My first stay in Europe is largely responsible for where I am today. Without it, I would probably not be interested in international affairs. I would not be in Montreal. And most importantly, I would not have met my wife.
So how did it come about. It was part way through my first semester of my second year in Architecture. It was 'Dad's Day' weekend at the University of Illinois. My father came down for the football game and other festivities. Posted all over the school were invitations to a presentation of "The Versailles Program". The program is a year studying in Versailles, France at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Actually we would not be enrolled in the school. We just used their classrooms.
The program was very alluring. The students would not lose ground in their studies compared to those who stayed back. The school shipped over their own professors and all the classes were in English. Also all of the required courses were offered along with a few electives and independent study based on European topics. During the 9 month stay there was a total of 10 weeks time off to travel. Two weeks in October, two at Christmas, two in the spring, and four at the end in April/May. This does not include any weekend excursions. In order to make up for the time off, the remaining time was packed with classes.
The presentation was fabulous and quite inspiring. The first part explained the program and logistics. This was followed by the slide show and ended with a question and answer period with the director and former participants. The slideshow was created by last year's participants. Basically it is images of places and glimpses of the student experiences set to primarily contemporary music. All photos were taken by the previous year students. I enjoyed the slideshow so much, I stepped up and created the one for our year. I actually still have the whole show still in the trays with us.
My father and I walked away in awe. He vowed to do whatever possible to allow me to go, even get a second mortgage. It was money well spent. I'd also like to add that as far as study abroad go, this was one of the cheapest. In addition to only paying in-state tuition, the cost of the program was relatively low.
My grades were not fantastic at the time, so I ended up second or third from the bottom of the list. For some reason that has been a source of pride for me to be that low. Anyhow, I am not proud that I repeatedly asked those people ,who had made the list but mentioned they did not intend on going, to notify those in charge of their intentions. That way I could move up the list and maybe make the cut. In the end, everyone made the cut and I spent the summer preparing for the trip.