Park Scholar's Study Abroad Experience

Park Scholar shares first hand his study abroad experience in southern France.

I am Raleigh Davis, a student in chemical engineering and class of 2010 Park Scholar. This past summer I was presented with a marvelous opportunity to study abroad in the heart of southern France. For six weeks I studied at the Ecole Superieure Chimie, Physique, Electronique located in Lyon, France. While there I studied conversational French and took a chemical engineering unit operations laboratory course. It was truly a multidisciplinary, culturally integrative experience complete with a variety of academic coursework, as well as social and cultural activities.

Here is a sampling of my experiences:

I stood atop the Eiffel tower gazing over the beautiful Paris skyline; I tried a variety of new foods (some more appetizing than others) such as canelle, frog legs, and andouillette; I witnessed an interpretive ballet; I traveled on the world’s fastest train; I used state of the art high performance liquid chromatography instruments; I translated lab instructions that were entirely in French, and I celebrated Bastille day with parades, fireworks, and the local Lyonais. But, as exciting as all these opportunities to explore a new culture were, my most valued experience was getting to meet diverse students and instructors from locations all around the world like South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Poland, Great Britain, and of course, France.

Normally it is difficult for chemical engineering students to find the time or opportunity to study abroad due to the structure of their coursework. Fortunately, through my connection to the Park Scholarships program, I was able to make a life changing contact with Dr. David Ollis. Dr. Ollis is a professor in Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State, a Park faculty scholar, and recently lead the Park Director search committee. Dr. Ollis was instrumental in starting the Lyon summer program and was the one who introduced this special opportunity to me early in my sophomore year.

I was initially apprehensive about the program. I had never spent that much time outside the country before, I didn’t know any of the other students participating, and I didn’t speak a word of French! However throughout the year Dr. Ollis guided me through the application process and helped equip me with the knowledge I would need to travel in an unfamiliar setting. True to Park Scholar form, he didn’t coddle me through the process, but instead provided the resources and support I would need to take a leap and begin my own adventure.

I cannot verbalize how significant and beneficial the impact of this program has been on my college experience. The Park program emphasizes the importance of a broad, complete undergraduate experience and in pushing yourself to the limits of your potential. Through the guidance of Park faculty scholar Dr. Ollis, I was able to do just that and participate in this truly unique and life altering opportunity. The Park program has given to me and my classmates in numerous ways, but one of its greatest gifts is the mentoring opportunities it provides throughout the undergraduate experience and for that I am forever grateful.