Arts & Features Writer
Students file out of a group meeting and disperse into the streets of Paris, France. After a morning of group study and class, they are ready to explore the museums, cobblestone streets, decadent food and history of the City of Lights, all thanks to UNC Asheville Study Abroad.
Brad Petitfils, professor and senior director of advising and academic success and professor of music Melodie Galloway plan to lead the summer 2020 study abroad trip to Paris, France. The four week trip fulfills seven credit hours within the liberal arts core, including ARTS 310 and Humanities 324.
Petitfils brought students to Paris, France from his last university in New Orleans, Louisiana. This summer will be the first time leading this trip through UNCA.
Paris has always been a place of identity for Petitfils. He first visited in 1992 while he was in the eighth grade.
“I remember even at that age thinking Paris is a special place,” Petitfils said.
Petitfils said he feels a connection to the city because of his family, and even takes students to meet them so they too can feel that connection.
“They are excited when I go and bring students. They will go and have lunch and dinner with the students and talk with them, ask them questions about what it’s like being American college students,” Petitfils said.
Not only does Petitfils want to show students the personal ties he has to Paris, but also the intellectual nature of the city.
“Paris has for centuries been the center of Western thought and in the past decade especially, Paris has emerged as one of the global sort of capital centers that is really grappling with the legacy of colonialism,” Petitfils said.
No matter the destination, Petitfils said that anytime a student leaves their home country it’s a good way for them to learn and to be a better global citizen. Petitfils also said it’s important for students to look beyond their homes to better understand what is happening outside the U.S., and who they are as individuals.
“It’s in those spaces where you’re uncomfortable, and where you’re not necessarily always in charge, where you learn a lot about yourself,” Petitfils said.
Spending the summer semester in Paris presents just one of the many opportunities available to UNCA students looking to study abroad. Study Abroad Director Bonnie Parker recommends students make an appointment or take advantage of the walk-in hours if going abroad interests them. This allows students to meet with study abroad advisors to navigate all the options available to them and narrow down which type of program is best for the student. Talking with a study abroad advisor also lets students know their options about financing including using their financial aid or scholarships.
“I think it’s a really major part of the liberal arts experience. Giving students the chance to look at things from a different perspective and to kind of move out of their current culture and even look back at their culture from a different perspective,” Parker said.
After studying abroad in Spain through Appalachian State University in 2013, Madelyn Pertrovich now works at UNCA as interim study abroad advisor. Petrovich advises students and helps them get an idea about what to expect with a faculty led trip abroad.
“A summer trip is great because you’re going with a faculty member and other UNCA students so that can kind of ease that kind of apprehension around going to a completely new place that speaks a completely different language,” Petrovich said. “I think that I didn’t understand my own culture until I stepped back and reexamined it from afar.”
“It was absolutely incredible and I learned so much. It really put me in a space where I was really able to expand my perspective as a global citizen, which was a big focus of one of the classes we took,” said Kelsey Hall, an environmental policy student who studied abroad in Ecuador.
For Hall, expanding her perspective included drawing parallels between events in the U.S. and the Amazon. One that was always on her mind was pipelines and oil extraction in the Amazon. The displacement of indigenous people in the Amazon can also be seen in the U.S. with the Dakota Access Pipeline. These connections Hall made during her trip allowed her to expand her world view. Her experience doing a “toxic tour” with the Union of People Affected by Texaco Chevron, or UDAPT, in Ecuador gave her a first hand insight to concerns shared by Ecuador and the U.S.
“Studying abroad is just a great opportunity if you’re able to do it, to go and experience other cultures and expand your worldview,” Hall said.
Leah Atkinson, a mass communication student, had the opportunity to study abroad through the new media program at UNCA. The program took her to Berlin, London and Paris to visit and get inspiration from the art galleries and studios in the cities.
Atkinson said this trip allowed her to push herself outside her comfort zone and earn the credits she needs while doing things she wouldn’t normally feel comfortable doing. Atkinson found a better understanding for the countries she visited by recognizing the similarities in lifestyle between them and the U.S..
“There’s all these stereotypes and generalizations for these countries we were visiting but, in the end everyone’s just trying to live their life,” Atkinson said.