I Traded Blacksburg For Paris And It Was The Best Decision I Ever Made

I Traded Blacksburg For Paris And It Was The Best Decision I Ever Made

Studying abroad in Paris for a semester was the best decision I've ever made.

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During the second semester of my freshman year, I applied to study abroad in Paris for five weeks over the summer. At first I had many reservations, like the cost and missing home, however, now I cannot imagine my life without this experience. In the days between finishing freshman year and the beginning of study abroad, I was mixed with excitement and nerves.

It felt different than simply going to college because your parents are not just four hours away, but a whole ocean. When I got to the airport, I knew it was the right decision. I started making conversation with the other people on the trip, but I had no idea that these strangers were going to become so important to me.

I had vaguely known two of the people on the trip, and one ended up being my roommate which was a relief! We all got to know each other pretty fast while exploring the city of Paris. The beautiful architecture, wonderful food, and great new friends made the transition from Virginia Tech easy.

Most of us took two classes while being there, which included a curriculum based around the French language and culture. We took classes with people from all over the world which was an amazing, and immersive experience. Other parts of the course included walking tours and weekend excursions which were full of information and group bonding. From Notre Dame to Chambord, I loved and savored every second. It was school, but it felt also like a vacation. The constant excitement of the city kept me going through our written assignments, and writing about art museums did not feel like a chore. Having lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens almost every day was one of the many experiences that I will never forget.

The group of people that were on the trip was so unique and I honestly don't know if we would have been friends otherwise. There is something, however, about being abroad together that makes everyone want to be with each other and share the experiences.

I studied French all throughout high school and took only the first semester of freshman year off, but studying in Paris made me fall back in love with the language and culture. The smallest things like doing my homework sitting by the edge of the Seine or taking a trip to the Centre Pompidou to admire modern art made the trip all worth it.

These are memories that I will cherish forever, and Paris will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Yes, studying abroad is a big commitment, and yes it is expensive, but I have absolutely no regrets about my time there. All I can say is thank you to the friends I've made, the professeur who led the trip, and to my parents for believing in a worldly education.

Merci beaucoup.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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14 Things Not To Forget On Your Next Vacay

Every time I go on a trip I always forget at least 1 things.

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There are all sorts of things that we forget to pack when we go on vacation. How can you remember all the little details when a fun-filled trip awaits you? Not to worry! Here is a short list of items that can be easily forgotten. Pull this list up when packing for your next trip and be relieved when you haven't forgotten a thing.

1. A Phone Charger


2. Toothpaste/Toothbrush



3. Your Favorite Pillow



4. Socks/Underwear



5. Glasses/Contacts



6. Sunscreen



7. A Bathing Suit



8. Lip Balm



9. An Umbrella



10. Sunglasses



11. Money



12. Snacks



13. A Jacket



14. Extra Shampoo/Conditioner



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