Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on a Semester Abroad

Kubra Shirazi, an International Business major and Verrazano student in the Class of 2013, had the opportunity to spend her sophomore spring semester in Nice, France through a CSI Exchange Ambassador program.  Kubra has been reflecting on her experiences abroad last semester and stopped by to share some of her thoughts and experiences with us.
Hi Kubra.  Thanks for your interest in talking with us about your study abroad experience.  When and where did you study overseas?
I studied abroad in my Spring '11 semester in Nice, France.  It was the spring semester of my sophomore year. 

A restaurant on the beach.
This was my third day, after arriving in Nice. It was cool discovering cool things with a friend I
made from the hostel I was staying in.

How did you find your study abroad program? What made you choose your study abroad program instead of a different program?

I found my exchange program in the Center for International Service.  I saw the booklet about IPAG when I was browsing through their study abroad shelf.  I chose to study abroad in Nice because I knew it would benefit me in my studies as an International Business major. I took the opportunity that CSI was offering and used it to fulfill my ambition to study about business in a different country.

It's great to hear that you shaped your study abroad plans around your major.  What was the application process like?

The application process was long because I had to fill out many school applications, online applications, and apply for a visa from the French embassy. It was a challenge to keep up with my application process and make sure none of them were rejected. It was also my first time applying for a US Passport, so I had to get it processed before everything else because most applications asked for my passport number.

The Massena 
This is a large open area where performances are held, contemporary art is displayed, and where the tram stops. It also leads to a large shopping district.

Ah, your passport!  That's essential for study abroad.  Students should make sure they get their passports as soon as possible to enable international travel and study.  As you were applying, is there anyone who was particularly influential in the process?

Both my mom and Deborah Stengle (study abroad advisor) were very influential.  My mom was very supportive of my plans to study abroad. She helped me in calling travel agencies, keeping track of my applications, and working with me to fill them out. Deborah also helped me with them and found some information that I needed.

It sounds like you had a good support system which can really help.  Was there anything you were concerned about before your departure?

I had questions about how to take my money, what things to take in my suitcase, and where to find residency. I also was not sure if I could afford studying abroad, but with financial counseling, I figured out how to budget my expenses before leaving for Nice.


This is a small commune in the French Alps.  I went hiking here
with a group of students for over two hours.  It was the best experience I ever had.  

Finances are a significant concern for many students planning a study abroad experience, but I'm glad this didn't prevent you from going.  Fortunately now there are Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarships available for students through an application process so there is an additional possible funding source.

What, if any role, did your faculty advisor or staff members at the college play in your study abroad experience?

Deborah Stengle and Katie Geschwendt (Verrazano coordinator) were very helpful in my application process. They guided me through my applications and supported me with my goal to study abroad. While I was in Nice, I exchanged emails with them and asked for advice about schooling or just to update them about what was happening with me.

 Cliff Diving Area in Nice.
This is where the locals went to swim and cliff dive. I cliff dove here, but I bruised my legs by diving backwards.

We love to hear from students while they are studying abroad!  What were your living arrangements like?

I lived with three girls in a two bedroom apartment. We had two beds in each rooms and a pull out couch in the living room. The school was twenty minutes walking distance from my apartment.  My apartment was located right in front of the Mediterranean Sea, and I was able to spend time at the beach across from the building.  The best part was that it was situated right in the midst of a commercialized part of Nice. There were shopping centers, flower shops, restaurants, small and big bakeries, chocolate shops, and museums. There were so many by the sea shore, the ship docks, and deep into the city. Every two weeks, before going to school in the morning, I enjoyed fresh French bread and pastries for breakfast with my roommates and friends. 

A much different experience than your normal daily life here in Staten Island!  It sounds lovely.  What was a typical day like for you in Nice?

I had classes during weekdays, had weekends off, and my class schedule changed every week. I had to wake up really early to walk to my 8am class every other day. The most my class lasted up to was three hours. On my days off I studied, or took the train or the bus to a city close to Nice. I also went to the beach most of my time to swim, run, or walk. It was beautiful in the afternoon and evening to watch musical performances and the sun coming down.

It's great that you could walk to class and that the beach was close by as well.  As you reflect on your time in France, what would you say stands out the most?

It was interesting for me to explore France by myself and have regular French locals, in different cities, let me stay in their houses out of generosity. They showed me unique places where locals went for leisure, and shopping.

The French artistic culture, the architecture, and the gastronomy of food, stand out the most to me. There were hidden narrow alleys over a hundred years old, with tiny shops and eating places, in cities that I visited.  There were outstanding musical performances from the Mediterranean and French cultures in places where tourists and locals went. Artists painted murals, landscapes, and portraits within twenty minutes.  Nice had a flower parade, lasting the whole month of March, that brought tourists from all over France and Europe.

Students who study abroad for a whole semester often find they are able to get a better sense of the culture and daily life of local people.  It sounds like that was the case for you.  Did you have a favorite course you took while abroad?

My favorite was the French Civilization and Culture course. Three professors taught it to us, revolving around three different topics about French culture, history, and politics.

In what ways did your study abroad experience relate to your major or your future goals?  Have your career goals or personal goals shifted or changed because of your study abroad experience?

My study abroad experience provided me with practical knowledge about businesses and trade outside the United States. I learned a lot about the exchange of goods and services between countries in Europe and the Americas. I got an insight of which countries are good for investing in within the European Union and also some entrepreneurs’ perspectives on investing in other countries such as Russia, Argentina and China.

My future career and personal goals have shifted due to my experience. I have a goal to go abroad to do business with language and business management skills. I want to do more for my family to live a better life.

 Notre Dame.
I visited it in Paris during my Spring Break. It is the oldest church in France.

 A port in Cannes.
This was my first visit to Cannes.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

While in France I got to learn about the Nicoise people, locals from Nice, and their culture. In my four months there, I got to immerse myself into the Nicoise culture and lifestyle and was acknowledged as a local. I learned a lot about France and countries surrounding it and how the Euro was established. I met people who showed me some different parts of France, let me stay in their house and have meals with them, took me hiking in the Alps, and showed me how to travel by trains and buses in France. Most importantly, I learned the importance of taking caring of myself and got to balance going to school and having fun. I am glad that I went and made friends with people who made me appreciate things more.  It inspired me to keep working hard for my future in business.

For more information about the Exchange Ambassador program in Nice, France, please visit:

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