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Sophia Fortain

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Biology (BS), minors: Chemistry, History
Program: University of Essex
Location: Essex, England
Term: Spring 2020


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to experience new things - a new environment, new people, new way of life. I also wanted to really push myself to go out of my comfort zone. I am from NC, so going to school here in Chapel Hill was not really different from my home. However, travel abroad (by yourself for the first time) is a way to really test yourself and go out of your comfort zone. I chose my program because I had very specific requirements and certain classes I needed to take for my Biology major, and this program allowed me to take everything I needed.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I'm a lot stronger than I expected. At the beginning, there were quite a few times when I got lost or got on the wrong train or something, but I enjoyed the chaos of travel more than getting stressed out about it, which surprised me. Also, I typically have to have everything planned out, but through this experience I learned to adapt and just go with whatever happened.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
I met a lot of great people, but one trip in particular stood out. It was a very spontaneous trip with a girl I had only met once before, but we took trains and traveled around and stayed in hostels. We went to this very small town to see a castle and got stuck out in a hail storm. I think these spontaneous little trips are the best because you never know what is going to happen.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would tell them to appreciate whatever circumstance they happen to be in. I would also tell them to let go of their expectation beforehand, because then you can enjoy a place or an experience for what it really is. My other big piece of advice is to prioritize the places you want to go to/things you want to do. My biggest uncertainty was covid because I went in spring 2020. I wish I had gone to the most important places first, before the pandemic got worse and I had to leave.