What LIFE Isn’t: Making Friends Abroad

Written by Mallory September 30, 2016

Emma and I waiting in the Paris airport to board our flight to Venice.

Emma and I at the Louvre on our first day in Paris.

LIFE graduation!

I can’t believe it, but I’ve now been in Italy for a full week! I was lucky enough to spend the past weekend in Paris with some friends! With jet lag behind me, I’m happy to say I’ve finally started adjusting to life here. This past week has been CAP week. It has involved a number of different activities, both on and off campus. Arguably, the most anticipated activity of the week was this past weekend. The program is entitled LIFE and is part of CIMBA’s Leadership Institute. Personally I signed up for the program before I arrived on campus, but there were many opportunities for students that hadn’t signed up to do so once they were here. All of the staff here encouraged us all to participate in the program, but they never really told us what exactly LIFE was. I knew going into it that it was a leadership program and that it lasted only three days. When I talked to other students that had taken LIFE, they were really vague. All got little smiles on their faces and said was that it was a life-changing experience and I would be happy I did it. I thought that it would be similar to some of the leadership courses I had taken in the past, but honestly I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into. Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you all, but I will tell you a little bit about what LIFE is not.

1.) LIFE is not a series of team-building exercises like you do at summer camp. I thought maybe we would be doing some trust falls and human knot exercises to practice leadership skills and get to know other students in the program. Let me be the first to tell you, if you are going into LIFE expecting this, you will be sadly mistaken. There are none of said exercises throughout the three days. If you’re looking forward to something like that, the low ropes course the next weekend will be your cup of tea!
2.) LIFE is not your typical college class. Actually, it is really not like any class you have ever been to. Over the seventy-two hour period, both as an individual and as a group, you will be thrown into situations with little time to prepare. I’m a big planner so these assignments really tested my ability to think quickly and work on the spot.
3.) LIFE is not easy. It’s not necessarily fun either. It is hard and it will push you to your limits. I would have never expected to be as mentally exhausted at the end of three days as I was, but it was worth it. I learned more about myself in seventy-two hours than I would have if I would have taken a full semester course in leadership.

The LIFE experience is one that I am grateful I had the opportunity to have. I learned about myself, but I also learned about the other people in the program that I will be spending the semester with. Going into it, we were pretty much all still strangers. We hadn’t had much time to get to know one another. After being able to spend three days with them in LIFE, we have grown together as a group. We really got to know each other. We supported each other through failures and victories. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so connect and so support and so loved by a group of people I just met. It was really a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad I did it.