Melissa Lopez: A Journey to Find Herself

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Melissa Lopez’s Penn State experience has been anything but traditional, yet this path has brought her social, academic and philosophical challenges in order to feel “fully herself.” A junior international relations major with French and business minors in the Schreyer Honors College, Lopez has embarked on various unique endeavors during her time both on and off campus.

Feeling that she “needed more” out of her college experience, Lopez was immediately drawn to the idea of studying abroad for an entire year. After coordinating with advisers and selecting a program tailored to her major, spending two semesters in Paris became an exciting reality.

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It was her time in Paris that shaped Lopez’s newfound global perspective and cultural awareness. When asked about her favorite part of Parisian culture, she explained how both food and fashion contributed to her love of the city. From the slow-paced dining experience to witnessing Spring fashion week first-hand, Lopez is eager to return to the city to immerse herself once more.

Next semester, Lopez will return to Paris with a new perspective. While she lacked a complete sense of self prior to her first semester in Paris, she will begin her second semester feeling as if things have come “full circle” having grown over the past year.

To those considering studying abroad for a semester or even a year, Lopez explains how it’s important to “ask yourself why you want to go, not to talk yourself out of it, but to set your intentions and develop an open mindset”.

In between her two semesters in Paris, Lopez engaged in an influential career experience in Washington, DC. Lopez participated in the College of Communications’ Washington Program, where she took classes alongside Penn State students and completed a full-time internship on Capitol Hill. The Washington Program proved itself to be one of Lopez’s most impactful experiences at Penn State, gaining career clarity and networking with alumni.

While Lopez has spent the majority of her semesters away from University Park thus far, her on campus involvements are a reflection of her personal passions. During her fall semester sophomore year, she started a radio show through Penn State’s student radio, WKXP, called “The Vault.” During the two-hour Saturday night broadcasts, Lopez shared her favorite music, invited friends to contribute and featured local bands.

When asked if she feels as if she is missing out by spending three semesters away from Penn State, Lopez explained how she “would rather be having this weird nomadic experience than not.” Although she has missed her Penn State friends, Lopez has prioritized keeping her friendships alive and is excited to return senior year for “one last hoorah.”

In terms of future plans, Lopez hopes to attend law school and work in corporate finance. And, who knows, she may make another return to Paris – only this time, a permanent one.

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