Three. Two. One. I squealed in excitement, as celebration outside soon engulfed the sound of my own. I was here, in Paris, for the New Year’s countdown. My friend and I decided to stay home, as I was only 5’4” and she was 5’5”, and we deemed that it would be impossible for us to look at any monument clearly in person. Watching the countdown from a live video, we had on both Eiffel Tower lighting up the sky and Arc de Triomphe with jumping 2018 on its façade. This marked the midpoint of my study abroad program.
I simply cannot believe it has been four-and-a-half months since I have arrived at this elegant yet archaic city. I experienced the dreadful bureaucracy, cancelled RER rides, and just a fraction of art museums that display wonderful masterpieces, and most of all, stairs. I learned while in Paris that French invented the elevator, yet, they rarely seem to use it. I live in a chamber de bonne- formerly used as a maid’s room. It is very spacious, especially considering I live in a quartier that is safe and more expensive in an already very expensive city. But it also has its downsides: I have to walk up to the seventh floor. Even after months of practice, it still takes me a long time to get to my room.
In the mornings, I take the metro if I do not have time to spare. It takes me about 40 minutes to get to school by metro, and the other option is the bus (well, it varies from 25 to 60 minutes, not reliable when you have a class to attend). The attendance at Sciences Po is very strict. You cannot miss more than three, as you only have twelve sessions, AND they often do a roll call two minutes after the start of the class. But when I can afford to take a longer route, I love to hop on the bus to see the Eiffel Tower.
I get to see the Eiffel Tower every time I take the bus. This particular picture was from when Paris promoted their upcoming Olympics in 2024. Currently, they removed it from the site.
As I look forward to the beginning of the second semester, I now feel ready to start a study abroad program. It may sound silly, but I feel like I just got here, a week ago. Time flies when you meet so many people in a new place. Also, my French is nowhere close to the level I thought I would be by now. As I start the new semester soon, I am ready for the first-come-first-serve registration process. I will be ready, only this time, I will be in Paris to compete for the spot.
Time did not fly. It was practically non-existent. It has been already six weeks and I only have a month and a half left of school in Paris. Actually, for my last spring break, I planned a trip to visit my friends from last semester. Despite the fact that my friends chose to travel to warmer countries, such as Portugal, Morocco or even Spain, I have opted to travel further north- Norway and Sweden. Although I had escaped the brutal winter in Ann Arbor this year, the Nordic countries made sure I didn’t miss out.
It was absolutely freezing without my winter jacket (which I left at home) but still beautiful to see that I saw the countries that I had imagined covered in snow and ice. It is good to be back now in Paris. As I am writing this blog post, I am sitting inside one of the most famous coffee spots in Paris: Le Caféothèque. Located by the Seine, it is quite roomy for a coffee shop in Paris. The rooms are divided into themes (and I am sitting in a tropical setting), but more importantly, they serve proper iced drinks.
When people say that Europeans do not drink their coffee iced, they really do mean it. I was horrified to see the baristas make hot latte and pour that over ice. What I would end up is paying five euros for a lukewarm watery latte. I had given up but I found two places that I have come to love for iced lattes: Le Caféothèque and KBCafeshop (for regular latte or cortado, there are many other coffee specialty places that are amazing). The latter is probably due to the fact that my friend works there and whenever she is there, she knows how to make my favorite drink. That aside, the coffee culture in France consists of espresso. That is pretty much it. Nothing else. I rarely see French drinking coffee with milk. Yet interestingly, while living in France, I adapted to the following: no AC, stairs (endless in every metro station), drinking espressos, finding extremely good baguettes everywhere, learning to eat stinky yet incredibly delicious cheese (and confit d’oignon), and being accustomed to lovely cheap wine. At the moment, the winter in Paris is longer than usual, so I am just looking forward now to the day where I can chill by the Seine with friends between classes or a sunny day at Champs de Mars having a picnic with Eiffel Tower in the background. Hopefully, the spring comes before the exams.
I made it! Senioritis came pretty hard this spring, which caused me to write 34 pages in the last week of classes, but regardless, I have managed to finish every assignment necessary to complete the second semester at Sciences Po. It is hard to imagine myself on a plane leaving Paris in a week (but I will be leaving a piece of my heart in Paris). It certainly has been a wild ride. I met so many amazing people here and staying an entire year here has allowed me to be somewhat conversational in French again (but then that will soon disappear into thin air).
It still has not hit me yet, although I am packing for my departure right now. It still feels like I have so much time left, because it felt like only a few weeks since I arrived in August. But then again, I know what and where my favorite places are. I know where to go for certain shops, museums, events, or restaurants only the locals know. In addition, I have travelled across Europe, even though I have yet to travel to many European cities and countries, and I know my metro line (ligne 9) so well that I don’t have to look at the flashing lights to see what station is next (also the line 9 cars have air-conditioning). I even went to Giverny on a quick daytrip to see the Japanese Garden in real life!
On the other hand, I feel as though I have just settled and now I know what I want and need. Nine months sounds like a longtime, but it sure does not feel like it in this wonderful city. I am looking forward to go back home but I know I am a different person from when I left. Being alone in a new country, new city when you are little bit older (as in not right out of high school), has a different impact than when you are still just a teenager adjusting to college.
Now as I reflect from the very first day, when I was simply excited to be in Paris to now after two semesters of classes (it is not easy at Sciences Po), I am learning still. Being in Paris, as lovely as it sounds, made me appreciate so many things around me that I have taken for granted and about myself. In my opinion, by going abroad, you become an international student, and as a result, it teaches you to mingle with other students from all over the world. Best of all, you will learn so much more than the knowledge inside a classroom while you are studying abroad. Whether you are sitting by the Seine or eating dinner with friends, the interactions stimulate your mind to expand through sharing cultures, opinions, and that moment. In the end, I hope that you will discover the world and how small but magnificent it really is, just as I have.