Ethan Kuhl, who graduated in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature, always knew that he wanted to study abroad for at least a semester. After his original plan to go abroad during his junior year was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided that once normalcy began to return to the world, he was going to spend his entire senior year overseas.
Participating first in the Brown in Bologna program during his fall semester and then Brown in Paris in the spring, he describes how spending the entire year abroad “felt like the next step in my journey of becoming an adult.” He added that as a student concentrating in comparative literature, it “seemed fitting that studying abroad would enhance that passion.” Now after completing his studies at Brown, he’s living and working in Paris.
When thinking about his choice to study abroad in Bologna for his first semester abroad, Kuhl describes how Italy was “always in the back of [his] mind,” particularly as someone who is half Italian. Thus, when he came across the opportunity to study in Bologna, where he could completely immerse himself in a language and culture he hadn’t yet had much exposure to, he was eager to do so.
He talks about how the people in the program “felt like a family” in addition to being able to take great classes at the University of Bologna and gaining fluency in Italian. But he also describes the lessons learned beyond the classroom: “There’s so much to be experienced from the people you’re meeting, the food you’re eating, and the wine you’re drinking – and you can’t do that in a college classroom.”
He also realized that while he was able to more easily find community in his hometown of New York City and at Brown – both very diverse populations – Bologna was different. People had such distinctly different life experiences, and he learned to “make friends where typical aspects of identity that had helped [him] in the past weren’t there.” Though he certainly loved his time in Bologna, he left feeling ready for the next step in a bigger city, and decided that Paris would be the ideal next locale.
“My mom said that since I was a kid, I would always say how one day I want to live in France,” Kuhl says. He entered the Brown in Paris program with the goal to “immerse [him]self in French culture and meet French people.” However, he describes the challenges of making friends in France due to the different way in which they view friendship: “for them, friendships are based in history and time, whereas in the US you can go to a bar and meet someone. You can’t necessarily do that here easily. But once you make connections, it’s extremely rewarding.”