Finding Yourself When You Are Lost

Imagine yourself completely alone in a country that you have never been before surrounded with a language you have only studied for a month. That is exactly what The Village Program offered me during my study abroad semester this year. Although it the situation sounds absolutely terrifying, I wouldn't of wanted it any other way. During the week in Paris I knew that I would fall in love with the city because if it’s delicious food, rich history, and astonishing architecture but I couldn't have imagined how much it would really affect me. Walking around the city and learning about actual happenings was a different approach that made the experience completely unique and unforgettable.

Studying in Paris was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Because we didn’t have traditional classrooms we improvised and used the streets and museums as our class. Can you imagine studying about art history inside the iconic Louvre and see the Mona Lisa? It’s one thing to learn about a subject thougth a textbook but its completely different to actually go to the locations where events actually happened and see the places that influenced the way history unfolded.

Learning about European History was very interesting too especially because we focused on the epistemology of France and the development of Paris as a city. Prior to going to the city we learned about Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the man who redesigned Paris to look like what we kn0w today. He was commissioned by Napoleon the 3rd to make the city streets wider and redesigned many of them to be more accessible by the military to stop any more revolutions.

Through these renovations he made many of the streets face the major monuments to show patriotism and provide a sense of nationalism to the people of Paris. As you can see the picture above, the street are all facing the Arc of Triumph. Walking though the streets and seeing some of the neighborhoods Haussmann designed and connecting something some of the things I read felt more rewarding than many of the classes I have taken before. There is a sense of pleasure when you can identify and understand many of the things that make a city unique and can even act like a tour guide when you walk around with your friends.

Furthermore, learning the French language was much more engaging when you actually have to apply what you learned in order to make your way through the city. While in Paris we had time to wonder the streets and interact with locals in a way that we wouldn’t have had if we were simply tourists visiting. Going out to the bars, to the museums, and navigating through the metros was much easier with what we learned in class because we had the chance to actually practice in real situations and not just the ones in traditional classroom setting. We were also exposed to different accents and sayings that we wouldn’t have ever gotten to hear.

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have made in my college career so far. I learned more about myself and about the world in one semester than I have arguable the years prior to. I would urge anyone remotely even considering studying abroad to do it simply because it will change your perspective on more things than you imagine. Meeting people from all over the world will make you see that we are more alike than we are different. Especially in our world today where we seem to face hatred, racism, and fear from others we don’t understand, its important to remember we are all human with hopes and fears.