by Michele Swaner

The need to take a summer math class evolved into an amazing summer in Paris for Avery Hazelbaker, a mathematics and pre-med major. “I needed to take a math class, so I just searched "learning abroad differential equations" on Google and the CEA Paris Engineering Program popped up.”

Hazelbaker had a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do before she graduated from the U, and studying abroad was one of them. “I had traveled to Europe with my family when I was younger,” she said, “but I’m not sure I appreciated it enough at the time. I wanted to go again, study math, and really dive into the culture.”

She gives high marks to the CEA program because of the math instruction and the opportunity to meet different kinds of people. “I absolutely loved my math professor—he was so much fun, very nice, and extremely knowledgeable,” said Hazelbaker. “He would spend 10-15 minutes of class going over some common French words and phrases to help us understand and become more comfortable with French culture.”

She liked the differences between the U.S. teaching and the French learning style. “In France, the teachers expect the students to write out what they’re doing for each step, so they can confirm that students know what they’re doing,” said Hazelbaker. “At the U, instructors assume students know why they're doing something if the work is correct.”

During her stay, she traveled on weekends to various cities in Europe. She also spent time getting to know the “arrondissements” in Paris. She was able to see a World Cup game, visit several chateaus in the Loire Valley, and attend quieter events, such as a classical music concert at L'église de la Madeleine.

Hazelbaker was fortunate to live in housing that included not only CEA students but also other students who were attending universities in Paris. “I became extremely close with three girls,” she said. “One was born in South Africa but has lived most of her life in France, another was from Germany, and a third had family in Africa but had been born in Lyon. These girls showed me what it was really like to live in Paris and how to make the most of the experience by immersing myself in the culture and not just seeing it from the outside. I didn’t know that I would be living with people who weren’t Americans, but it was the best thing that could have happened. I made the best friends and had experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living with people from another culture.”

She encourages her U classmates to consider learning abroad. “Everyone should try it if they have the chance,” said Hazelbaker. “It’s such an amazing experience. I know it sounds like a cliché, but you really do learn a lot about yourself, and you become a better person. I would love to return to Paris.”