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School of Business Administration

stUDy Abroad

By Claire Esslinger, '21

Waking up at 2:00 a.m. to get a drink of water is hardly remarkable. But 2:00 a.m. on March 12, during my semester abroad in France, was anything but ordinary. I woke to over 60 text messages, several missed calls from my parents, and online notifications that the U.S. government was closing the borders at midnight to all European travel; however, I later clarified that this order applied to non-US citizens. Little did I know that the University of Dayton would soon contact students in study abroad programs about returning home.

My friends and I are blessed with wonderful family support systems. Our parents booked us on an outgoing flight even before we heard from the University. And just like that – our semester abroad was cut short, and in such a shocking way! None of us slept that night. We stayed up packing, trying to cram everything into our suitcases. In the morning, we rushed around town looking for extra suitcases and buying souvenirs we’d thought we had months to find, and in a frantic last hurrah we ate all the French pastries we could. We bid farewell to our Canadian friend to whom we’d grown so close, and prepared to leave our cute flat on Rue Smollet.

I learned so much while living and studying in France. Nothing happens quickly on the French Riviera. Going out to eat, getting our grades back, even just walking down the street – everything occurs at a slow pace. This taught me the value of savoring each experience, both large and small. I was accustomed to life in the U.S., where we hurry here and there - places to go, things to do, and people to see! However, the French taught me to live more in the moment, and even to enjoy doing nothing.

Living in France, I began to appreciate each day more fully. As we slowly came to realize our time there was running short, each remaining day took on special significance. We made sure not to miss the sunsets on “our” rocky beach. We lazily sipped espresso and people-watched on the Promenade de Anglais. We went for dips in the Mediterranean up to the day before we found out we had to leave. We then tried to cram three more months of activity into a few short days. There was so much we never got to experience (for instance, as I write this, I’m supposed to be in Dublin for St. Patty’s day).

The final lesson I’ll share from my time on the French Riviera is my realization that leaving is difficult. As I prepared to leave France, I thought of how I’d miss the almost constant sunshine, the yummy fire-cooked pizza, my teachers with their enchanting accents, plus palm trees around every corner, rocky beaches, and the easy-going way of life. I will forever value the time I spent abroad and the friends who shared my adventure. I’m determined to remember that the flip side of arriving is the pain of leaving, and I’ll continue living in the moment and appreciating each day.

For now, I’m very fortunate to be back home and safe with my family. This is such a sad, sometimes scary, time for our world, and I pray we emerge with a new respect for daily routines and everything else we’ve taken for granted. As I’m writing this, I’m on my 10th day of quarantine at home. During quiet moments I can envision future adventures while I work to apply in my life the lessons I learned while in France.

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