As an exchange student back in 2010, I was expecting so much, and most of it was related to the social and cultural experiences in a foreign country. Looking back at this adventure, there was something that came as a surprise. If I tell you that your learning experiences, and the way in which you apprehend your future, will be drastically changed after studying abroad, would you believe me?
Spending a year at the University of Ottawa shaped all compartments of my future life – here, I will focus solely on the professional aspect. Prior to the exchange, I went to law school in France. I learnt how to practice law and how to become a lawyer. I was taught to think in one specific way, toward one specific goal. I was learning in a vacuum. Studying in Canada was a cultural open-minder as I discovered a different approach of law. In addition to being more practical, I was facing interdisciplinary education for the first time. In other words, I was learning how to learn outside the “legal box” … What a shock!
I had a hard working year where I gained plenty of new knowledge. But overall, this experience acted as a revelation. I was able to identify this odd feeling I had while going to law school. I actually understood that “pure legal stuff” was not made for me, nor was becoming a lawyer… My education in law wasn’t lost however, as it taught me to be rigorous and methodic. So, after a master’s degree in public law, I decided to explore new grounds. I completed another masters in a non-legal field, a cross-disciplinary program in water management, which had been a decisive move. From natural to social sciences, I learnt to think differently. This journey lead to finally combining the best of two worlds by completing a Ph.D. in water law. I am now embracing the two facets of my academic career, and I am doing it in the angle of an interdisciplinary approach.
In the end, by being an international student and stepping out of my comfort zone, I discovered new horizons that influenced my learning experiences and my later choices. Because of it, I was able to target what I truly loved and what I wanted to become. Learning is an essential process to discover who we are … However, I would say that it becomes fully beneficial when you experience it through different lenses.