Looking back on my semester here in Paris, my mind is a jumble of mixed emotions. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, but for some reason, I find it so hard to articulate these thoughts; nonetheless, I’ll try! Let’s start with the good. First of all, thank you, Paris, for strengthening existing relationships and for introducing me to amazing new friends—I even got a new roommate for New York out of my semester abroad. Throughout the past few months, I’ve met a bunch of new people, who not only have forced me to broaden my interests, but who have also illuminated for me exactly what it is I look for in a friend. In other words, I’ve learned a lot about the type of people I want to surround myself with. To come abroad, someone has to be adventurous and outgoing—or at least striving towards those qualities—and that is the person I want to befriend and learn from, as I’m always trying to push myself to get outside of my comfort zone.
That being said, studying abroad has solidified in my mind that the scariest things are always the most rewarding. The most obvious example is studying abroad itself. I was so nervous to travel thousands of miles from my friends and family and transplant myself into a new and foreign culture. Now? I’m 99.9% sure that choosing to study abroad was the best decision I’ve made in my life thus far. Just this past week I learned how to surf at Guincho Beach in Portugal. The week before that? I jumped off of a boat into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Being abroad has given me the opportunity to conquer fears and to do things I never dreamed I’d be able to.
Another thing to come from my semester here? I’ve been bitten hard by the travel bug. I returned to Paris only two days ago from a two week long Spring Break, during which time I traveled to seven cities. I can’t deny that I’m exhausted, but that hasn’t stopped me from already dreaming up a list of more places I’d like to visit in the future. India, Egypt, Israel, Thailand, South Africa, Australia—these are just a few from my long laundry list of must-go places. Plus, that’s just my international list! There are so many states and cities in the United States that I’m itching to go and see, too. At the top of my list right now is Nashville. Why? It just seems like a fun and happy place filled with friendly people and great music!
Okay, now for the not so good. I think the toughest problem I’ve faced in Paris has been the language barrier. I do speak French, but not fluently. There are some days I get excited about the opportunity to go out and practice speaking my French in the real world rather than just in a classroom. Other days though, I’m just plain lazy. I don’t want to have to think about every word that comes out of my mouth when ordering a coffee or going to the grocery store. While I was away on Spring Break, I visited cities like Rome and Lisbon. While these cities aren’t entirely English-speaking places, there is no pressure on me to try to communicate in Italian or in Portuguese. In Paris, on the other hand, I feel an unspoken obligation to put my French to use while I’m here. Like I said, sometimes that can be fun, but not when you’re exhausted, hungry, or simply in a rush.
All in all though, the good most definitely far outweighs the bad. In fact, I wouldn’t even call the language barrier or anything about my experience abroad “bad.” When things don’t go your way, you simply have to take them as learning experiences and all part of the process. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting your precious and fleeting time abroad on trivial matters. What you’ll remember when you leave to go back home are the good times. The times you pushed yourself to try new things and meet new people. When I get back home, I hope to continue to force myself to seek out adventure and to do things that no one would usually expect of me.