When you are studying abroad, especially for a short time, make sure that you have seen and done everything that you’ve wanted by the time the final week rolls around. I have spent most of this past week working on my final project and trying to assess what I can take home and what I have to leave behind. Thankfully, I have had nothing that I have needed to do around Paris throughout these past few days.
The final project has been interesting to say the least. We were asked to put together four entries each into a larger “Surrealist’s Guide to Paris.” On top of it all, we are not being given any concrete instructions on how to create our entries, only that they must represent the Surrealist’s attitude and grant some sort of instructions on how to find surrealist objects or areas around Paris. It is a difficult project, and designed to push our creativity and understanding of the subject. I like it, but I’m also a little worried about meeting the necessary criteria.
I’m feeling a slight ache for home that has been all but silent up until this point. I find myself thinking of my family, my friends, and yes, my cat on a near-constant basis. I am also eager to begin my studies for the GRE this fall as well as try out a few new classes that are required for my degree. While I am happy to have been in Paris, the needs and comforts of home have begun to tug at me a bit.
Leaving a foreign place that you have wanted to see for years can come with bittersweet emotions, and no matter how reluctant or eager you are, no feeling toward it is incorrect or misplaced. As long as you can wrap things up nicely and have enough of an experience to take back with you, I’d say you are entirely entitled to however you wish to feel about the return journey. I have seen both hesitance and enthusiasm about leaving from my classmates, and each person has very good reasons for their attitudes.
I have made friends. I have hugged those who have left ahead of me and will continue to reminisce a little with those who are still here. Paris has made many of us who are now staring at our plane ticket (or train, for those whose trips aren’t over yet) and smile a little sadly. The culture has sunken in and we are now thinking about home and trying to readjust our brains to the American mindset. It’s a little harder than you might think, after a month of complete submersion in another country.
Overall, I think I’ve grown tremendously on a personal level, and I am not sure that many people will directly notice the difference on the outside. I find myself looking at people and languages in a way I hadn’t considered before. I now know exactly what it’s like to be unable to speak or navigate without having to guess at words I don’t know. I understand how hard it is to ask for help, order food, or simply buy something without understanding the language.
But I also know that I can rely on myself in these situations. When calm, aware, and determined, I can get to or find anything I need, and no one needs to hold my hand along the way. With this has come a huge gust of confidence and boldness that I did not have upon my departure from Seattle.
I encourage all students to study abroad as soon as they are able. And if they do not feel they are able, there are ways to make it happen. I was a student who shrugged off study abroad for a long time because I believed I would never be able to do it for financial reasons. But I found the resources, and now it is probably the most meaningful part of my experience at UW thus far. The educational opportunity was excellent, and I don’t think I’ll ever regret this decision.
Thank you so much for reading about my stay in Paris and hopefully I’ve prompted you to at least explore your opportunities. Don’t let your academic journey go by without doing part of it in another country.