I can safely say that this past week has definitely been the busiest week of my life. While I personally feel that I am benefitting greatly from the structure of a classic 9-5 job, adjusting to a new environment, host family, and job while simultaneously trying to enjoy the wonderful city of Paris has definitely taken its toll. I have blisters on my feet, tons of dirty laundry that needs washing, and a newfound appreciation for cheese, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
I began this week by having my first day at my internship at Bibliothèques Sans Frontières or BSF. I had a fairly eventful first day where I not only got locked out of the office without the door code, but also had to introduce myself in front of the whole organization within 30 minutes of arrival. I found out that I am going to be working with a small team of people mostly on educational and formative content resources for BSF hubs around the Francophone and Anglophone world. More specifically, this means that my day-to-day tasks are likely to center mainly around translation, as much of BSF’s instructional documents were written in French at the Paris or Brussels BSF offices. Thus far, I have already translated documents ranging from instruction manuals for offline servers that are used in areas underserved by internet infrastructure, to deployment manuals for mobile libraries that carry up to 500 books as well as countless other digital resources as well as a mission proposal to UNESCO requesting funding for 100 mobile libraries in the Sahel.
Due to the fact that my work so far has been translation, there is not much prioritization needed to complete my responsibilities. I have a spreadsheet with all of the documents that need translating, and I simply move down the list one presentation or document at the time. However, I have found that managing my time is much more difficult than expected. Many of the French documents contain extremely technical language and jargon related to preexisting BSF projects, and it has proven complicated to balance translating the exact technical meaning of those words and phrases while still trying to balance the flow of the overall document. Moreover, it can be extremely draining to maintain focus when working on the same document for long periods of time. In order to manage this, I work very similarly to how I complete my coursework in Pittsburgh. I use a system of little goals that force me to be extremely productive in short bursts. Not only does this system work best for maximizing my productivity, it also allows for substantial brain-breaks which are essential for me to remain productive over seven to eight hours. Additionally, I try to hold myself to only translating texts in half page chunks, which allows me to retain my motivation from making consistent substantive progress, but also doesn’t overwhelm me when I encounter a sentence or word that requires a more complicated translation.
Other than translation, I also spent my Friday afternoon working in the field with one of my coworkers. We took the metro to a micro-library built into a hotel room in the commercial business district of La-Defense just outside of Paris. There we played games and read French books with a number of Ukrainian children being temporarily housed in the hotel. The micro-library itself was created in collaboration with the hotel’s management at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and is part of a small network of resource centers around Paris that are currently being used to ease the transition of young Ukrainian refugees into France. It was wonderful to see how much joy these children carry with them despite their circumstances, but also an important reminder on the importance of accessibility for cultural resources for migrants of any kind. As few Ukrainian migrants speak French, BSF anticipates that many more micro and permanent libraries will need to be created to supplement the integration of migrants into French society.
While I think I can conclusively say that I have probably finished the hardest week of my time in Paris (other than maybe the week before I have to leave of course), I am also extremely grateful to have such an opportunity to both learn about France and myself. After mostly getting over the anxiety of beginning an international professional experience, I am happy to say that it has been a truly wonderful start to the summer!