One year ago today, a young woman stepped out of an airplane and in to the international terminal of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Slightly overwhelmed and completely exhausted, she collected her bags, passed through customs (where her passport received its very first stamp,) and hailed a taxi. Ready or not, she had arrived in the City of Lights.
What did that young woman expect, you ask?
She expected to explore new frontiers. She expected to meet new people. She expected to eat lots of pastries. But she didn’t know that four months in Paris would be a life-changing experience: that she would make life-long friends and gain a brand new outlook. No, that would all be a surprise.
When someone asks me “how it was to study abroad for an entire semester,” I always tell them that it was the best decision that I ever made. That it changed my life and that I am chomping at the bit to go back. But it’s funny: nobody asks me how my semester in France changed my life. What I learned. So for those that asked, for those that didn’t, and for myself: the lessons I learned in Paris.
Slow down. In Paris, there’s no such thing as “taking your coffee to go.” Instead, true Parisians sit in a café and sip leisurely, savoring every drop of their tiny espresso. Parisians prioritize their own happiness and well-being over all else; the American “hurry up and go” attitude is nowhere to be found. I admit that I haven’t exactly perfected (ha!) the Parisian way of stopping to smell the roses, but well… I’m working on it.
(Try to) speak French. I would be the first person to tell you that French is not an easy language to master. There are tons of verb tenses (some rather useless, in my opinion,) and EVERY noun has a gender. Essentially, every sentence presents countless opportunities to say something completely and utterly wrong. Despite all of this, after a bit of coaching (and reassurance) from my fabulous host mom, I learned very quickly that speaking bad French is better than speaking no French at all. After all, how else can you expect to learn? Sounds like a lesson that might be applicable in lots of situations, doesn’t it…
French pastries taste every bit as good as they look. This may be self-explanatory, but just in case you need a little more convincing…
Every girl needs a little support. Plain and simple, my experience in France would not have been the same without my amazing host family and friends. I miss them every day and I consider myself one lucky little Texan to have spent four months in their company.
And perhaps most importantly, Beauty is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes every once in a while in order to see it.
Today, I celebrate the one year anniversary of my arrival in France. It seems only fitting to propose a toast: to Paris, to family, to friends, and to adventure. Santé!