Global Theme and Challenge of politics and culture. During my time in France, the French presidential election was underway. Towards the beginning of my time in France, I felt distant and had trouble connecting to many of the core issues of the election. As I considered how the election would affect my French and European peers as well as myself, I was able to develop a strong sense of empathy and closeness to the issues. Topics such as immigration and education were of particular interest to me. Talking with my French peers and other exchange students about their perspectives helped me to develop a deeper understanding of how French politics have a global impact. I am curious to see how the lessons I learned about politics and culture this semester will impact my view of American politics moving forward.