After all the time I had spent sitting in various history classes talking about people, events, and ideas from places I had never seen, I wanted a chance to experience all these places first hand. Last spring semester, I studied abroad in Paris. It is really difficult to some up an incredible four month experience into just a few paragraphs, But I guess I will have to try my best.
Studying history in Paris opened the doors to all kinds of opportunity. The city sort of just becomes your classroom. In fact, one of my classes were spent half in the classroom and half at various museums and other historic sites. How many times in your life do you get to say you’re late to class in the Louvre? Because we don’t really have the old buildings, cathedrals, and grand palaces, it is such a different world. You feel so small when you look at the grandeur inside palaces like the Louvre, and even Chateau Chantilly, which was meant as a hunting location for the king, but was just as lavish as the rest. When I walked through Versailles, I could really feel why it was that there was a revolution in France. The whole palace was just so opulent and decorated, no expense spared.
I also got the chance to teach alongside a professor there, some American history to a class of French students. The class was fairly proficient in speaking English, yet Speaking to them was very different. I had to watch how I said things, making sure I didn’t use idioms and turn-of-phrases that they wouldn’t understand. It was also very interesting for me to talk to a group that knew so little about American history, since I’m used to being around Americans who get plenty of that even just in grade school.
One of the most challenging parts for me was learning the language, which I must admit I haven’t quite mastered yet, but I picked up a French minor at Eastern in the hopes that I get better, rather than lose everything I have learned. Sometimes, you know exactly what you want to say and how to say it, but you’re so worried about sounding dumb that you end up messing up anyway. There is certainly a certain level of confidence you need to gain, and that can be the greatest obstacle to get around.
Yet it wasn’t just Paris and the French that I now had access to. I was in an international program and became friends with people from all over the world. Two of my best friends while I was there were from Panama, and the other from South Korea. On many weekends, I traveled. Sometimes going to other places in France, like Strasbourg, Normandy, and Chantilly, but I also was able to see and experience other countries as well, including Spain, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and the U.K. and even Morocco. It was a great chance to experience all these other cultures, even if it was just for a few days. Morocco was the most interesting for me, simply because the culture there is so different than what I am used to. But one of my favorite things I did abroad was hike through the little mountain village of Fatima in Morocco to get to see waterfalls running down the mountain and look out at beautifully unfamiliar landscapes.
In the end though, it was Paris that I fell in love with. I loved just walking through the city, even when I didn’t really have a destination. I miss the crepes, the people, and having all of that huge city to explore. I hope one day to have the chance to go back.