Going to study abroad, one of the things I was most excited about was getting to make the city my own — to live as if I had lived there all my life. As I prepared for my month studying abroad in Paris, I carefully read every email I received about what to do before my departure, but I especially paid attention to all the tips and tricks on how to best integrate myself into the city.
Once I got to Paris however, it was a completely different story. The goal of making the city my own was gone for the time being, with all my efforts focused on smaller, seemingly simple tasks. It wasn’t until later when I realized that all of these small tasks slowly piled up, helping me reach my goal of making Paris my own.
It all started with simply making it to class on time. This proved to be quite the challenge in and of itself, with Paris being several times the size of my hometown. We also don’t have a very strong public transportation system where I’m from, so taking the metro in Paris was one of the first of many things to get used to.
Next came establishing a routine. Wake up, eat breakfast, head out to meet my friends for exploring and lunch, class, home for dinner, sleep, repeat. Simple enough, but I realized that deciding what I did with my time was incredibly important for me. Though I didn’t have class until 1 or 2 PM every day, I made myself get up to start my day early and go to sleep way later than I probably should have, telling myself I could sleep when I got back to the U.S., since when else would I be able to explore Paris like this? I had to make the most of it.
In the process of exploring– whether it was being intentional about going to a museum or other attraction, or whether I was literally just wandering the streets of different arrondissements- I was able to find my “favorite spots”. Once this started happening, I realized I was beginning to feel more at home. There were one or two cafes and restaurants I visited frequently, seeing some familiar faces among the other customers and striking up conversations with the staff when I went.
However, I noticed the most obvious sign of my starting to think of Paris as a second home when I left it. I did some independent travel during my program (which I would definitely recommend doing if you have the spare change/time), and flew once to London and once to Barcelona. Both cities had such different atmospheres from my host city, sometimes making me miss Paris and other times making me wish I had more time away. I found myself comparing the smallest details of each place I visited to its equivalent in Paris, as if I had lived there forever and knew the city like the back of my hand.
Returning to Paris after being away felt familiar and welcoming, showing me I had accomplished my goal without even knowing it.
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