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Study Abroad: A Rocky Relationship

Disclaimer: All right, so I re-read my last column from the 2nd week of my time abroad and wow, can you say Eeyore? I sounded so depressed. Honestly, it sounded like I’d been sent to prison, not Paris. So I decided I had to do a part two, now that my time here is almost over, to update everyone, let you guys in on my insights, and prove that I’m not actually that depressed. And with that…

Study Abroad: The Rockiest Relationship of My Life

            You know how movies and TV shows always depict these epic, life changing loves? Great loves, Romeo and Juliet, Carrie and Big, Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey in The Wedding Planner. What they don’t usually show is that there are often a lot of not-so-great loves on the journey to find the big one. It’s not that these relationships aren’t important and they definitely will affect your life in some way, but more through what they teach you and what you learn about yourself because of them.  I would describe my relationship with Paris as this kind of love.  Because I do love Paris.  I love the food (duh) and drinking strong espresso out of bowls.  I love walking down the street and all of the sudden, catching sight of the Eiffel Tower, or going to the Arc du Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées, just because.  I love speaking French and that I can actually eavesdrop on conversations now.  In fact, it seems stranger to me when I hear people around me speaking English.  I love that old women often wear giant fur hats, lots of leopard print, and sometimes even have their noses pierced.  My time in Paris has given me so many memories that I will never forget, like when I watched the sun rise over Paris from Sacre-Coeur with my best friends.  Or the most perfect pastry of all time, the religieuse.  Two puffs of pastry filled with chocolate pudding, topped with more chocolate and usually a bit of vanilla frosting. Heaven!

But love is about accepting the bad, too, which is something that Paris and I have had some trouble with.  I still don’t like the Metro, the guys are still overly aggressive, and all the destitute beggars and homeless people make me so sad. But, begrudgingly, I have grown to accept those negatives as part of what makes Paris ‘Paris’.  And this relationship has taught me so much.  I used to be someone who would put up with a lot because I was worried about being rude.  I once sat through an hour of a movie sitting next to a creepy guy who kept touching my thigh because I was too afraid to be rude and say something.  After being in Paris, I have gotten so feisty that I actually threatened to smash a beer bottle in the face of a really overly aggressive guy (note: it was super effective, but not something I endorse. It’s a risky maneuver…). I’m hoping that some of my newfound aggression goes away because it’s not necessary/socially acceptable where I’m from or at Bowdoin.  But I know now that I’m completely capable of defending myself and I refuse to be treated badly.  Not a bad thing to learn! Independence has, oddly enough, been the defining word of my relationship with Paris.  I’ve done so many things by myself and while I’m not wholly self-sufficient, I’m much more capable now than I was before coming here. Success!

            But now it’s December and we have to break up.  It’s a bittersweet feeling because I’m so excited about what’s coming up next for me (Home! Christmas! Boyfriend! Bowdoin! Yay!) but at the same time, I’m leaving a place that’s become comfortable.  Against all odds, I’ve found a home in Paris.  Who would’ve thought? So this is a mutual parting, the kind where both people are sad, but relieved and promise to be friends and maybe actually manage to do that. I hope to return and maybe have some ex-sex with Paris later on in life, but for now, it’s a tearful but not heart broken ‘adieu’ to the City of Lights!

And that’s how my study abroad has been.  A roller coaster of emotions, which they tell you about in orientation and you think is B.S. but is actually totally true (for most people).  Sometimes you’re so incredibly happy, but sometimes you really just aren’t. Most of the time you’re much happier to be here than anywhere else, although sometimes, like when you’re looking at Facebook albums from school, you’d rather be elsewhere.  Because what I’ve come to find is that study abroad is, above all things, still life. Life is never perfect but more often than not, it’s pretty awesome.  

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