This past week flew by! Every day after work, I always found myself in a part of Paris that I previously didn’t know, trying out some new restaurant or just walking down the tiny Parisian streets and spending a lot more time window shopping than I should. Last Friday, I was able to go to a soccer game at Stade de France and watch France’s national team play against Denmark. The crowd was super excited for the entirety of the game, and when France scored a goal, the energy was just immaculate. Coming from Brazil, a country with a huge soccer culture, it was super cool to live that moment in a country that values soccer as much my home country does because this type of experience is not something we get often in the U.S. To end the week, I got to go to a concert on Sunday night with one of my closest friends, who is also studying abroad in Paris!
Talking about assimilating and adapting to a new culture is not the simplest topic for me because normally, I already have to deal with that on a regular basis. Even though I have been living in the U.S for all of my teenage and young adult years, it is still very normal for me to find myself struggling with cultural differences. Being in France adds a whole other layer to this process because essentially, I have 2 cultural backgrounds to compare to my host country’s culture.
At work, I feel like I am finally starting to feel more adapted and less like I have to be out of my comfort zone 24/7. Every co-worker that I have is super nice and truly helpful, but in the first few weeks, the cultural differences made it much harder for me to feel comfortable in the new workspace. As they told us before orientation, many French people tend to take more time to open up to new people, not because they don’t like you or because they are not welcoming, but simply because they need to trust you a bit before being more social. In the U.S, I personally feel that including newcomers as soon as they come in is much more part of our culture, so maneuvering through this culture shock was tricky. I also come from a culture that is even more inclusive than the in the U.S, so assimilating to this sharp contrast was not the easiest at first. Now, starting my fourth week, not only I am able to understand more of the casual conversations that happen throughout the day, but I also see that naturally, they are including me a little more and making a bigger effort to talk to me and get to know me!
Outside of the work environment, there are not many cultural differences that I am having a hard time adapting to. It’s certainly not like I feel at home all the time, but I think that being previously aware of differences between American and French culture prepared me well for this trip. Most of my French classes at Pitt heavily focused on cultural aspects such as the importance of family, politics, politeness, and the differences in communication styles. Coming here, I felt like I had a pretty decent knowledge of these cultural nuances and I knew what to expect from the day to day conversations and cultural interchanges. Just like last week, the language fatigue is still real, and I miss just being able to say whatever comes to my brain without having to think about every sentence structure. It is not an adaptation issue per say, but not being able to be myself in another language because of language limitations can be quite frustrating and stressful. Yet, the one thing I am desperately missing is food. While the food here has been incredible and I have eaten the best cheeses and bread I have ever had, I would kill for a homemade meal that tasted like home every once in a while.
Overall, as I start my fourth work week and reach the halfway point of this study abroad program, I can say every experience I have lived here has helped me gain more confidence not only in my French skills, but in myself. Learning how to deal with these adaptation challenges and understanding cultural differences helps me have a more inclusive and well-rounded point of view, which was one of the main goals I hoped to reach with the International Internship Program.
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