I encourage all students to study abroad to experience how small our world really is, especially once you enter the international student community. There are not many of us and we tend to be extremely mobile to different places of the world. I want to share an experience that had transcended from one study abroad to another.
The story begins in Vlissingen, the Netherlands in early summer 2013, I was approached by my Sustainable development instructor to aide one of her master’s students with editing and proofreading her thesis paper. I was introduced to a French student that was completing her thesis after working for a green energy investment group and was recommending new products and developments that have a potential to be a good investment for the firm. This was a large thesis and we planned on meeting a few times to go through and edit what was needed.
After getting to know Laurene, we became friends and meetings included beer and food with our meetings. A few weeks later her deadline had come and the final draft was ready to be submitted. I was really happy that I could help Laurene out with her project and I think international students should try and find opportunities to meet people outside of the international exchange student circle.
I’m happy to say that after her thesis was handed in and defended, Laurene was able to graduate with her degree and head back home to France. I was happy to be mentioned in the thesis for helping with the editing. All of this was during the last few weeks of my study abroad in the Netherlands and now it was time to have a party/vacation.
I left the Netherlands and returned back to Canada and to CapilanU to continue my degree and restart my life at home.
About 8 months later, I was really itching to get abroad and be an international student again. I saw that CapilanoU was offering scholarship opportunities to study in France for the EM Normandie Summer Graduate Program. This was something that was perfect for me, and this course would allow me to improve my French. I was ecstatic to be awarded a scholarship and have the opportunity to go abroad and represent CapilanoU again.
The Summer Graduate Program was a really amazing experience. We were based in Caen, France, and had 70 students from Mumbai, India, in the program as well. It was a unique opportunity to experience both French and Indian culture together. Included with the program were visits to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. This was really interesting to me because we had the opportunity to visit European Institutions, like the European Union and European Parliament.
After the program I had planned on having some time for vacationing around France visiting friends. During my to the Netherlands at the beginning of the Summer Program, I was invited to visit a city called Annecy. Lucas, a French student who I met in the Netherlands, was having an open house for the international students from Vlissingen. Laurene lived about an hour away, I messaged her and said we should me up for a drink if she is at home.
After a 9 hour ride share to Doussard, which was also a 9 hour impromptu French lesson, I arrived and was ready to start my vacation with my international friends that I had met the year before. The first night I arrived, Lucas had planned a big party and it seemed like the all the young people in the village were there. Doussard is a village of about 500 people and about a 20 minute drive from the city of Annecy.
After the party started and the beverages started flowing, I was sitting in the kitchen meeting the people who were at the party. Quite late that night I hear, “Lee! What the hell are you doing here?" I look up and there Laurene is, standing in the kitchen of the house I was at in the French Alps. I knew that Laurene lived close by, but I did not know she knew my friend Lucas because they were in Vlissingen during different semesters. It was really a cool coincidental surprise.
I am always amazed at how small a world our planet is, and the even smaller international student community, when you see people in random situations. This is not the first time I have run into friends abroad, but it is certainly the more memorable occurrence.
The moral of this story is always take the opportunity to help and meet new people, because you never know will walk into the party you’re at even when you are in a tiny village in the French Alps.