My experience as an exchange student feels unreal sometimes. Although I have lived in Paris for nearly two months, I have to frequently remind myself that I’m not just a student taking online classes in her apartment; I am living in Paris, France – a city I’ve dreamed of visiting since I watched Ratatouille as a child.
Even as an exchange student, it’s easy to get caught up in schoolwork and develop a daily routine. I hate feeling like there’s nothing to do, so I am constantly looking for things to keep me occupied. This has helped me manage living in a new environment with 6 p.m. curfew and strict COVID-19 measures. However, this has also made time pass very quickly. Two months in Paris has felt like two weeks, and there is so much of the city left to explore.
Every time I step outside my apartment, I discover something new. It could be as simple as finding a new snack at Carrefour, the local grocery store, or more significant like a cultural difference. So far, I have observed several differences between France and the United States: French people speak extremely quiet in public spaces. The ground floor of a building is referred to as floor 0, not the first floor, and almost all shops are closed on Sundays. Regardless of the discovery, it is truly incredible to be immersed in another culture, especially during a time when it seems more challenging to find excitement in our everyday lives.
When I arrived in Paris, my initial concerns involved whether I could adapt to a new environment and make friends. Through WhatsApp and Facebook groups at my host university, I have been able to establish connections with people from around the world. My classmates come from Mexico, Germany, Argentina and Hong Kong, just to name a few countries. Despite our different backgrounds, it has been easy to communicate and find commonalities with everyone, and I have been able to meet up with a few classmates for coffee or study dates. In terms of navigating a new city, I have been using French phrases I have learned in the French A1 class I am currently taking. I am definitely not fluent, but language has not been a major barrier thus far. To my surprise, my initial worries have subsided, and my main concern is fully appreciating my experience abroad.
Today, I was enjoying a picnic with friends in front of the Eiffel Tower. During the conversation, one of my friends stopped everyone to appreciate the moment – we were literally sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower! As someone who tends to reminisce on events once they’ve passed instead of living in the moment, I am trying to implement mindfulness throughout my time abroad. I don’t want to look back on my study abroad experience solely through photos; I hope to vividly remember how I felt and what I learned. As of now, I have three months remaining in Paris. I am excited to document my experiences and this journey of personal growth with you. A bientôt!
This post was contributed by Bailey Cho, a Global Ambassador for spring 2021. Cho is an advertising major from East Texas studying abroad in Paris, France. Follow Global Ambassador takeovers on our Instagram Stories @texasglobalabroad!