My Parisian Experience! (so far)

Salut! Bonjour! Bonsoir! Hello from the 20th arrondissement in France!

Now that I’ve been settled in for a few weeks and don’t have much homework to do I thought I could catch my breath and recap on the tons of things I’ve done so far!

I’ve kept daily/weekly journals of what’s been happening each day but those have a lot of (probably) unnecessary detail to others. I’ve tried to explain stories to my friends in the past and they always tell me I talk too much about the little things and don’t get to the main point faster because of all the little things I point out in my stories so I will save you, the readers, time in your life by giving a (hopefully) quick recap!

Some interesting observations so far in Paris that I can remember:
~Metro (subway) is the main transportation I and a lot of people use
~In the busier lines like 9 or 1 where it’s very long you will find entertainers from people who play the accordion to violinists and singers
~There’s also a good amount of beggars around Paris who are always in the same area
~Paris is full of smokers…like a LOT of smokers
~Paris apparently has a lot of pets so there’s a bunch of dog poop smeared on sidewalks all over Paris, especially in the residential districts
~When Parisians talk, I’ve noticed instead of saying “um” or “like” they do this puffing sound; hard to describe but I can make the sound if you talk to me in person about it
~Everyone is well-dressed here—even the babies
~People are always in a hurry and never stand still on an escalator
~French versions of ALL the candy/chocolate in the U.S. is easily 10x better; even McDonald’s!

Week 1: Orientation
Jetlag + school + orientation = sleepy week.

Mom I made friends!

I didn’t know I was going to have a host brother from the same program as me so I’ll be mentioning the name “Therin” here and there so that’s who I’m talking about when I say his name. He’s a really chill person from Indiana/Missouri and he’s a film major who’s probably going to be writing the next Oscar-winning movie starring Ryan Gosling. Friend #2: I also met his girlfriend and soon-to-be fiancée, Destiny and she’s a writing genius who will probably be the next Hemingway or screenplay writer with Therin. Destiny is also an amazing cook, but we haven’t tried her famous crab pasta (yet). I basically made 2 friends with the effort of 1. My host family is really nice! There’s the dad, Philippe, momma Patricia, their son Timothy, and daughter Hanaë. We don’t see Hanaë much but Timothy has been home since we got to Paris, but he’s about to move out soon all the way across Paris by La Defense so we won’t be seeing much anymore either.   🙁

Eiffel Tower!

Pictured: Eiffel Tower

First week in Paris and my study abroad program, CIEE, already scheduled an optional boat tour (but seriously who wouldn’t pass this offer?) along the river Seine so we got to see the Eiffel Tower already!

My classes are okay. I’m taking Paris Collage: History, Culture, and Architecture which is a class where we basically leave every time we have class and go to a place that the prof hand-picked and we learn a lot about the history and architecture and I guess I can add culture to complete the trifecta, about Paris. So it’s basically a 2-for-1 class where we learn about the city and get to explore at the same time. We’ve gone to museums, historical sites, and mostly museums. My other class is Cultural Approaches to Disability. It’s really obvious that people should know about the subject of disabilities but I won’t bore you about that. I’m trying to get you excited to read this! I’m also taking an optional class called Survival French where we learn the basic stuff like phrases, how to ask things, so we don’t die or starve in Paris.

Week 2: Extra-Curricular Events!!

Pictured: Petit Palais

The amazing Berit, one of the staff at CIEE Paris organizes a lot of different events for people interested in many subjects like art, literature, food, and sports. I go to a lot of these events to get the most of my time in Paris and to meet people who are interested in the same things as me which leads me to friend #3: Zoey! Zoey a.k.a. Toad is from a small town in Pennsylvania and she’s an accounting major with a minor in English? Or was it writing…anywho, Toad’s dad is a legend around these parts and he’s got a lot of stories to back up that title. Destiny, Toad, and I have Paris Collage together but we were still getting to know each other and during the first art event at the Petit Palais was when we met and started to hang out. We’ll come to be the 4 amigos throughout this whole story.

More museums past by and we get towards the end of the week where I get sick! I’ll skip all the gross details but long story short, I had to go to the doctor’s the next day and I eventually get better in a few days. The healthcare system is awesome in Paris and my doctor is amazing. A museum I have to mention is the Louvre because it has so many amazing paintings and the Mona Lisa, but the gigantic painting in front of it is equally worthy taking a picture of.

Pictured: sunset view of Paris from Parc de Belleville

Week 3: Eiffel Tower, Patriots, and Bordeaux!

Eiffel Tower again! This time we went into the tower and Toad and I went up the Eiffel Tower via the stairs route and learned some interesting facts about the tower and Statue of Liberty. There’s an ice rink and a salon on the 1st floor! The restaurants are super expensive so don’t go there unless it’s for an anniversary or something like that. The 3rd floor was closed for whatever reason so we couldn’t go up there.

Midterms was this week too. I’ll just leave it at that.

I know this is a UW blog but the New England Patriots beat the Steelers 36-17 and they’re moving onto Super Bowl LI!

This weekend we visited the southwest of France in a small city called Bordeaux. It’s a lot different than Paris in the way that it’s quieter, not as fast paced, but there’s still a lot of dog poop everywhere. It’s known as a wine place so we went wine tasting as a big school group. Bordeaux was supposedly voted the most beautiful city in France in 2016, but I wouldn’t really agree with whoever told me that. I tried duck for the first time there and that was an interesting taste. We (remember we is the 4 amigos or any of the combination) went shopping on the longest pedastrian street in Europe where there is a long street with stores on both sides. The train ride to and from Bordeaux was a mess because my seat was far away from the 3 amigos and we had to do so many switcheroos but it all worked out. I’m not a fan of trains. This trip also helped me realize what some of the students from other campuses really are. -eye roll-

Pictured: Cité du Vin

Week 4: now

Settling back into Paris after a weekend in the country. The plans for this weekend is Versailles and Chinese food because our host dad has been recommending to try it out.

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Closing note:

While there have been days that I’ve been really happy I’m in the city I’ve always dreamt of visiting, I wanted to open up and say there were times, especially the first week, that I wasn’t the happiest. Adjusting to a new world, basically starting fresh–was a little hard. My biggest support has always been my friends and family but with them being almost 5,000 miles away, FaceTime doesn’t really cut it. That’s all part of the experience of studying abroad. My advice to someone who’s been thinking about studying abroad is to go for it. There are a lot of resources out there that can definitely help you reach for your dreams and goals. I’m glad to have met so many amazing people from the U.S. and France and to have experienced all that I have so far in my first 4 weeks here and I’m excited to share future experiences with whoever is reading this.

Until next time.

Au revoir~

Alvin

P.S. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated no matter what it is!

Pre-Departure

Blog by Alvin Duong, Biology, CIEE Open Campus in Paris, France

As I sit here waiting for my first flight to Dallas and eventually Paris, I wanted to recollect all the madness that’s happened in the past several months. As soon as I found out I was able to afford study abroad, I jumped straight on that boat and signed up for all the meetings I can with my study abroad advisors. Many meetings and discussions went by. We talked about a lot of scholarships, places to study abroad, and the different programs that UW is and isn’t affiliated with. Hours upon hours of going in to talk to Natalia and Cecilee and applying to so many different scholarships has led me to this; being a writer for Voices from Around the World at a terminal in SeaTac.

 

I chose Paris as my location because of many reasons. It has a connection to my Vietnamese heritage. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe since I can remember and experience the rich culture it has to offer. My liking for romantic comedies has also led me to going to Paris. At first I didn’t want to go because of all the responsibilities that will be upon me and the people I’ll dearly miss, but it will be a life-changing experience and it will help me grow to become more independent. Even before leaving my house I learned that I should check my pant pockets before putting it in the washer.

 

While abroad I plan on FaceTiming and Skyping my friends and family, communicating to them through text and a voice app I use often called Discord. I was very sad that I couldn’t see my mom before I left because she had a wedding to attend down in California, but I had the company and support of my older brother on the way to SeaTac.

 

I would describe the U.S. and Americans to be a large community full of different cultures. Some of us are adventurous folks and some of us are those who like to dwell in the back line. But no matter where we are in the U.S., we are always a friend, we are class mates, we are neighbors, but most importantly, we are always family.

 

Some of my worries while abroad is not being able to see my friends or family in a long amount of time. The longest I’ve been away from them was a month while I was in Boston, but I stayed at a family’s house for most of the time I spent there. I’m sure my mother is worried because she’s been calling me every day to check in on how I’m doing before I leave, but she’s a soldier and she doesn’t like to show her negative emotions to me.

 

I did my packing the day before my flight and I’d say it was successful! I checked in 1 bag, have a carry-on, and my backpack with me. At first I thought I was okay with luggage space and thought I would have a lot of room leftover, but as my laundry started to finish up, and I was putting more and more ”
essential” clothes in, I saw the rise of clothes and decline of free space in my luggage. It’s always better to overpack than under pack, but going abroad to a place I’ve never been before, I plan on buying gifts and souvenirs.

 

This whole process has been very hectic and I’ve been all over the place, but I believe this trip and experience will be all worth the trouble!

 

Au Revoir!