My main struggle this semester has been battling the fear of missing out on everything Paris has to offer and giving myself time to relax. The problem is that I relax in places that are familiar, and I am afraid of not seeing enough unfamiliar things in Paris.
My first bubble this semester is the NYU Paris campus. Situated on the Boulevard Saint-Germain next to other universities, libraries, cafes, and bookstores, the NYU Paris building holds all my classes this semester. For hours every day, I am there waiting for class to start, printing things, taking notes, talking to friends, etc. And the day ticks by slowly and I do work. And then I get hungry and head home to cook, where I stay for the rest of the day. I told myself at the beginning of the semester that I would explore on weekends, but then school became wAy more difficult than it should be at an abroad location, and I found myself staying in on the weekends, as well, only venturing out to go the same bars with friends in a group of English-speakers.
This bubble wasn’t one I wanted to be in, for I had hopes of making French friends who would visit me in New York and invite me to return to Paris whenever I wanted, for I would always have a place to stay with them. In the hopes of “getting out there,” I attempted to break apart from the NYU Paris bubble, but it only led me to my second bubble…
Starbucks. Yes, the place I actively avoid in New York because of all the quirky coffee shops New York has to offer has become my second home. It started out innocently enough. I went to cafes, worked on things that did not require a computer, and admired the cafe culture in Paris where you really will not get pushed out after not buying anything for hours. But the coffee was bad and the atmosphere not conducive to working, so I ventured to Starbucks where the consistently-made beverages and free WIFI welcomed me. I figured that if I was at Starbucks doing work, I could free myself from the NYU Paris bubble and interact with some locals.
This has sort of been the case, really. On more than one occasion I have had to share a table with a strange and laugh while our laptops almost get knocked off the top by an unsuspecting backpack. Sometimes I’ll exchange a few words with an elderly woman reading a book before she turns back to the window and I turn back to my conjugations. These interactions have been nice when they occur because I don’t feel so guilty about sitting in a Starbucks that is identical to the ones back in New York… and Texas… and pretty much everywhere else I have ever lived.
But there is a comfort in this bubble because I am not so scared of the unknown here. I get a dose of Parisien interaction while sipping a seasonal drink. I know what I am getting and I know that I am safe, and even though the Wifi can be spotty, there is comfort in that, too.
I am still (constantly, always) trying to get out of this bubble and allow myself to feel comfortable. I want to walk everywhere and feel more confident in speaking to others– both English- and French-speakers– but it’s awfully scary.