So I’m, what, 18 days into my life here in Paris?
The illustrious Shirin Vossoughi (prof at NU) once told me that part of the reason why she thinks that babies sleep so much is because they’re learning everything for the first time.
I’m hoping that she’s right and that it will explain why I already feel exhausted.
Broad reassurance here for you: I don’t hate France, or Paris. I have already had some terrible experiences here, but I have, in equal measure, had some lovely ones.
It can all just be very overwhelming.
Here’s some of the bad and then I’ll write about the good:
A couple days after I got here, a guy tried to steal my shopping bag while I was walking home. I had bought mouthwash and toothpaste on the way back to my apartment. Thankfully, he wasn’t violent and ran away once I started resisting. I filed a police report. The experience just left me with an emotional burden to deal with, so I’ve put the process in motion to see a therapist while here in France.
I also found out that the French consulate in DC in the US didn’t give me the visa I needed in order to be able to work. I can’t receive any social benefits while here in France, nor can I change my visa at all if I decide that I would like to stay here longer.
One of my French professors said the n-word in class. It was in an academic context, but it was jarring, and not even really necessary for the class. I’ve been brainstorming how to bring it up at the end of the next class.
On a much more personal note, someone I was seeing while in Chicago, who actually was a French exchange student, decided that they just wanted to be friends, and I had to deal with the emotional fallout from that.
All of this is to say, my transition to Paris hasn’t been the smoothest it could have been, and I don’t want to hide how messy life can be when you do study abroad.
But what has made it worth it to be here has been the incredible friends and mentors I have who are cheering me on. All of the friends, family, and loved ones who are continually checking in with me and making sure that I feel loved and supported while here in Paris make even the more painful experiences feel less impactful. My roommate recently surprised me with a pastry as a way to usher in my two week anniversary of arriving in this city. Her small thoughtfulness reminds me that as hard as it is to transition into a new place, I don’t have to feel alone.
So here’s some more things that have been lovely to experience here in Paris:
The Louvre is so beautiful that it made me cry. All the museums are free with my student ID and when I went to the Louvre I was so overwhelmed with all the incredible art that I teared up.
The pastries here are incredible. You don’t realize how poorly dessert is made in the US until you come to France and have your first pain au chocolat. It’s something else.
The. metro. is. amazing. Have you ever sat in the cold waiting for the L train, silently cursing public transportation? Well look no further than Paris, because the trains come every 2 and 5 minutes. It’s. So. Nice. I’m getting spoiled. In the same vein, traveling is much less expensive. There are cheap thirty euro buses to Italy and Germany whenever I feel like going. It’s easy to understand how people backpack around Europe.
My classes, besides that incident with one of my professors, have been really fascinating. I don’t feel any intellectual burn out like I sometimes do back at Northwestern. It’s been lovely to take classes here on a variety of topics like biodiversity, the history of homosexuality, and sociology. It makes me excited to learn, and that’s a feeling I’ve been missing a little bit of back in the States.