I am at the point in my program where the end is in sight, and I am rushing to do everything I want to do in Paris before I must go home! It saddens me that I will be leaving soon, I feel as though I could spend much more time here. I am learning every day and feel more and more a part of the city each week. Looking back through my journey to day one, I am astonished with all that has changed. Upon arriving, I experienced culture shock pretty much immediately. One of the biggest reasons was the language. I told myself going into this that I would try to use French as much as possible. Having worked hard and studied French for several years, this was a major goal of mine. At first, this was a difficult task and I had very little confidence when I communicated with people. I felt uncomfortable most of the time, at home, at work and in public. I had a feeling this would be the case, and I know that those moments were really important to get to where I am now. My perspective has changed drastically and I no longer worry about making mistakes or not fitting in perfectly. Having this confidence has not only made me feel so much better about everything I do, but it helps me interact better with others.
The Persian poet Moslih Eddin Saadi once said, “travel without observation is a bird without wings”. I have learned so much just from observing interactions, mannerisms and my surroundings. These observations, in addition to my new found confidence, have really helped me be successful at my job and successful in integrating myself into the city. Observation has taught me things that I could never really learn in any French class or international business class or from any anecdotes.
At this point in the program, I have had the opportunity to experience many of the great things that Paris has to offer: art museums, historic monuments, scenic promenades and fascinating boutiques. While there are still many things on the “tourist” list that I would like to do before I leave, I have recently been more interested in exploring the neighborhoods and quartiers of Paris to observe how the Parisians live. While I recognize myself as a visitor of the city, I do not think of myself as a tourist and feel much more like I am living here. While all the “touristy” attractions are wonderful and unique, I find that what interests me the most is finding beautiful streets in Paris, away from the main attractions, that are far less busy than I would expect. The best part is when I can walk many blocks without hearing a word of English. This makes me feel very immersed and like I am a part of the real city.
Besides a trip to Versailles just outside of the city, I have not left Paris yet. While I would love to visit many other places in France and in Europe, I want to really know Paris, that is one of my goals. However, next weekend I am very excited to take my first adventure out of Paris to Chamonix Mont-Blanc in the French Alps. I am looking forward to hiking among the mountains and experiencing the charm of a smaller French mountain town. Stay tuned for some (hopefully) stunning pictures next week. asthis