Study Abroad Profile: Tina Kassangana

tina kassanganaTina Kassangana

Semesters abroad: Discovery Florence (Fall 2012),  SU Strasbourg Center (Fall 2013)

Major: International Relations

What was your most memorable experience abroad? In Strasbourg, the most memorable experience I had was less of a sentimental moment but a career-defining moment. I was sitting at the taskforce meeting at the Council of Europe on behalf of my department, which dealt with social cohesion for persons of disability. I had my badge, which had my ID photo and allowed me access throughout the Council buildings. I decided to get coffee during a break and was stopped by French high school students who asked me how did I enjoy working at the Council and how could they reach this level eventually. I laughed and silently thanked my parents for teaching me French since birth. I spoke to these students for 15 minutes and talked to them about the importance of studying abroad and how it got me here in front of them. I was then asked what my next step would be and my mentor stood next to me and told the kids in French, “Hopefully she’ll be back with us after she finishes her undergrad work.”

What was your favorite class abroad and why? My favorite class was European Human Rights in Strasbourg! Till this day, I think of my two professors Grigory and Vadim. The first day of class they asked who was thinking about becoming a lawyer. I was the only one, and Grigory made it his mission to not only teach me but to become a mentor. We attended hearings at the Court of Human Rights where I sat next to Grigory and discussed details of the case and how I would react if I were on the bench. Our human rights reader was so rich with details of cases comparing European and U.S. case law that I brought it back with me and from time to time use it for some classes on campus.

How were your living arrangements? In Strasbourg, I lived with a host family. My host mom and I still communicate via email. Our arrangement was a bit different, I lived with my roommate but we had our own apartment. Our host parents had their apartment while ours was detached over the garage. We had freedom, but we were still connected with the family. I skipped a field trip to attend my host mom’s daughter’s baby shower. Danielle and I had a dynamic that I can’t put into words. We spent Saturdays together and one even ended with us getting free sample Hermes perfume.

What was your favorite part of the city? In Florence, although I enjoy the David outside Palazzo Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio, Piazza degli Uffizi is hands-down the most beautiful place at 3 AM when no one is around. Walking down this Piazza with the massive columns on each side of you and with the Arno in front of you, David is behind you – in my opinion, the essence of Florence is within this rectangle. Within the columns are the statues of the great philosophers and thinkers such as Machiavelli and Amerigo Vespucci. ou find yourself surrounded by this purity, this area where Florence is alive forever. I love this place so much that if I could, I honestly would get married in Piazza degli Uffizi on an italian summer night.

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