Today marks two weeks since I touched down in Paris and the experience has been life changing, eye opening and remarkable. While I have been to Paris in the past, this was the first time I lived abroad and I have already learned so much. Here’s just a sample of the many things I’ve learned already.
1. Paris is as Beautiful as I Remembered it. When I visited Paris on a school trip in 2011, I fell in love with the city and couldn’t wait to return. Now that I’m living here I still cannot get over how amazing it is to live in this city.
2. A “Bonjour” Goes a Long Way. From saying hello before asking for direction to greeting the storekeepers, the slightest manners (and effort to speak French) is greatly appreciated in France.
3. The Orientation Was Amazing. Having 1 1/2 weeks to settle in before starting classes helped out group adjust to culture shock and become a cohesive group. We each made 12 fellow friends which made our experience so much easier.
4. My French is Better Than I Thought. While I took French for 6 years throughout middle and high school, it’s been a handful of years since I’ve had any language training. For that reason I was nervous that I would be extremely lost once I arrived.
5. Sometimes the Best Experiences are the Unplanned Ones. While we’ve already had incredible excursions like the walking tour of Montmartre and a visit to the Jardin du Luxembourg, some of the best times we’ve had as a group were the late night adventures trying to find night bus or taking the wrong metro stop and having to wander through a beautiful arrondissement.
6. Europeans Put Much Thought into How They Dress. While Americans will often through on a pair of basketball shorts, sweatshirt and flip flops if they are just running out of the house, this is not a sight you commonly see while in Europe. The men and women in Paris are always dressed stylishly and as if they walked right off the runway.
7. Don’t Forget to Look Up. On one of our first nights here, we met a woman who has lived as an Au Pair for three years and is from Chicago. She gave us the simple advice to “always look up” to never forget how beautiful this city is, and it really stuck with me.
8. The Eiffel Tower Never Gets Old. On my walk to class every day, Je regard le tour eiffel, and it’s a sight that doesn’t get old no matter how many times you see it.
9. The camaraderie in our group is amazing. I celebrated a birthday not long after arriving in Paris and was a little uneasy about not spending it with my “friends” especially it being my 21st birthday. The family we created at SAI treated me just like that, and we had an incredible night drinking champagne at Montparnasse tower overlooking the Eiffel Tower, before walking there and sitting under it. It was really a night I will never forget.
10. Studying Abroad is Humbling. Especially being in an environment where you do not fluently speak the language, being abroad grounds you in an inexplicable way. Having to adjust your mannerisms, language, tone, and clothing to fit with local customs is an exciting experience that makes you desire to blend in and assimilate to the culture.