It’s so strange that this semester is coming to an end. The greatest tragedy is the fact that I’ll likely be spending the bulk of my last weeks cracking out papers and studying for exams. Or at least I should be. My mother came to visit me this weekend (hence the late post). She hadn’t been to see me since she dropped me off in January, back when I was cold, nervous, and half convinced I’d made a terrible mistake. Taking her around town provided in opportunity to show her, and myself, how far I’ve come since then. My conversations with her about my sister’s plans to go abroad in a couple years also led me to reflect on the ups and downs of my time in Paris and a few pieces of sincere though perhaps contradictory advice.
1) Embrace alone time
As a strongly extroverted person who enjoys spending time with my good friends, one of my major hesitations with regard to going abroad was leaving everyone I knew being and starting again socially. While I’ve been able to maintain close touch with all my folks in the States and make meaningful relationships in Paris, I also have enjoyed the unexpected benefits of quality time to myself. For the first time, I’m living in my own apartment where I blast podcasts to my hearts delight, cook stinky fish, and take long showers. I enjoy my long walk to NYUP and have embarked on a few solo weekend trips to new neighborhoods or cafés to read and people watch. This alone time will lead you to discover interests and passions you might’ve not had time for back at your NYU home campus.
2) Become a regular
When things got rough this semester, whether homesickness, school work, or just a bad week, my saving grace was Le Peloton. I found this little coffeeshop at the very beginning of the semester, maybe even my first weekend here. Since then, I’ve brought friends, my boyfriend, my mom and spent countless hours studying away on one of their yellow barstools. The guys who own the café are both expats, one from New Zealand and one from the States. I’ve gotten to know them both fairly well: what brought them to Paris, how they got started, what it’s like to run a business in a foreign country. More than that though, it’s such a comfort to go somewhere outside the NYU bubble and be known. They both ask what’s been up if I haven’t been in for a while and what I’m doing in school. It’s one of the things that’s made me feel most at home in Paris.
3) Find a routine
In the same vein as becoming a regular, there’s a sense of security that comes with getting a lay of the land and learning what your day-to-day life looks like, whether it’s nearly the same or radically different from back home. For me for instance, I realized I needed somewhere to run and work out. I’m hyper-HYPER active and if I don’t burn it all up I can’t sleep. So, I took out a membership at a fitness center called Neoness, checked out the local spin and barre classes, and jogged around the city. These steps not only kept me from going fully insane, but these experiences were the most “settling” for me, if that is an appropriate use of that word. Settling in the sense that I felt maybe not Parisian, but at least like I was living a full life that was authentic to me and which utilized all of the resources Paris has to offer.
4) Discover “your” Paris
This has been perhaps the most illuminating and validating parts of the whole experience to me. I’ve been so fascinated to hear how differently all of my friends in Paris have interacted with the city. While some of their favorite haunts, views, and neighborhoods overlap, most have individualized lists of the best and worst of Paris. Each person has gone out in different neighborhoods, met different people, and traveled through the country and Europe to different places. I think there’s sometimes a temptation to try and match one’s experience or interests exactly to that of someone else’s. I think it’s so much more rewarding however to learn from others’ perspectives without conforming to them in a FOMO panic. This advice is from someone who payed 10euros for a pint of Stella at a shitty bar in the middle of nowhere Paris. I know what I’m talking about.