I know what you are thinking. There is no way in the world going to college can seem like a vacation. Vacations are fun and exciting; college is tedious and boring. Oh, but you are so wrong. When you study abroad, you are always on vacation.

My first two years of college were somewhat of a bore. My sorority was fun, the boys were great, and parties were everything. The only thorns in my side were the classes. Like they really expect me to go to class every day, do my homework, and study all the time. High school had been a breeze; I never had to study. College was different. If I wanted to have the good grades my parents insisted on, I had to study. Finding time to study was a real hardship, but I managed to find some time between my social engagements. A girl has to keep up with the social aspects of college, or she might as well live at home and do one of those online courses. Don’t think my parents didn’t threaten me with that nonsense. I survived my first two years because I knew my junior year would be different, and if I played my cards right, my senior year would be just as great.

Before I even started applying to colleges, I researched study abroad programs. I knew that I would spend my junior year in France and, hopefully, my senior year in Italy. I planned to major in Romance languages so I might even get a summer study abroad program in Spain. Yes, life would be good; I would study in the most beautiful places on earth and meet some of the most incredible guys on the planet. Of course, the guys were secondary to the educational opportunities I would have. Ok, so the guys are more important, but my parents might be reading this. Give me a break.

Anyway, I found a college that encouraged language majors to study abroad as much as possible. The study abroad program included study abroad in France, study abroad in Italy, study abroad in Spain, and study abroad in London. I decided that all of these lovely vacation spots would be part of my curriculum. Who cared if I took over four years to graduate? It’s all about the fun. Oops, if my parents are reading this, just kidding. I am all about education.

After my first two years, the junior year loomed. I was ready. My study abroad program included a total immersion in French culture, language, and French people. Ok, I made that last part up. The school only emphasizes the total immersion in language and culture for the study abroad program.

Many people have to apply for study abroad grants because these programs aren’t cheap. My parents were ready with the money so I didn’t have to be bothered with money worries. They enjoyed bragging to their friends about Brittany studying in France. Yes, that’s me, Brittany. I am even named for a place in France. At least I think at one time Brittany was in France. I never did like geography. Why learn maps and geography when you can find a cute guy and ask for directions.

In order to study abroad, you must have a proficiency in the language of the country you are visiting. Some people who take part in study abroad France live with French families. That way you really become one with the people. That’s just not me. I am not a “one with the people kind of girl.” What if they didn’t wash often enough or cooked weird food? My parents allowed me to live in an apartment near the college. I did have to attend classes and lectures, but my spare time was my own. I could visit anywhere I wanted and meet interesting people. That means cute French guys.

International study abroad programs also include high school study abroad programs, but my parents would never agree. For some reason, they didn’t want their teenager in a foreign country all by herself. A group of my friends did the high school study abroad thing, but they only stay one quarter. I would have a year of France and by the end of my stay, I would be so cultured and cosmopolitan that no one would recognize me any more. I would be the queen I had always been born to be. I wouldn’t flaunt my new self, but everyone would notice. Only one part of France worried me, the food. French women aren’t usually fat. Yes, I read the book. But I worried that being an American in Paris and simply participating in the study abroad program wouldn’t keep me from getting fat. This worry haunted my entire stay, but they do sell Lean Cuisine in Paris so I was ok.

I studied, I partied, I loved several French guys, and I did visit more museums than you would ever want to know about in ten lifetimes. I did the tours. By the time the school year flew by, I had become a French woman. Most French people didn’t even realize that I was American so they didn’t know they should be snubbing me. When I met Americans, unless they were cute guys, I pretended not to speak English and snubbed them. Now that was fun. If the Americans were cute guys, I still pretended to be French, but did understand a little English. I knew words like party, date, and will you marry me. Pretending to be someone else really is liberating. I can’t tell you how many marriage proposals I received. Life was great. Then good-bye France and hello homeland. I had culture shock but survived because I knew the next school year would be study abroad in Italy.

My college study abroad program was better than most because all I had to do for my credit is to have a transcript sent to my school. They had no follow-up silliness or any extra coursework to make sure I learned anything. The next year would be more of the same. As we speak, I am packing for my study abroad to Italy. Now Italian women do get fat so peril does loom large, but I am determined not to return looking like a peasant. At least Rome has hills so I can get exercise walking around looking for guys. Forget that. I am going for the culture, the language, and the ubiquitous museums. I can’t wait. For a graduation present I am asking for a study abroad in London for my Master’s Degree and a study abroad in Ireland for a summer.

Yes, life is good. I have learned to multitask; I can vacation forever as long as I am going to school. I think I might become a career student or at least one for as long as my parents foot the bill. Viva la France. I have no idea how to say that in Italian but I guess that is what I will learn as soon as get off the plane in Rome.

Copyright 2006 Frances Coleman – All Rights Reserved