May 13, 2013 Leave a comment
Ma Vie Française
When people think of Paris, a carefully curated group of images runs through their minds: lovers strolling along the quais of the Seine, la tour Eiffel sparkling across the river from the Palais de Tokyo, the long lines for falafel in le Marais, the view from the top of the esplanade leading up to Sacre Coeur cathedral. This idea, this vision of Paris, is anything but an accident; instead, it is the hard work and tireless effort of executives to create ad campaigns showing the art and fashion capital of the world and films showing Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Tatou, and Romain Duris playing up to the sophisticated, reserved Frenchie intellectual/bombshell that we all dream of being/being with through our childhood and into our adulthood.
As the green tour buses pass by me everyday, I only wish to scream GET OFF GO EAST SEE PARIS, but I know that is not what people want. Millions come to Paris every year, but few truly see it, and that is, frankly, exactly what they want. Few want to speak in French (they have heard Parisians are awfully cold) and few want to see the city’s eastern side (isn’t that…the ghetto…). I, for one, wanted none of that.
“You’re So Brave!”
You’re so brave to do that!” This is a phrase that I’ve heard countless times during the past year, and every time I do I’m a little startled. Spending two semesters in a comfortable, adorable English town at a large and vibrant university, and two summers working on a historic preservation project in Northeast Germany, has never felt dangerous. And I haven’t felt particularly brave for spending twelve months away from home because I’ve been prepped by moving half-way across the country to go to Goucher.
I have had a wonderful year’s worth of travel, self-discovery, and some truely spectacular experiences, and I don’t write this now as a sob story about my failed and lonely study abroad. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been a process that I have undoubtably benefitted from, and will continue to draw meaning and inspiration from for the rest of my life. I write this in the hopes that those who will study abroad sometime in the future can learn from my lack of courage. Perhaps there is an element of bravery in leaving home to live and study in a foreign country, but remember that that is only the start. The challenge to make the most of a study abroad experience is in facing the small, daily fears of participating in a foreign culture.