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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Joanna Lin Want
Spring 2001

A few days ago, I innocently happened upon what, according to the bakery sign, was an almond croissant. Delighted, I ordered one, and dreamily handed over my two dollars as memories of bustling Parisian streets and morning bakery smells drifted back to me. However, as I took my first bite a record screeched in my head, violently thrusting me out of my daydream and landing me back into the reality that I was not in Paris, but in the middle of Indiana, eating what amounted to a dry piece of wonder bread with two barely distinguishable almond bits on top. Ah, Paris! If you were to ask me why one should live, visit, or return to Paris my answer would undoubtedly be, "Pastry."

But on a more serious note, as much as I love pastries and sweets, I didn't take out student loans, search for scholarships and cross the Atlantic Ocean so I could eat a crepe or a pain au chocolat as shamelessly thin, stylish people wearing black walked by. I thought I was going to France to study French. And this I certainly did. My classes were all in French, including a religious studies class at the graduate level (funny how no one mentioned this to me before it was too late to drop it!). But the true benefits of my studies abroad continue to become more and more apparent the longer I am home in the United States. In short, I understand that the world is great big place with all kinds of places and people not in an abstract sense, but as a result of experience.

When I see the Mona Lisa on television I think of my first visit to the Louvre as I stared awestruck at her small, mischievous face. When I heard that 200,000 Germans gathered in solidarity at the Brandenburg Gate to express their sympathy for the US citizens in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks I think about the German people I met this summer and the day that I walked through that gate myself. And when I heard that the Paris traffic and metro stopped as a display of sympathy and grief, I felt my eyes sting with tears. For me, it was a true comfort, as if a member of my family had reached out a hand of comfort. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have studied abroad—it allowed me to feel that I had in some way become a part of a culture that is not my own and granted me countless opportunities to expand my conception of the world through tangible experience.