Nearly 70% of Richmond students study abroad, so junior Julia Straka isn’t alone in spending her fall semester in Paris. However, her experience is decidedly different from every other dance major before her– Julia is the very first to continue her dance education at a dance school abroad. 

Meet Julia Straka, studying at Paris Marais Dance School in France: 

A History of Dancing
I started dancing when I was about 3 or 4, so I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember. What draws me into dance is that it has a way of making you really feel beautiful. I also love how genuine and revealing dance is. It’s hard to hide stress, tiredness, or any other negative emotions when you’re dancing, so to me, dance is one of the most revealing, vulnerable things you can do. 

When in Paris
The most exciting part of studying at Paris Marais Dance School has been getting to know the other students and professors, and becoming part of the culture of the school. As the semester goes on, you not only bond with the other kids at the school that you see every day for hours, but you also learn more and more about the history of the school and the professor. A special (though surreal!) highlight for me was getting to take a ballet class with Royal Ballet soloist Fernando Montaño right at the next barre. 

Living and Learning Abroad
While the most challenging part of being at PMDS has been the rigor of the classes, I’ve definitely gained a lot of confidence. Having professors who push you so hard helps you realize that you have potential and you do have what it takes. I am going to keep pushing myself harder and further in dance when I get back. Outside of PMDS, studying abroad makes you more independent and confident in your ability to take care of yourself. Living in a country where most people do not speak your language and trying to learn the ins and outs of daily life in a foreign country makes you a lot more self-sufficient, and there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from that. 

Life After UR
In the future, I can see myself working in a PR or marketing agency that specializes in the arts industry, or for the marketing/PR team at a dance company, but I would also really love to continue dancing after I graduate. I think that our professors at PMDS really do prepare us not just for a dance career, but also to deal with challenges life can throw at us. 

Keep up with Julia’s experiences at Paris Marais in her blog: blog.richmond.edu/parismaraisdanceschool