Learning Through Experience

In The Art of Travel, Paris, 7. Free topic by Amy1 Comment

It had been four weeks. NYU was soon to stop giving extensions on her arrival date. I was wavering between giving up hope and exhausting every option possible. We had planned on coming to Paris together, and I knew that she would be my crutch when I felt homesick or missed New York, which, I figured, would be often. It was strange to be in Paris without my best friend, when all along I had planned and envisioned it as us together. It is an odd phenomenon to have day dreamed about a new place, knowing you’d have the comfort of someone from home by your side, and then experiencing the trial of the first few weeks without them.

It was good to know, however, that I could survive the semester on my own. I could brave the unknown without my closest friend and I would not fail. I was settled in my dorm, I knew my class schedule well, and I had taken two weekend trips by the end of the first month.

With this spirit of bravery, I continued to fight tooth and nail to reach a contact at the embassy who could return to my friend her long-awaited visa. Yet, this never happened. When all of our efforts proved fruitless, she rescinded her visa application, and got a new passport. This is a happy ending, of course. My friend got to Paris, and I gained a level of self-confidence from braving an important travel experience on my own, which I did not think was possible. But I am still unsettled at the power of bureaucracies on all levels. I am disappointed at all of the institutions set up to help us, who failed to do so. As a person of some privilege, I have not had to deal with these kinds of government inadequacies much of my life. As I write this piece, I realize that an organization designed to get students a travel visa who cannot do as much, means there are much more terrible failures delivered to people of less privilege. I am glad to have experienced this directly, for I feel a bit more grounded and empathize with the portions of the population who depend on government agencies for survival. I pledge to make myself aware of these institutions and the populations they affect, for even this trivial failure of bureucracy was a taxing experience in itself.

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(Image: "Land of Opportunity"; Source: Amy Iafrate)


  1. Hi Amy,
    While it was super upsetting, I’m sure, to not have your best friend here in Paris for the first four months of your abroad experience, I actually think it was probably really good for your own personal development. Like you mention, you were able to realize that you could go through this experience by yourself. You were able to become self-aware and come to terms with the fact that it would be a different experience than you had envisioned. So many times since I have been here I’ve thought about how amazing it would be to have my best friend here. We could travel together; we could laugh and make new friends together; we could experience Paris together. It was really hard for me to leave my best friends behind in New York this semester, but I also know I needed to do it. I needed to grow and, for me, being away from them for the entire semester is something I really needed to do in terms of personal growth.

    While your friend did arrive in Paris (and I know you’re elated about it), it was probably really good for your personal growth for you to start off this process alone. Maybe you individually aren’t meant to spend the entire semester away from your closest friends, but, maybe, that four week gap was a good amount of time for you to become self-aware and have these realizations about being independent. And, now that you’ve had these realizations, you’re able to enjoy your time in Paris with your friend even more than you would have before (because you know yourself better AND because you both weren’t sure if she’d make it). Just some thoughts, maybe it would be good for you to reflect even deeper on how those 4 weeks have shaped you and shaped your abroad experience so far.

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