When I started my first semester at SMU, there were two things that topped my list of “Things I Must Accomplish In College.” Yes, I wanted to discover my career path and have the best four years of my life; but without exception, I was determined to study abroad and learn another language. Thanks to the French Department here at SMU, I’m currently spending a semester in Brussels, Belgium and having the best experience of my life.

Here in Brussels, I’m a student with a program called Internships in Francophone Europe (IFE). Available in Brussels, Paris, and Strasbourg, IFE is a fairly small program that focuses on cultural integration, and fortunately for me, it also has a great relationship with the French Department here at SMU. This semester-long program consists of 5 weeks of courses that are all taught in French, one week of vacation time to travel, and then an interest-specific internship that continues until the end of the semester. Each student is also required to write a 30 page research paper in French which, contrary to my initial belief, is actually much more fun (did I just say “fun” with “research paper?”) than it might sound. I’m currently half-way finished with my internship with the Brussels branch of the International Federation for Human Rights where I work with communications between human rights organizations and the European Union.

Outside of the Belgian Federal Parliament (I'm second row, on the right)

Outside of Parliament (I’m second row, on the right)

Throughout the 3 months that I’ve spent in Europe, I’ve visited 7 countries, immensely improved my second language of French only to begin to learn another (Dutch), and eaten more Belgian waffles and fries than I care to admit. Aside from the numbers, however, I’ve learned more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. I’ve always known that studying abroad would be an incredible experience, but I never expected it to change me as much as it has.

Even though I often find myself missing Dallas Hall Lawn and the incredible people that I left at SMU, I’m always grateful for this opportunity that SMU has provided for me. Aside from receiving academic credits from the other side of the world, I’m receiving an experience of a lifetime that I know will help me change the world.

By Katie Maiers