Visiting Paris had always been a dream of mine. I know that’s cliche, but it’s true. As a little girl I dreamed of walking around the city, ogling at its architecture, eating baguettes and macaroons, and visiting all the museums. That dream finally came true when I was accepted to study abroad. Instead of just planning a week-long visit, I am actually studying and living in Paris.
Both my study abroad program and home institution warned me about the culture shock I might experience when arriving in Paris, but I didn’t really think too much about it. After the first two days of being in Paris, I started to feel lonely. I missed my family and friends. That feeling began to turn into excitement after an excursion to the Loire Valley with my study abroad program that following weekend. We toured historic castles of royals and aristocrats. I was in awe of the beauty and rich history of France.
I started to make friends with other students in my program and at the host institution. I began to create my own routine. However, that feeling of loneliness and frustration returned during my second week in Paris. As I mentioned in my previous post, my French speaking skills were not at the level I wanted them to be. Therefore, I faced some challenges when it came to communicating with the locals. After lots of practice and studying for my language class, I finally started to feel more comfortable with French and began to feel like a local because I started to take possession of key places in my neighborhood: my local boulangerie, my grocery store, my favorite restaurant. Now, the people who work at the places welcome me with warm smiles and sometimes they even remember my favorite order.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th that claimed the lives of 130 people, I was faced with another challenge: should I stay in Paris or should I return home? For a week, I battled with this decision. I love studying abroad in Paris, but I was also afraid and I missed my family more than ever. After seeing the resilience of Parisians after the attacks, I decided to stay. I wouldn’t let fear get the best of me and ruin my experience. I worked extremely hard to get the opportunity to study abroad and I was determined to enjoy this experience completely.
The thought of leaving Paris makes me sad even though I miss my hometown. I am disappointed that my study abroad program ends before the summer season in Paris. It is my favorite season and while Paris is beautiful in the fall, I can only imagine how beautifully everything blossoms in the summer. Although I am very much looking forward to being home with my friends and family, I know that I will always look back on my study abroad experience every day that I am home. Paris has my heart forever.