My final post on the blog I kept while studying abroad reflects on coming back home after having spent five months in Paris.
On rereading what I had written I’m transported back to the moment when I was still in Paris and unsure of what the future would hold. At the time I felt that I could go on living in France indefinitely – it had left an indelible mark on me and I knew that I wanted to return to Europe in the future.
By this point in my study abroad experience I had incorporated countless new elements into myself, those every day aspects of living in a big city and little French quirks that I had grown accustomed to that I didn’t want to give up. While I had no idea what the circumstances of my return would be and while I had no definitive plans for after college I felt confident that I would be back.
Little did I know that would have the opportunity to return a little earlier than I imagined. Over winter break I had the opportunity to go back to Paris for three weeks to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and his family. I made plans to go to some of my old haunts and visit my first friends in the city. I was curious to see how it would feel to walk the streets almost exactly two years later.
There was a sense of instant familiarity upon my return. Landing at Charles de Gaulle, taking the RER into Paris, and navigating through conversations in French on the morning of my arrival felt like second-nature in some ways. In reminiscing I was brought back to my first arrival, when the feeling of exoticism characterized my initial moments and I started comparing the romantic visions that I held of Paris against what I actually saw and felt.
I remember learning that living in a place for an extended amount of time is quite different than taking a quick holiday. Commitment to residing somewhere allows the opportunity for a deeper intimacy to form. Sometimes this meant that I experienced deeper annoyance towards something in the city than might an overnight traveler, for example, but I felt that as I was in a more longstanding relationship with Paris I had the right to those feelings.
On coming back, in some ways it was almost as if I had never left. Except this time I was simply a three week visitor, a passer through, and returning was familiar but also incomplete in some ways. I couldn’t get over how strange it was not to be living with my host family or seeing the other Americans from my program every day and it felt wrong to be in Paris with such a definite departure date. This feeling would only be resolved if I made plans to come back, this time a little more permanently.
Now graduation is only two months away and I am currently applying to graduate programs in France. My plans still aren’t quite definitive and I have no way of knowing exactly what the future will hold, but I feel closer to achieving what I desired as a 19-year-old sitting on a bench in Paris, France reflecting on life after college.
Middle Eastern Studies Minor
API Semester Abroad in Paris, France