This week, UCEAP French Language & Culture participant Brooke Pland shares her experiences from her first few months in Paris, a city that has become her second home. As she discovers the city’s hidden treasures and overcomes linguistic and cultural barriers, Paris has become a place that she warmly returns to after her travels across Europe, in other words, home.
When I first arrived in Paris, I had no idea what the study abroad experience would bring. To be quite honest, I didn’t even have time to think about it! I had orientations to attend, an apartment to move into, and new classmates to meet. From the moment I stepped off of the plane in Paris, everything began happening so quickly that I found myself just taking it one day at a time.
I’m so glad I did! Having an open mind has allowed me to be amazed over and over again by the beauty of this incredible city, the fascinating Parisian culture, and the thrill of adapting to a new kind of normal.
My first few weeks in Paris were a whirlwind of excitement. In the first few days, I tried my first espresso, bought macarons at Ladurée, relaxed beneath the Eiffel Tower, wandered through the Musée d’Orsay, enjoyed gelato in the Tuileries Gardens, and admired the breathtaking cityscape from the bridges over the Seine.
Each day, I’d explore somewhere new, and each day, I’d return to my little apartment in the 11th arrondissement full of wonder. With every new boulangerie and beautiful building, my love for Paris grew. And with every new street and Métro stop, my knowledge of this new home grew, too.
My favorite part of this whole experience has been forming my own opinions about things. For example, living in Paris became a lot more fun when I learned which pastries I prefer at the boulangerie, which neighborhoods are my favorites to spend an afternoon in, and what there is to do in my own area of the city.
Here’s what I’ve found out: a pain au chocolat can make anything better, the Marais and the Latin Quarter are incredibly charming, and the 11th has some really great Thai food.
I value these things all the more because I discovered them for myself. I don’t just like pains au chocolat because everyone thinks that croissants are the epitome of Paris; I like them because they’re truly delicious! In the same vein, I love the Marais because I’ve wandered through its petites rues and have found it to be full of delicious food and cute shops and lively music and street art.
I love these things because they’ve become, in a sense, mine. I truly believe that the most valuable part of an experience abroad is finding pieces – big or small – of that new place which hold meaning for you personally.
I know I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower peek out over the treetops. (I actually gasped and squealed like a little girl!) Nor will I forget how it felt to step out onto my balcony and gaze out at the city lights my first night in the city. And the first time I made it smoothly through an interaction using only French, I felt like I’d just walked on the moon. (Granted, I had only ordered a pain au chocolat on my way to class, but the victory felt the same nonetheless.)
Now, two months into my study abroad experience, I feel at home here. I can speak decent French, I can navigate the city with ease, and after weekend trips to other countries, I look forward to coming back “home” to Paris.
Living abroad never ceases to challenge me, though. Even after two months, there are still hurdles to jump over. Each day requires both a bit of boldness and a willingness to make mistakes. But, little by little, through all the “bonjour, madames” and the “pardons” and the “ouis” and the “s’il vous plaits,” I feel like I belong here – like I’m a part of this hustling, bustling, magical city just like everyone else.
And in return, this magical city will forever be a little part of me.
~Brooke Pland, UCEAP Language & Culture in Paris
Did this post inspire you to study abroad and have the experience of finding your second home for yourself? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to take the first step: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.