Tracy Vo's Study Abroad Experience
"Salut! I am a senior in Adams concentrating in economics with a secondary field in French language and literature. Outside of the classroom, I am a member of the Harvard International Relations Council (more specifically, I’ve participated in both Model UN conferences and the Harvard International Review) and am currently co-chair of the Harvard College European Society.
My first significant experience abroad occurred the summer after my high school graduation, when I backpacked across Europe with one of my best friends. Although I had been to Canada and back to Vietnam where I was born, this was my first independent experience abroad. With half of my weight in luggage on my back, I made my way through six cities – I had my first crêpe by Notre Dame in Paris, traveled around Lyon on the funiculars, climbed both the Palatine and Capitoline hills in Rome in one day but somehow couldn’t find the Coliseum, ate way too much gelato in Venice, camped out overnight to get centre court tickets to see Federer and Nadal at Wimbledon, and attended a jazz festival on the shores of Lake Geneva. The trip was a wonderful experience and by the time I started college, I was eager to go abroad again.
And so, the summer after my freshman year, I studied in Avignon through the Bryn Mawr program. While I enjoyed the charm and history of Avignon, and being able to travel around the south of France, I knew that I wanted to be in Paris for my term time study abroad. I chose Sciences Po because I wanted to participate in a direct exchange program without any supervision. I wanted to immerse myself in the French language and to experience firsthand the culture and history that I had spent so many years studying. I took all of my classes in French and participated in student-organized trips to other regional campuses. Even though there were a lot of international students in my classes and in the foyer in which I lived, the common language was often French, which allowed me to practice the language as much as possible. On the weekends, I would travel to small cities in France with my railpass, and so got the chance to visit the beaches of Normandy, the castle of William the Conqueror, the tower where Joan of Arc was imprisoned, and the final resting place of the kings of France. But some of my best memories were also spent back in Paris, picnicking in the Jardin du Luxembourg or sharing a bottle of wine on Pont des Arts.
While I was initially hesitant about leaving behind my classes, extracurriculars and friends, my semester abroad was by far my most significant semester at Harvard. I was able to study subjects not offered here at Harvard, make friends from all over the globe (I can now visit all six continents and have a place to stay), set new goals and priorities, and wake up every day in the most beautiful city in the world. I would encourage every student at Harvard to think outside the Yard and consider spending a semester abroad. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to hear more about my experience or have any questions about any step of the process!"
Email: tracyvo [at] fas.harvard.edu