The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Perspective on Paris

Over the summer, I studied abroad in Paris as a visiting student with New York University. I spent five weeks in a writing intensive program and lived in the 14th arrondissement. 

Now, I could tell you that Paris was magical and that it matched the rose-colored image we’ve all grown up imagining, but then I would be lying. 

Paris is a beautiful city, but it’s just that…a city. It’s a place with a lot of history and art, but there is nothing I could point you to that would coincide with the elevated picture we’ve all constructed in our minds. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to go to Paris. When I decided that I was going to study abroad, I chose the place before I chose the program. 

I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone, but it ended up working for me. I think if there is a place that you’ve been wanting to go to then, yes, choose the place and find a program that fits it. 

When I decided I wanted to go to Paris, I looked on Grand Valley State University’s website and saw that we didn’t have a program that matched my criteria. However, I did see that there were a few programs that were linked with NYU. As I was browsing, I found my program “Writers in Paris.” 

My program was four weeks with classes Monday through Thursday. I had a writer’s workshop and a craft seminar that alternated every other day. 

Classes started at three every day so I had a lot of time to explore the city and really get to know what life in Paris was like. 

I took a 20 minute metro every day into Saint Germain and I explored the surrounding area thoroughly. From the top floor of my school’s building, you could see Notre Dame. Every day, at the author’s readings, I would watch it being rebuilt. 

After a few days, I fell into a routine and I realized that Paris was just a city that I now lived in. It was beautiful and had beautiful sites, but there was nothing ‘magical’ about it. 

There were riots. There were creepy men who would follow you down alleys and there were racist people who would profile you. There were homophobic people and people who were culturally ignorant. 

Really, the only thing that made Paris more challenging than your typical city in the U.S. was the language barrier. While it wasn’t a problem once I learned more of the language, it was certainly something that plagued me the first few days I was there. 

I felt guilty that I didn’t know more and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to advocate for myself if I needed to. 

If there was one thing I would have done differently before I studied abroad, I would have studied French more thoroughly. I think it’s really important to know the native language of the country you are studying abroad in, even if you don’t ‘technically’ need to. 

Not only will this make you feel safer when communicating with people, but it will also help you navigate that country better. 

I am so grateful for my time abroad and for having had the opportunity to do so. I truly recommend that anyone capable of doing so takes advantage of the chance to go abroad. 

It’s a great opportunity to learn about another culture and experience what life is like in other parts of the world. It really makes you realize just how small of a bubble you live in even if there are parallels among the worlds.

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