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Sex and the Campus: Abroad Secret

Hello from study abroad, Bowdoin friends!  Yes, it’s true.  You haven’t seen me around campus, sneakily ‘meeting friends’ to jump line in Thorne and buying large coffees from the Café.  Instead, I’ve been in la belle ville of Paris, France.  Coffee doesn’t come in size large here.  If you ask for coffee, you get a thimble of strong espresso.  You can get a café au lait, which is a bit bigger but costs the equivalent of $5.  I’ve also seen such normal sights as a pet pigeon in a wicker basket-cage on the outdoor table of a café and a couple casually having sex on the Metro.  All in a day’s work here in Paris!

I also have a dirty little secret to tell everyone.  Week one of study abroad is not just fun and games.  At least, for me it hasn’t been.  It’s totally possible that I’m just a lot more emotionally fragile than other people, but I’ve had some pretty rough days since I’ve been here.  I know, how could you be sad, you’re in Paris! It’s beautiful and wonderful and magical! And the thing is, all of that is true.  Paris is full of beautiful sights and there are so many wonderful things about it, like the light show at the Eiffel Tower and baguettes that are somehow both soft and crusty. But there are also things that aren’t so fun, like being really seriously homesick. I mean like cry yourself to sleep, red eyes in the morning kind of homesickness that feels like part of your heart is collapsing in on itself.  You know it’s a bad night when you wake up looking like you’re hung over, even when you had nothing to drink the night before (except a teensy glass of wine with dinner.  Everything here is tiny).  

My first week has been such a rollercoaster.  It also has felt like a year.  Immersion into a different culture is not an easy process.  There are big things, like the huge language barrier.  I don’t know how to say things like “That sucks!” or “Yeah, she said she’d meet us here in ten minutes but I guess her phone effed up.”  It gets in the way of things… And there are also small things.  For example, the French (in Paris at least), rarely have showers with the showerheads mounted up high.  Instead, you’ll have a bathtub or a platform with a handheld showerhead, the idea being that you stand/ kneel/ awkwardly squat as you try to rinse yourself and not get water all over the bathroom.  And there’s the basic fact that you’re in a foreign place with, if you’re me, a group of 90 random people you’ve never seen before.  You aren’t at home or at Bowdoin.  You’re thousands of miles away and while that’s theoretically awesome, I found it to be, in reality, terrifying.  Not that there aren’t upsides!  My French is already so much better and I’ve met people I never would have.  I danced on a block at a gay club and drank wine in the Champ du Mars Park, right next to the Eiffel Tower.  I’m definitely not suffering.  I’m in a first world country, in a place with Wi Fi and McDonald’s and showers (even if they are totally bizarre showers).  I’m also in a place that’s totally foreign and really far away from my boyfriend, parents, and friends, which is sometimes hard to deal with, no matter what the place is. 

So what’s my verdict on study abroad? I have no idea, yet.  I’m making friends and doing fun things, but I’m also totally out of my comfort zone and really missing things from back home.  I’ve also only been here for a little bit of time, so I’m sure my opinions will change.  I’ll of course let you all know!

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