What Happens When You Don’t Know Anyone And Decide To Go Abroad, Part V (Paris)

What Happens When You Don’t Know Anyone And Decide To Go Abroad, Part V (Paris)

I still can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that restaurants here just DON'T serve tap water with ice.

Wandy Ortiz

Hi Odyssey readers!

As I fill you in on the week of WHWYDKADGA(lol), I'm both saddened and excited to say that this is the last time this semester that I will be writing from Paris. As I mentioned five weeks ago in Part I, I am part of an International Studies program that takes me to three different European cities, and will be heading to Rome, Italy soon! As a French speaker since the age of ten, it has been a decade+ long dream to study and teach French in Paris. In the time that I've been here, I've also seen the Cliffs of Normandy, been to London, done Euro Disney, and most recently visited Belgium. In this time I can say that I've gotten better at some things and worse at others.

I've gotten better at speaking French and understanding slang, of course. But I haven't gotten better at keeping a decent sleep schedule. I've become more confident in traveling alone and navigating airports, but I still can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that restaurants here just don't serve tap water with ice. Some of these things seem insignificant, but for someone who comes from a very particular area of Western culture, these small changes matter. I have it a little easier than most, where in Paris I don't have a language barrier. For those who have to get a little further

*you know what I'm about to say, alllll together*

"out of their comfort zone"

to study abroad in Paris, it is even more so commendable that they chose to come to Europe. Levels of comfort versus discomfort while abroad vary from person to person. If there is one piece of advice I can give to someone studying abroad, it's trying to not be so eager to flock to your comfort zone. Some cafés will serve "Americanized" food, there will be a McDonald's a few blocks away, and you might be tempted to get an iced latté wherever it may be available. In an ideal world, I'd say don't do it all all. In the real world, I'm saying don't do it until you need to. I would identify needing as indulging in one pseudo- American good per month abroad in order to quell homesickness.

I did it.

One day, towards the end of my month here, I went to Chipotle. The guac was extra, the tortilla chips were warm, and it felt more like home. Giving into that temptation- with caution- is a good way to allow yourself to try all the foods and cultural customs you're hesitant to test out. "I only have to do this weird thing for 12 more days, and then I'll go to the ONE Dunkin' Donuts the whole city has." Seems fair, right?

Now, don't abuse the system or get your hopes up too high with it. Once a month is really a fair amount of Treat Yo Self attitude, but there is no promise that DD in Paris, or Rome, or Seville will taste anything like DD in New York, LA, or Chicago. In taking the indulgence, you also agree to take the risk that you may be heavily disappointed with what they refer to as a "blueberry cake donut" here. (Can you tell I'm missing Dunkin'?)

I'm sure that considering my last week in Paris, you're expecting some ultra-profound revelation as to what a changed person I've become in five weeks. Unfortunately, the path to global cultural and social awareness is not always found in the fast lane. An "A- ha!" moment can come at any time. It might come for me in Rome, where I know the language considerably less, albeit I have been there once before. Then again, it might not. Regardless of when or if this BIG moment comes, it's all the little moments- of learning new customs and a new style of living day by day- that I find are the most transformative and impactful. I don't think you need a daily, weekly, or even monthly epiphany in order to consider time abroad successful.

Study abroad is a rush in that there is so much to see and do and learn, and so little time. At the same time, it should be treated as less of a rush to "change" yourself. It might happen, it might not. Most of us hope an experience will change us for the better, myself included. But, if it doesn't feel like one has yet, or it doesn't feel like anything will right now, give it some time. You will be surprised at what can "change" you.

And so, Au Revoir to my deeply loved City of Lights and Buongiorno to the Eternal City.

(Pasta, here I come!)

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