Stepping Away From the Crowds

As I get ready to begin week four at my internship, I am approaching the midpoint of my program. On the one hand, it is hard to believe that I am already almost halfway through, but at the same time I feel as if I have been in Paris for much longer than 3 weeks. I have learned, discovered, and experienced new things and places every day since my arrival.

Now that I have learned more about Parisian norms and lifestyles, I feel more comfortable interacting with people in public. Last week I managed to put a pretty big scuff on the toe of my dress shoe, so I decided I would take it a cordonnerie (cobbler’s shop) to have it repaired and polished. I found a shop near my work and dropped my shoes off on my way home. A few days later, I received a call telling me I could pick them up so I went by the shop, got my shoes and had a good conversation with the shop owner. Although it may seem insignificant, the whole things felt good having done it all in French and it made me feel like a true Parisian. It certainly wasn’t anything the typical tourist would do.

Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, with thousands of tourists roaming the city each day. When I first arrived, I felt most comfortable in touristy areas where I could always hear an English speaker in the crowd and I felt that I was always surrounded by many others who are visiting. But now that I am more comfortable here and more confident in my French, I find that I much prefer to experience the side of Paris that the locals experience—the real Paris. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the museums and monuments and well known streets and shops of Paris, but I especially enjoy finding beautiful places in the city haven’t been plagued with the touristy facades and gimmicky souvenir shops on every corner. After all, this city is so big and most of the touristy locations are concentrated in the center.

At my internship, I still find it both fascinating and humbling to be working with people from such diverse backgrounds. Sometimes at lunch, the team will get into discussion about their families and home cities and it is very interesting to hear from people with different perspectives. My supervisor, for example, is an extremely cultured and well traveled individual, speaking 6 languages, and having lived and worked all over the world. I feel that I am learning a lot just by being around these people with different backgrounds and my cultural awareness is certainly developing as well. I hope to continue getting closer with my colleagues so that I can continue to learn from their experiences.