Studying abroad has meant putting myself way outside of my comfort zone. I am quick to welcome challenges and believe that you grow the most when you choose to do something every day that scares you. I like to think I adapt to new situations with ease, but I have most definitely experienced my fair share of language and culture barriers. I am not in my typical element in the beautiful city of Paris, but that just adds to the excitement. Keeping a journal of my daily experiences failed before I even got here, and looking for ways to document my life in Paris is a work in process. However, I’ve come to realize that the lessons I’ve learned abroad align with what I’ve learned on the Paris metro. This may be repetitive for some that saw my social media post, but I believe it’s worth expanding on.
Sometimes you have to get uncomfortably close to people.
If we want to love people well we have to be willing to listen to the good and bad. Living in a different culture has brought some of the most amazing people into my life that I otherwise would never have gotten the chance to know. Hearing others’ life stories has taught me the importance of understanding what makes us who we are, and that we aren’t really that different after all. I’ve learned the importance of focusing on meeting someone where they are at, rather than placing unfair expectations on them that they are unaware of.
Smile. Even if everyone around you won’t.
Don’t conform to the norm just to fit in. Make someone feel known and loved by grinning. :) I believe smiling goes a long way. And, in Paris, smiling on the metro is sometimes considered taboo. I still like to smile and the other person always smiles back! It’s contagious and scientifically proven to make you feel joy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to put a little more happiness into the world.
The metro smells bad sometimes… actually, 95% of the time.
Life sucks. The bad parts are a part of it, but they ultimately grow us into who we are for the better. This past year has brought a lot of difficulties. But I’m thankful for that because I learned a lot about myself and life, that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
You should offer your seat to those who need it.
Serve those around you selflessly and with kindness, not just because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think this needs a lot more explanation, except if we all did this more often the world would be much better off.
There is more than one way to the same spot. The metro can be the quickest way sometimes, but it doesn’t have the best views like taking the bus or walking does.
Get a new perspective. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to grow outside of your familiar bubble. The world is full of incredible people who have different life experiences, and I believe we can learn a lot when we are willing to listen. Go meet one new person today.
Know where you’re going.
Yes, being aware of differing ideas is important, but so is staying true to your convictions and standing up for what you believe in – and doing so in a way that shows kindness and grace. Question what you believe. Don’t always take what others say as true without researching and finding the answer yourself. I believe that asking the hard questions grows us more than being complacent does.
You don’t have to be in a hurry on the metro. Another will come in 2 minutes.
Slow down and take the time to truly take care of yourself. Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to take a brain break, and they are perfect for long metro rides. I recently listened to one that talked about breaking from the “treat yourself” mentality, and making a list of life giving practices. List 5 things that fill you up and 5 things that drain you so you can focus on those areas of your life.
I’ve learned a lot the last few months of living in Paris, and look forward to what is to come in the last month of my study abroad experience. Thank you to my whole family who have made it possible for me to be here. Thank you to my friends, my favorite gals of Chi Omega, and all the wonderful people at SAI who have continued to encourage me through this whole process.
Jordan is a SAI Paris fall 2018 student from Baylor University.