The University of Iowa

Award-winning study abroad video by Matthew Hsieh, University of Iowa student

July 16th, 2021

Honors student and marketing major Matthew Hsieh recently won the Innovative Student Video Award from GoAbroad for his film, “Paris – La Nouvelle Experience” based on his study abroad experience in Paris, France, during the Spring 2020 semester. While Hsieh’s time in Paris was cut short due to COVID-19, he says studying abroad is one of the best decisions he has made. Learn more below.

University of Iowa student Matthew Hsieh

Matthew Hsieh

What motivated you to pursue a global educational experience?

​I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to explore and find appreciation for other cultures. My family is from Taiwan (I actually grew up there until I moved to the U.S. when I was seven, and frequently go back every year), so I was already familiar with East Asian culture. Once you can start seeing the world through different perspectives and lenses, your worldview will expand to empathize with others and that's always something I find important, especially in a world that's becoming more globalized. 

Oh, and also Ratatouille. I made a promise to myself as a kid I would visit Paris because it was, and still is, my favorite movie.

How was your study abroad experience?

​Even though my study abroad experience was cut short to two months, it still felt like I was there for the full experience because of how much I found myself integrated within it. I lived in an apartment with three other abroad students located in the 15th Arrondissement. Being a business major, I went through a business-specific program and even took some classes at the Paris School of Business with French and international students alike. I purposefully chose a program where I did not know anyone going into it, which forced me to get out of my comfort zone, coupled with the fact I knew no French whatsoever. I even made a Parisian friend playing pickup basketball at a park and he was able to show me around to what the locals do. It's really easy to make friends when you break their ankles underneath the Eiffel Tower. The best, however, was sitting at a cafe by the street reading a book. The vibes were immaculate.

I've found immense value in studying abroad. I've made lifelong friends both in Europe and America and I learned how to order chicken in French - I accidentally ordered a whole chicken once when I went to the butcher to grab some chicken breasts for lunch. I will not be making the same mistake again. I actually just visited a couple of friends also from the IES program in Los Angeles during winter break. It was great being able to visit them and have an excuse to travel to LA. 

My original plan was to visit other European countries towards the end of my time abroad, so I spent most of my weekends in Paris. That decision led me to get to know Paris better. Even though my abroad experience was only two months long, I found myself integrated into the French culture so much that it felt like the full experience for me.

You won the Innovative Student Video Award from GoAbroad for your film, “Paris – La Nouvelle Experience” – congratulations! Can you tell us about your experience making the film?

Pain. JK. I knew before going to Paris I would be making a film. I just didn't know how fast I would have to plan and film it. For the first month and three weeks, I was just strolling around and receiving inspiration wherever I could - whether that be finding a cool shot of the subway on the Bir-Hakeim bridge during sunset while running by the Seine or just walking around and admiring the architecture. Eventually, COVID became a real threat and before I knew it my roommates were leaving in the middle of the night to go back to the U.S. I spent the last week I had filming all my shots (and also stuffing my face with as many pastries as I could) alongside my friends. The video was originally meant to be a travel video, but it soon turned more sentimental when I started editing back home in Des Moines. Thank goodness for the lockdown, or else I wouldn't have had time to edit because it took me several weeks.

What are some of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?

I ate a macaron the size of a hamburger. Hanging out by the Seine late at night with my pals while a couple of Parisians were also doing the same thing beside us, except they were playing Nicki Minaj on a speaker, was also a great experience. I guess it's a thing they do. I was also able to visit former Iowa basketball player, Peter Jok. At the time he played in a city called Cholet for Cholet Basket of the French League. I actually made a video for him you can check out here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B9XUQtlqe69/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet.

Do you plan to return to France in the future?

​You best believe it. I still need to get that croissant tattoo on my thigh I was planning on getting before I left. Unfortunately, all the tattoo parlors were closed before my flight because of lockdown.

You are nearing graduation – what are your future plans?

My dream job is to work for Uninterrupted, LeBron James' digital media company. Otherwise, I'd like to work in a major international city (preferably NYC, somewhere in Europe maybe London or Paris?, back to East Asia in Taipei, Tokyo, or Seoul?) for a digital marketing/creative ad agency.

Do you believe your global experience will be a benefit to you professionally? 

Absolutely. With being a creative content creator, experiencing different cultures has helped foster my strength in communication by viewing the world from different perspectives and lenses. In turn, my varying worldview has helped shape my passion for content creation and storytelling through the digital medium, specifically videos and photos.

Any advice you’d like to share for other UI students considering study abroad?

Not a Nike ad, but just do it if you have the opportunity to for all the reasons I've stated above. And make sure you know no one going into the program. Again, one of the best decisions I made because it forced me to make new friends from all across the U.S. (and even around the world).

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