Paris, Paris: A Journey into the City of Light by David Downie is a collection of short stories written by Downie that gives extensive insight on certain times and places in French history. I learned much about different part of the cities, such as the Marais and how the area was a popular and active commercial area for the Jewish community during that time and still is today. I also learned more about the Luxembourg Garden and palace and how it was originally built for the wife of Henri IV.
I was hoping to read a collection of short personal stories that outlined his time throughout Paris, but a part of me is glad I was able to read this instead while in Paris. The books gives extensive background on French history, the sights of Paris, famous Parisian residents, and much more. While reading this novel I was able to see exactly what was being said right in front of my own very eyes.
Downie presents the information in a collection of essays which were easy to read through and made me eager to learn more about Paris’ rich and diverse history. I made it a point to try to visit every sight that was written about in the book. For me, Downie made it clear where in Paris was worth visiting and who in Paris was worth remembering. I loved that he didn’t focus on strictly Paris’ political history, but rather its social history as well.
I have been involved in the fashion industry for about three years now and it is safe to say I was more than excited with his essay on the fabulous Coco Chanel. It was amazing learning about her history the history of the fashion industry itself. Chanel truly did start a revolution in terms of the fashion industry. She made it is what it is today and being able to read about her successes truly propelled my passion to succeed in the fashion industry.
Studying abroad and interning in the fashion capital of the world has probably been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Paris views fashion in the same way they view art: as a lifestyle. In Paris, fashion is put on a pedestal, for it highlights the rich culture of the city and country. The world of French fashion is noted by luxury and opulence and in French history, being able to afford the notion of fashion was a symbol of status.
The fashion industry is so different in every country. There was a huge difference in the working environment in an American fashion house than the working environment in a French fashion house. I am extremely happy and honored to have been able to gain the experience of what working in a French fashion house would entail. I have always thought of myself to be very American in my way of working, but this semester has made me realize how much I love the French work aesthetic, especially in the fashion world. It has truly made me think of ways to change my work ethic and aesthetic to better improve my quality of work.
- Christian Dior: Jason Vu
It has been quite an eventful semester, to say the least. I have travelled to eight different countries, I have experienced a hefty theft, I’ve eaten my weight in pastries, cheese, and, wine, I’ve experienced shopping and credit card debt in the fashion capitol of the world, and I would I change anything about this semester? Absolutely not.
Coming abroad I knew I would grow into a completely different person, but I was unsure how so. Was I going to regret the decision to leave New York? How would I adapt into a new environment such as Paris. Why leave a perfectly good lifestyle to completely change my environment? Many factors came in when deciding if going abroad was the right decision for me and I can now say with full regard that studying a semester abroad was one of the best decisions of my life.
The main reason that studying abroad has been a life changing experience, for me, is different cultures studying abroad opened my eyes up to. This semester, I’ve travelled to France, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, England, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. For many of those trips, it was my first time coming to that country and I was eager to explore a new land. I wasned to know Czech culture entailed. What was there cuisine like and how would I enjoy it? What is the daily lives like for the people who live in Morocco? I was just so excited and blown away with everything I experienced while travelling that a certain wanderlust quality took over me and I found myself having to go on as many trips as possible. Trips to new lands that would almost let me experience life in another person’s eyes. I have never been exposed to so many different cultures in such a short amount of time, that it had quite an effect on me. I’m definitely returning home humbled with a new vision of the world. Experiencing these new cultures, especially Parisian culture, has given me such an appreciation for my life thus far and how much good fortune I’ve been blessed with.
Everything that has happened semester, the good, the bad, and the ugly, have lead me here to today. My experiences this semester have given me the tools to want to continue to soar throughout my life while experiencing new cultures and facing new challenges while aiming to be the best version of myself. I find that I am much more aware after my experience abroad. I’m more aware of what I say, how I act, how I portray myself, but I find myself exponentionally more aware of my surroundings. I feel as though I notice much more throughout my day than I did before I got here. It’s possible that because I was in an unfamiliar environment, I noticed more than usual, but I really do feel as though this semester has strengthened my ability to look past myself and really pay attention to other people’s lives and problems.
If anything, I think it’s safe to say that studying abroad has without a doubt humbled me in a way that I never would have expected. Looking through my past blogs, I realized that coming here has really made me think in ways I never thought I could. I’m thrilled I took this class because I will always have this experience documented with me. I’ll never forget about experiences of doubt, excitement, and overall craziness that made this semester what it was. Thank you NYU for making this experience as easy and rewarding as possible.
- photo.PNG: Jason Vu
When I first found out that I was coming to Paris for my fall semester, I certainly had a plethora of questions that I just felt lost in. Where was I going to live? Was i going to have a roommate? Did I have to take a French class? What’s the best way to get cash in Europe? Should I open a new credit card? What happens if I do not fill out my Visa form on time? Would I not be allowed into the country?
All these questions were running through my mind and I found myself quite overwhelmed. So overwhelmed in fact that I considered not coming all together. However, I obviously decided against that decision and I will always be grateful that I made that decision. There are definitely some pieces of advice I would offer to any future students planning on studying abroad at NYU Paris.
First and foremost, please listen and stay in contact with your Study Away Advisor. With all my dizziness of questions my Study Away Advisor was a huge help. She sent out weekly emails jam packed with helpful information about studying abroad. She was also there to answer any questions about studying abroad lifestyle, visa questions, and if she didn’t no the answer to my question she knew exactly who to turn me over to. Your Study Away Advisor wants you to have the best study abroad experience as you can and they will try their very best to make this big transition as smooth as possible. I am extremely grateful for how my Study Away Advisor kept in contact with us and made sure we were on the right track. She made us feel very safe and informed throughout the whole process.
Another piece of advice I would offer to someone studying abroad would to be, if planning of travelling, to wait to book travelling plans until after you’ve arrived. I waited to book travelling until after I arrived in Paris and I’m happy I did. I wanted to wait and see where I would want to go and if there was anyone I would meet in Paris that I would want to go with. Since arriving I made friends in the program and went on many trips wight them. Overall, I’ve went on six trips and all were made with friends I had made throughout the semester. If I had made travel plans before I had gotten to Paris, I would’ve been restricted to a travel schedule and I probably would not have been able to travel with as many people as I did.
On the same token, my largest piece of advice would be to travel. Living in Europe is completely different than living in the states. Getting to another country only takes a couple of hours by bus, train, or plane. Your time studying abroad is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel as frequently as possible. In one semester, I’ve been two six different countries and I still have another trip planned. Travelling experiences you to new places, food, cultures, and lifestyles. Travelling has one hundred percent been the highlight of my study abroad experience. Exploring new lands has been refreshing and is the perfect way to spend a weekend. There’s just nothing like the feeling of being able to go to on a spontaneous weekend trip to another country.
Studying abroad is a certainly exciting and exhilarating experience, but I know from experience that it could be very overwhelming. Do not be afraid to ask any question that comes to your mind. Someone will without a doubt be there for you to help you through this very big change in your life. Be prepared for a huge culture shock and remember to just be open minded. That’s the biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone studying abroad. Keeping an open mind will open you up to a whole new world of cultures and ideas that you would have never thought was there. It’s certainly been a life changing experience.
- Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague: Jason Vu
This semester has been life changing to say the least. I knew that coming here would be an unforgettable experience in itself, but I really had no idea what to expect in coming abroad. What would it be like living in Europe? How much of a struggle would it be to not know the language of the country. I had found my niche in New York. Things have been simply just been working in my favor and it was hard for me to leave everything behind in New York, but I knew that if I didn’t study abroad, I would one eventually come to regret it.
Coming to Paris was quite the culture shock. I became accustomed to the fast paced lifestyle of New York quite quickly so coming to a city as slow paced as Paris was quite jarring. I found myself missing the chaotic blue that is New York City. I missed racing through the urban streets without a care in the world. I felt that when I got to Paris being too face paced was somewhat frowned upon. The French love their time and they cherish it. They let themselves take their time because they feel as though that’s the best way to get results. I’ve always felt that generally multitasking and working fast was the way to produce the best results, but coming to Paris truly made me learn something new about myself.
I’ve never really been one to sit and reflect. I have always been such a busy person and with that I somewhat blocked away many of my emotions because I was too busy to explore them. I never really understood how therapeutic it was to sit alone for an extended period of time and truly just reflect on my life. I learned this on my second week in Paris.
My first week in Paris was full of excitement. I was making new friends, exploring a new city, discovering new night life and generally just kept myself occupied. But when I finally got settled into my new life in Paris, I finally started to let myself dive into French culture. One huge part of Parisian culture is the cafe culture. I’ve written about this several times before, but the cafe culture is truly one of my favorite things about this beautiful city. My first time going to a cafe alone in Paris was an experience I will never forget.
I had a break in between my classes and I didn’t know of anyone who had the same break so I just decided to go to a cafe by myself to experience what the Parisians do everyday. That was when I realized how the slow paced lifestyle in Paris was exactly what I needed this semester. I hadn’t realized, but my life in New York, while rewarding, has been quite hectic. I’ve kept myself super busy and I’ve given myself little time to relax and reflect on how I actually feel about the direction I see myself going in my personal and professional lives.
The Parisian cafe culture and really just living in Paris in general has definitely made me realize how important self reflection is to me. I seems like such a basic idea, but I had never realized how little self reflection I was letting myself do. Now I can’t imagine going a day without at least ten minutes of just sitting by myself and checking in with myself to see how I’m doing. I have a much more clear idea of the person I want to be and the person I want to become and it’s quite comforting to know that moving to Paris and studying abroad has brought this out of me.
- Clock at Musee d’Orsay: Jason Vu
There were many reasons for me to be excited to come to Paris for my semester abroad. I would be able to travel anywhere in Europe on weekends, the food here is absolutely incredible, nowhere quite beats the shopping here, but mainly I was most eager to improve my French language skill. I had only taken two years of middle school French, but what I learned from then really did stay with me. Even after taking three years of taking Spanish in high school, my French always stayed far superior than my Spanish. So it should come to no surprise that when I finally landed in Paris, I was more than ready to start improving on the language.
I was excited to be able to take French class Mondays through Thursdays so I could take full advantage of improving my French. But what I most wanted to do was to completely immerse myself in the Parisian culture including trying my best to use English as little as possible. I wanted to use French as much as humanly possible so that by the time I left in December, my French would be at least proficient enough for a work environment. In the fashion industry, a knowledge of French is a huge advantage. I was excited for my French class, but not quite as excited as I was so use the language in my every day life. But I wasn’t quite expecting the French teacher that I got, and I couldn’t be happier with the lessons I’ve been learning while in class.
On the first day of French class, my teacher told us all that after the first week of class, English would strictly not be allowed to be used in class. Exactly what I wanted! From that first class, I was quite excited that I was lucky enough to have her as a teacher. She’s a Paris native and knows everything humanly possible about the city and uses that in her teaching. She teaches us things about the city that I would never learn in a normal class setting. She’s a firm believer in learning about French culture in a French language class. She teaches us slang, culture activities, she talks to us about French history, and anything else relating to Paris that we ask about.
I found it comforting that her goal in teaching went exactly hand in hand with my goal for my semester abroad. She was everything I was looking for in a French teacher. She teaches us the language more as a friend than a teacher and it motivates me even further to improve my knowledge of the language. She pushes us to get out there and really pursue learning the language by using it as frequently as we can. Even when going to museums she advised us to always read the French descriptions first before the English, for it would help us learn any vocabulary that we didn’t already know. Doing exactly that I had realized that by doing this, I learned that I knew much more than I thought I did.
We come in with stories on what we did outside of class and she shows genuine interest and appreciation for all of our stories. I don’t think I’ve ever had a teacher that has expressed such genuine interest on how we’re using what we’re learning inside our class and applicating it into our daily lives. She makes me appreciate how amazing this experience in my life is and that I should take full advantage of it. She definitely makes me look forward to going to school every day and that’s really all you could hope for in a teacher.
- NYU Paris: Jason Vu
The genius that is Paris to me is that everywhere you look and turn in this beautiful city, you just know that you are in Paris. From the people, to the architecture, to the food you smell in the air, everything combines to make this essence that cannot be described as anything else but Parisian. Parisians live their own lifestyle and as I said before in previous posts, it could not be more different than the lives we life day to day in New York City. As a Californian turned New Yorker, I found that I adapted to New York City quite well. I had already gotten used to the face paced lifestyle quickly and coming to Paris was quite the culture shock.
The lifestyle in Paris is about a quarter speed of the lifestyle in New York. Parisians like to take their time to really enjoy their day rather than rush past it. To me, what embodies the french lifestyle the most is the Parisian cafe culture. I know I’ve talked about cafes densely in my past posts, but I really do feel as though the cafe culture here in Paris truly does emulate the Parisian lifestyle.
Cafes in Paris are usually quite large with a large outdoor seating area that faces the sidewalk. No matter what time of day it is, cafes seem to always appear about half full. People go alone to get a coffee and sit there for hours with a notebook, a computer, or just with their thoughts. Then, of course, there are also people who are meeting for a quick lunch which ends up being about three hours long because Parisians love to talk and the cafes are the perfect place in Paris to have a long uninterrupted conversation. That’s another thing about cafe culture that fits the Parisian lifestyle so well. One could sit at a table for hours, only ordering a cup of coffee, and they will remain uninterrupted until they ask for their bill.
The Parisian lifestyle is one of relaxation and reflection. Parisians are not used to being rushed and pushed out of the door at a restaurant. Coming from America, I’ve had my far share of experiences where it seems like the waiter himself is literally pushing me out of the restaurant. In Parisian cafes, we are simply viewed as customers who will get the attention of the waiter ourselves if we are in need of something. I found myself infatuated with the Parisian cafe culture. One of my favorite cafes is the cafe outside of the restaurant Monsieur Bleu. My favorite time to go is actually at night because there is a straight view of the Eiffel Tower lit up in all of its glory. I can spend hours in a cafe sitting alone and reflecting on my life. I found that when I’m sitting at a cafe, alone with a cup espresso, that is when I feel the most “Parisian.” That is when I feel as though I am actually transplanting myself into Parisian culture and I must say I rather enjoy the nice recess from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
- Le Tour Eiffel: Jason Vu
I knew that I would be in for a treat when coming to Paris for four months. I knew that Paris is filled to the brim with different cafes, brasseries, bistros, and restaurants and I was completely ecstatic to explore new eateries. Leading up to my time here abroad, I spent weeks on TripAdvisor researching different restaurants I knew I would want to visit and when finally getting here, I was more than excited to start crossing restaurants off my list.
My apartment in Paris is located in the tenth district but we didn’t find that out until after we arrived. When we finally moved into our apartment I quickly researched the best cafes and restaurants nearby to get a quick idea of which places I should try out first. Within walking distance from my apartment there are countless amount of restaurants and cafes so were were definitely lucky. There’s an Italian restaurant, a Chinese takeaway shop, a Lebanese late night dining shop, a crepe restaurant, and many French cafes. My first week was spend testing out all the French cafes to see which one had the best menu and ambiance that I would love to spend more time at.
On my fourth day here I found Cafe Pierre which is situated right on the Place de Republique. It has a bunch of outdoor seating, which I was most excited about. As said in many of my past blog posts, I love the idea of just sitting outside at a cafe for hours. Whether alone or with company just simply enjoying the outing.
The ambiance at Cafe Pierre is that of any other typical French cafe. It has many outdoor seats facing the sidewalk with a view of Place de Republique. There’s people surrounding you who are typically doing the same thing as you: simply just enjoying their time sitting at the cafe. The menu is quite extensive so I always have options every time I go. I have yet to be disappointed with the food I’ve tasted from the cafe. I’ve tried the steak frites, both the Croque Monsier and the Croque Madame, the steak tartare, the cheeseburger, and much more and I can’t say I haven’t liked anything. The cafe is a five minute walk from my apartment so you could say I’m a frequent visitor. I go at least once a week and am greeted with a smile every time I go.
There’s something great about having a restaurant you know you love right by the place you live. It’s nice having a go-to restaurant on any day I don’t feel like cooking or just want to get out of the house for a little break. Coming to Paris I’ve allowed myself to have personal reflection time, something I took for granted before I came here. I’ve never really took the time to be alone and just think and now I can’t imagine going a few days without it. Paris really does force you to reflect. I don’t know how so, maybe because the lifestyle is so much more slow and relaxed here, but I definitely find myself thinking about my life and where I see it going quite often. That’s my favorite part about not only this cafe, but cafes in Paris in general. Whether I’m with people or reflecting alone, I never have any anxiety about sitting in a cafe.
- Croque Madame: Jason Vu
When coming to Paris for my semester abroad, I knew I’d be in for a artistic treat. I was excited to visit the worlds most famous museums and actually be able to explore the museum in its entirety, not just visit the museum for a quick stop on my short trip. Paris is home of arguably the most beautiful art in the world. Whether is be paintings, sculptures, etc., the city has countless pieces of art. With museums like the Lourve and the Musee d’Orsay it makes it so easy for us to have access to artwork that has been discussed for years.
But what is art? Throughout my stay here, I have realized that the whole city itself is art. Walking everyday I feel as though I am literally being presented with art everywhere I look. Art isn’t only limited to things that could be hung on a wall and only items that can be put in museums. Art is something that simply evokes emotion or discussion. I view buildings as some of the most important works of art in Paris. Paris is home to some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen. The architecture is what strikes me here. It evokes me. It makes me think and want to discuss more about it.
The Notre Dame is probably one of my favorite monuments in Europe. The architecture in absolutely stunning and intricate. I still can’t fathom how human beings were able to erect the cathedral. The amount of hard physical work that went into building the monument is very clear. I’m fortunate enough to be able to pass the church every single day on my walk to school and I have to say, I am still blown away by the beautiful architecture. When my mom came and visited me last week she made sure that she’d be able to make a trip to the beautiful cathedral, as she always does every time she comes to Paris. I decided to go with her and it was actually the first time I went inside during this trip. The inside was just completely breathtaking. I’ve been inside before, but I haven’t ever myself completely soak my surroundings in. It was the first time I ever just saw the monument as a piece of art. For people to go through that much effort to make sure it looked as beautiful as it turned out, I don’t know what else to call it other than art.
Another monument that I view as a piece of art is the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs Elysees. The arc is another monument that I used to just smile at and go along with my day. On a recent class trip I was able to see the arc for what it truly is: a piece of art. It’s easy for me to just simply see a monument and just look at to simply say, “I’ve been here.” Knowing what I know now about the arc, it seems silly that I hadn’t realized it before. It’s still impossible to me how people were able to construct such a masterpiece.
Art is around us everyday and this city truly made me appreciate my surroundings. It makes me excited to go back to New York because maybe I’ll be able to see it in a new light. Maybe I’ll be able to go back to New York with a new perspective and a new appreciation of the city. I’m very excited to see New York in a new light because seeing Paris in a new perspective has without a doubt opened my eyes to the beauty that is simply this city.
- Arc de Trimophe: Jason Vu
Coming to Paris from New York, I had many expectations about French culture and about how I would adapt to the Parisian lifestyle. I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Parisians’ way of living is vastly different than New Yorkers. New Yorkers have no problem with surrounding themselves with an environment that is moving a mile per second, while Parisians enjoy living a much slower and more relaxed lifestyle. I have to admit, I was quite excited to get a little bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of a heavy metropolitan life. What better way to take a break from one of the busiest cities in the world than to spend a whole semester in a relaxing, but still urban, city like Paris?
While coming here with many expectations, being here still gave me quite the culture shock. I have travelled to Paris before, but for some reason the things that really stood out to this time didn’t quite stick out to me on my previous trips. My first thought while being here was that I have never felt more “American.” I noticed right away that most of the Parisians we encountered could easily label me and my group as American. I was shocked. I’ve been to Paris so many times but why was it that this time it was so easy to be labeled as American?
I was the first time I finally saw how the rest of the world viewed us Americans. It’s the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we express ourselves. It’s everything we do that makes us stand out to the rest of the world. Staring is a French tradition that has never been considered invasive or rude. Walking down the street, it was easy to tell who knew we were American because Parisians would just stare at us knowing we were foreigners. At first I just didn’t understand it. How could they tell? Why were they so sure of where we came from? Did our clothes just scream American? Was it because we were always taking pictures of stunning monuments and views?
I then remembered my thoughts before leaving New York and my expectations of the French culture. I thought about how they dress, how they talk, and how they lived their life, so I guess it wasn’t fair me to say that I didn’t understand why they just knew we were American. From there, it really made me think about what makes people immediately notice that I’m American. What really makes us “American?”
It made me think about how the American lifestyle is hugely publicised internationally. American movies, television, music, and celebrity culture is constantly being released internationally so it’s safe to say much of the world has a good sense of who Americans are. It was hard for me to admit that I was a “stereotypical American” but with everything the American media releases in today’s age, it’s hard to say there is a typical American. I really just had to let my insecurity of being such an “American” go and with that, I was able to just relax in the city that was meant for relaxation and reflection.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin follows an American man named David through his journey of finding himself. The beginning of the book shows him alone in a house in the South of France and he recounts his past events which lead him to where he is now. He proposed to his girlfriend Hella, but was also having an affair with an Italian man name Giovanni. At the end of the book, Hella is on a boat back to America while Giovanni is getting executed.
He originally was from a broken family in Brooklyn, NY and moves to Paris and goes on a lengthy adventure where he really just learns much about himself. I definitely see a lot of myself in David’s character in the book. I may not come from a family with a drunk father and my mother may not have passed away when I was five years old, but I definitely have gone through the same journey of finding myself and dealing with the consequences of what that might mean, especially in Paris.
This novel opened my eyes and let me see Paris in a different light. When I originally came to Paris, I told everyone that I was expecting some big change in myself. I told everyone that I was going to grow a lot from my study abroad experience and that I was going to return a different person. Maybe I was exaggerating a little, I still stay very true to what I told people before I left for Paris. David’s journey of finding himself took place in Paris and I could very well relate to him.
He moved from Brooklyn to the foreign city of Paris all by himself. I only knew one person when coming here. His experiences and stories made me realize how amazing the city of Paris is for one who really would just like to take a step back from their world and reflect. I always knew that this city as much slower and more relaxed, but this novel made me view Paris as the perfect location for someone to go on their own journey of enlightenment.
While living in Paris, David encounters with different homosexual men and they give him a new perspective in life, especially Giovanni. I have met so many Parisians here and have learned their stories, but never realized how much their stories have put an impression on me. I don’t know if anyone knows this, but Parisians are very different than Americans. Parisian culture is probably the complete opposite of New York City culture, so learning about the everyday Parisian lifestyle and culture has truly been one of my favourite parts about coming here.
Though my time has has been quite short, I still believe that I am on a journey through a labyrinth where the end goal is finding more about myself. I have time to reflect about myself, my family, my life thus far, and how happy I am about everything that has occurred that has brought me to where I am today. This city helps me with all of this. The lifestyle that the Parisians have helps me hone in to what in my life makes me happy, gives me struggles, and is holding me back. I can relate to David because he came to Paris with many inner struggles, but by just being in Paris he was somewhat forced to address them. That’s what I love about this city. Without even knowing it, it makes you ponder. For some reason, this city fills your minds with thoughts you never would’ve thought were on your mind. It is a great city to just lose yourself with your imagination. We are rarely ever given the time to just let our thoughts take us away and now it is something I’ll cherish while here and for the rest of my life.
- “The Labyrinth”: Jason Vu