By Hannah Schultz, News Editor
While twelve students may seem like a small group, out of 100 applicants, only that number were approved to spend their Fall 2014 semester abroad in Paris. Linda Stratford’s program seeks students who have exhibited the capacity to handle and grow from the challenges of living abroad as a minority in a large cosmopolitan center—a.k.a. only the best and the brightest that Asbury has to offer.
“Because of the skills that it takes to thrive in another country—anyone can visit Paris, but to be able to thrive there—and because it is so difficult academically, we don’t just want any student,” said Jonathan Grant, an Asbury alumnus and the program assistant. “We need students who can handle themselves in any situation and who are very professional.”
The structure of classes in the Paris program can prove to be a difficult adjustment for some, but liberating for others. “You spend much less time sitting in the classroom and more time doing site visits—actually seeing the things you are learning about,” said sophomore Emma Nesselroade, who is an art major. “Also, the classes are more project oriented, meaning that you have much less day-to-day homework, but you have to really learn how to manage your time in order to get everything done by the end.”
From personally vetted internships in nearly any field, to directed studies and online courses through Asbury, students are given many opportunities to pursue their major in the new environment. The internships in particular allow Asburians to form important professional connections. “It can be a huge stepping stone, and I know it has been for me in my career,” said Grant.
Grant also adds that Paris is a cultural hub that gives students once-in-a-lifetime social opportunities. “The cool thing about Paris, and why it’s so strategic for Asbury students, is when you’re sitting on a park bench and eating your lunch, at the same time you could be sitting next to a street sweeper and a countess,” he said. “Because it’s so small and accessible, you can meet everyone of importance. I’ve sat at a cafe with Beyonce before—and that’s just how Paris is.”
Despite the “Asbury bubble,” Grant says that Asburians tend to do well in France. “In every French relationship that I make and in every advance that I have professionally, the things that are valued in me are creativity, professionalism, a little bit of mischievousness and optimism,” he said. “That’s what I see in Asburians in general, and that’s what I saw in the students who came on the trip last semester. That’s what wins the hearts and the minds of the French.”
However, Grant warns that some students are not cut out for living abroad. “If you don’t want to change and challenge who you are or what you believe or what you think about other cultures, just stay at Asbury and stay very comfortable and please don’t come on the trip,” he said, alluding to students who have reacted very strongly to the change in culture and refused to adjust to the new lifestyle.
For Fall 2015, Stratford and Grant have expanded the group to twenty students who are willing to challenge themselves socially and academically. They are particularly interested in balancing the ratio of guys and girls this year, so guys are encouraged to apply. The deadline to submit application materials is February 23, and the details are on the Asbury Paris Semester website.
“Paris needs Asbury,” said Grant about the importance of the program. “It needs what we have academically, socially, culturally and spiritually. There’s a real need for Asburians, for Christians, for people who are open-minded to be in Paris, to stay in Paris—to say this is my home, this is my culture, these are my people, and I want to be transformed and allow God to transform through me. ”