Discovering the World and Themselves
A Family's Journey Through a Year of Study Abroad
by Jennifer Spencer
Paul Lougée with his classmates at Fordham's London Centre.
When you ask Alan and Janet Lougée what inspired their 21-year-old son Paul to travel the world doing two back-to-back semesters abroad as part of his Fordham degree, they said they weren't entirely sure.
"You know, I think he was just trying to get out of the dorms," father Alan Lougée quipped.
All joking aside, Alan and Janet said they are thrilled that their son has had the opportunity to develop a global perspective as part of his Fordham experience.
Paul, a junior studying marketing and entrepreneurship at Fordham's Gabelli School of Business, spent the fall 2011 semester at Fordham's London Centre pursuing a marketing-focused curriculum before heading to Sydney, Australia, in the spring as part of a Boston University study and internship program.
Alan said Paul initiated the plans for his study abroad program himself.
"I think there's a desire to start to do things on your own, as part of that coming of age during freshman and sophomore year," Alan said.
Paul said his two semesters abroad have been enriching academically, professionally, and personally.
In London, he participated in a course called Marketing Consultancy, where he and other Fordham students partnered with a local marketing firm to develop a presentation for a real-life business in crisis.
"It was like having an internship within a class," Paul said.
In Sydney, where Paul is now, his internship experience has opened the door to a summer work opportunity at restaurant chain Zambrero.
Paul said the ability to contribute in meaningful ways to a start-up company on the verge of expansion has been a great experience.
"Working as an intern at a small company like this is like being a consultant because you bring an outside perspective," Paul said. "You can really have an impact."
Janet Lougée, vice president of interiors at Chicago-based architecture firm Wight & Company, said her professional experience has helped her see the importance of study abroad programs like Paul's.
"The business world is operating more on a global level," she said. "The global experience teaches you about diversity—not only diversity of cultural differences, but also acknowledging that there may be better ways of doing things."
Paul said his cultural perspective has been enhanced both in and out of the classroom. He said his time abroad has truly changed his perspective on life.
"The amount of personal growth you get by experiencing other countries is huge," Paul said. "I don't think you can learn so much so quickly at home. Once you pick up the best things from various cultural perspectives, you'll have that for the rest of your life."
Alan and Janet have faced their own learning curve with Paul being overseas for the year. Janet said that while she appreciated Paul's initiative in organizing his own study experiences, it was hard for her as a mother to not know the details of what he would be encountering overseas.
"Paul kept saying, 'It will come together, Mom, don't worry about it,' and he was probably correct. But as a mother, I was like, 'Do we need sheets? How far is the place you live from school?'" she said.
Technology has made the leap abroad easier than ever on several levels. Janet said that being able to speak to Paul via Skype video calls has made his year away much easier for their family.
"You can talk to them on the phone, but when you see your kid, you get a sense of how he looks," she said. "As a mother, you're making your judgments when you have a conversation and seeing him means the world to make sure he's doing well."
Paul said he has enjoyed the opportunity to live on his own and be responsible for taking care of himself around the world.
In addition to having the opportunity to learn how to balance life and work a full year before he graduates, he's also learning some basic life skills on the road.
"I learned how to cook in London because the food was so expensive, and now I'm actually a pretty decent cook," he said.
Paul said he has also learned the value of networking through his academic and professional experiences. Alan said it's a skill that runs in the family.
"If there's one thing that Janet and I probably have as an underlying skill, it's networking. I want our kids to be able to network, to see opportunities, and take them," he said.
As they reflect on Paul's experiences, from writing business plans and launching new enterprises to backpacking through Europe and surfing Australia's coasts, Alan and Janet said they would recommend investing in study abroad to any family.
"I would tell other parents that it's a very enriching experience," Janet said. "The kids will learn a lot, not only academically, which of course you hope for.
"But in a more practical matter, they're going to learn how to land on their own two feet."