Different, yes. My first week in Paris has been… different. Not bad, necessarily, but rockier than anticipated. What no one tells you (until you’re in the same situation and reach out for consolation, of course) is that making friends abroad can be hard, really hard. In new situations, people tend to stick with what or who they know, making it difficult for the “outsiders” to infiltrate these sacred and much-developed – or not? – social circles. Point being: The first few days were really lonely.
Said loneliness probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I got food poisoning in Rome the day before orientation began in Paris and had to arrive late. I’m convinced that I’m the only person in the entire history of the universe who has gotten sick on their 21st birthday from anything other than alcohol. (Joking.)
However, Paris is, as immensely cliche as it sounds, wonderful. The city itself is just as magnificent as any could possibly be with its historically dense architecture, Sephoras galore, and melodic language. I’ve been before but never have had the opportunity to spend extensive amounts of time wandering around neighborhoods like Le Marais and eating my actual weight in croissants, so that’s been good.
Let me go back a bit and introduce myself. Hi, I’m Zoe. I’m a junior in Gallatin studying Food Theory and Journalism and minoring in Anthropology. What is Food Theory, you ask? Well, practically anything and everything I find fascinating about food trends and taste. Add equal parts History, Cultural Studies, Media, Marketing, and a sprinkle of Public Health and bam! There you have it. I also happen to really like croissants, but you probably already could infer that.
The study away program at NYU has always been one of its most attractive qualities. It was never an option for me not to go. Plus, after talking about my friend’s experiences studying away on my tours and not having any of my own stories to contribute, I figured that had to change. And what better place to explore (and study, of course) than one with arguably the best food in the whole world? Yep, none. Paris it was.
But romanticizing an upcoming experience, especially related to travel, is so darn easy to do. Yes, there have been many parts that have lived up to, and exceeded, my expectations but other parts have been downright hard, like the difficulty with making new friendships. I didn’t expect that. But I came for adventure and from the first day on, adventure is what I’ve gotten. During my first full day in Paris, I managed to get myself into a plethora of situations that, if it were in New York, I most likely would have had a near panic attack over. My phone died, which led to me attempting to hail a taxi, but as I did not know my full address yet, he rudely declined to help. I then used a physical map – gasp! – to get to the metro station twenty minutes away and the train I needed proceeded to be 30 minutes late. That’s practically unheard of for the Paris transit system. Too many people were pushing and shoving to get on and as a 4’10” girl, I did not want to get trampled, so I waited for the next one. As it approached, I felt a hand on my back and, as one does, got worried. But I turned around and it was a young boy, no older than twelve and toting a giant carton of orange juice in his other hand, attempting to usher me onto the train to ensure I actually made it on this one. Maybe he saw my distress. It was in that moment, though, that I realized this city and its people were not, in fact, trying to push me but simply provide new experiences (which will undoubtedly be turned into stories for my tours) and a different way of life than in New York. That is, one that’s more relaxed, arguably kinder – minus that taxi driver – and one that I’m really, really happy with. I’m also excited to report that I do have friends now and am much less lonely. Yay for companionship!
In just a week, I’ve already made the decision that I’d like to move back here after college, so… sorry, Mom and Dad!