Senior Joy McTaggart summed up her study abroad experience in one word – independence. McTaggart, a theatre major studying performance and design, spent her fall semester in Paris.
In October 2012, McTaggart decided to study abroad. She chose France because she wanted to learn to speak French, and Paris offered the requirements she needed to graduate.
“Cedarville really pushes it (studying abroad) when you are a freshman,” McTaggart said, “I was really tentative freshman year, but by the time I got to be a junior, I was ready.”
Although McTaggart is a theatre major, none of the classes she was enrolled in were theatre classes, but they counted toward her degree. The five classes she took consisted of a fashion class, an architecture course, French civilization and two French language courses. McTaggart attended classes through a global education company called Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) that Cedarville works with. Her transfers and credits came through the University of New Haven.
McTaggart said the classroom experience in Paris differed from her experience at Cedarville. Because the university was not Christian-affiliated, there were no chapel services.
Classes were held in a small building, and a smaller student body of 90 students allowed for the school to plan more outings and activities for the students.
“The school was always taking us out to dinner or taking us to specific trips,” McTaggart said.
With CEA, McTaggart traveled inside France to Strasbourg, the Normandy coast, Versailles and Fontainebleau. CEA did not have on-campus housing, so McTaggart commuted to school from her apartment – a 20-minute ride on the metro. McTaggart was enrolled in classes Monday through Thursday, so her Fridays and Saturdays were devoted to sightseeing in Paris. The city is home to various museums, parks and venues that McTaggart took the opportunity to explore.
“I didn’t want to come home and say I had seen so many countries, but I hadn’t seen Paris,” she said.
Outside of Paris, McTaggart traveled on her own to Brussels, Rome, Venice, Dublin, and Edinburgh, Scotland. She said she favored Edinburgh because she has heritage from Scotland.
“Edinburgh was closer to America – like hearty meals, people speaking in English, with a thick accent granted,” McTaggart said.
McTaggart flew eight times and took a train two or three times for her travel endeavors. She said traveling on her own allowed her to gain independence by making her own travel plans and flying by herself to other countries.
“I learned I can get around a continent by myself,” McTaggart said. “I don’t have to have my parents buy my plane ticket. I can do it, which is freeing.”
McTaggart’s family and friends said they noticed a growth in her self-confidence and independence through her study abroad experience.
Senior Eric Rasmussen said McTaggart has always been an independent person.
“She knows what she has to do in any situation, but it helped her to be in a situation where she didn’t really know anybody,” Rasmussen said.
McTaggart’s parents, John and Abby, said they were hesitant to let her study overseas at first but finally decided they should let her go.
“As a parent if you don’t let loose of the apron strings, they won’t grow, so I just left her in the Lord’s hands,” John said.
Abby said they were able to keep in touch with McTaggart through Skype and by email.
“Once she got over there, she met some great people, and they treat students really well over there, so that helped,” Abby said.
McTaggart helped her family and friends stay updated on her traveling by video blogging.
“She had a Facebook page, and then she would record videos of everything she saw,” senior Lindsay McGee said.
McGee said McTaggart has always been good at keeping in touch, but she really made an effort to keep in touch with family and friends despite the distance. McTaggart even recorded a film for the on-campus 72 Hour Film Festival while she was abroad.
Outside of school, McTaggart also met people through the church she attended called the American Church in Paris. She said the church was founded a long time ago and has grown to three services a day since then.
“It’s a very active church,” McTaggart said. “They are always doing ministry.”
The congregation of the American Church in Paris included people from several different countries.
“There were 40 to 50 nationalities,” McTaggart said. “It was amazing.”
Living in a different country also exposed McTaggart to foreign currency because she had to adapt to the euro. McTaggart said euros don’t have a paper bill for what would be the American one or two dollar bill but use coins instead.
“Subconsciously I felt like I was spending less by spending coins,” McTaggart said.
Purchasing food in Paris was a new experience for her, too. Certain markets were open on certain days with different fresh foods.
“I really liked the Parisian culture of natural foods and shopping,” McTaggart said. “They do a lot more to recycle and care about what they’re eating.”
McTaggart said when she was in Paris for the first few months she wanted to move there, but that has since changed. However, she said she would love to visit again with someone else.
“It would be a lot of fun to show them all these things I know and just seeing all the places I walked every day,” McTaggart said. “It becomes like home.”
Kathryn Sill is a sophomore journalism major and an arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. She loves running, dogs and eating food.