I realize I am over a month behind on this blog. What can I say, all that traveling and the end of the semester really caught up with me. I still have a bunch of photos to edit and I will fill in the past month and half with about three posts, but right now my last day in Paris is ending and I couldn’t leave without making this post.The past semester has been many things, and I know the full impact of it is impossible for me to grasp at this point.
First of all, this has been the most stressful semester of my life. And I say that having taken full-credit hour semesters at KCAI. This stress was a result from many factors: school, my living situation, food, my internship, money, adapting to living in a new country, constantly traveling, my peers, missing out on life back in the States, and so many other things. I really do not like the school I attended this semester. I won’t go on a rant bashing it or anything, but I grew to appreciate KCAI even more and I can’t wait to go back and be an over-enthusiastic tour guide again.
Another major issue is that choosing a homestay as my living situation did not have any of the benefits for which I chose it in the first place. Sure, Anne and her grandson were perfectly nice and did everything they were supposed to, but we hardly ever interacted. The two main reasons I chose a homestay were to improve my French and experience homemade French food and lifestyle. Anne is very old (I’d guess in her mid-late eighties, but maybe even older). She hardly leaves the apartment and spends most of her days sitting in her room watching TV. She has people come over all the time to do things for her. She doesn’t really cook, so the 3 meals I had a week were reheated frozen vegetables. The bread she gets is sliced, white American bread (which is not the kind of bread I eat, even in America!) The milk she gets is this weird phenomena in France that I don’t understand or trust: milk that you don’t have to refrigerate until after you open it. I know this may sound petty, but it was not the experience I was hoping for. Also, the area I lived in was really nice but incredibly boring. It was far from school, where my friends lived, and any form of interesting thing to do in Paris.
Despite these things, which definitely had a cumulative impact on my past semester, there were still so many other reasons I came to Paris which were fulfilled. In all, I visited five countries, four of which I had never been to before. Within those five countries, I visited 13 cities/towns, none of which I’d been to before. I also stopped in the Olso airport on the way to Paris, and tomorrow I’ll be stopping in the Copenhagen airport, but those don’t really count. In all of these places, I’ve seen some of the most amazing art and architecture ever created. I tried local specialties in each country. I made new friends and visited old ones. I have learned so much since that frightening first day where I had to go on the Paris Metro. I now know the Metro system instinctively, and it has become one of my favorite parts of Paris. Thanks to the ease of transportation here, I am actually more familiar with Paris after only four months than I am with Kansas City after having lived there for two years.
The one way in which I am absolutely sure this past semester has changed me as a person is that I have such an incredibly heightened sense of independence and self-confidence. All of the traveling I did this past semester was a result of personal research and planning. I can now honestly say that at any time, I could plan a trip around Europe very easily. I don’t know when I will get back to Europe again (though it better not be another five years), but in the meantime I can use these skills just as easily in the US. Sure, our public transportation systems are lacking, but there are 24 states I’ve never been to! Despite the monetary damage of living on the Euro for four months, I am determined that in the next year I will get my driver’s license and a car. After that, I only see an open horizon.
I cold go on and on, but right now my thoughts aren’t very organized. There were moments I hated Paris and couldn’t wait to go home, but ultimately I don’t think I ever had an issue with Paris itself. Paris is amazing. There are still so many things I didn’t get a chance to do while I was here, and even more that I hope to do again. But even if for some reason I never made it back to Paris, I would be satisfied. I spent my last day saying goodbye to all of my favorite paintings at the Musee d’Orsay, then walked along the Seine to Notre Dame where I had my last gelato at my favorite place. I then walked all the way back along the other side of the river to the Louvre, where I saw a few last things I hadn’t gotten to yet. The weather was beautiful, and honestly I couldn’t have asked for a better last day. I can’t wait to get home and see my family, cats, and friends, but Paris: I will miss you. Thanks for an incredible semester abroad.