Bienvenue for the last time to my year abroad series everyone! With one week remaining before I depart from Paris I thought I’d share my final thoughts and updates on what has been a rollercoaster experience.
Today as I’m writing this the French restrictions have eased so that we can now enter bars and restaurants! Eighteen weeks since my arrival and only one week to enjoy the full ambience of city life. But hey, I’ll take what I can get. In a way, despite the restrictions that have impacted the majority of my time here, it’s been an even more memorable experience. We have been lucky enough to memorise the streets of one of the most famous cities in the world whilst wandering around in every kind of weather. I’m certain my orientation wouldn’t be quite as strong if not for being forced outside. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say.
The highlight of last week was going with some friends to visit Lyon for a day. We took a six-hour coach at midnight from Paris, meaning we arrived in Lyon at 6am last Thursday and had about twelve hours to explore before heading back the same evening. It was such a lovely city with a lot of artistic murals amongst the classic French architecture which I always find to be impressive. Plus the hot summer weather made me enjoy the trip all the more despite the lack of sleep. As well as the trip, I also got a new tattoo last week! Already having two tattoos I thought it could be a cute idea to get another whilst in Paris as a little memento. Don’t worry I didn’t get an Eiffel Tower tattoo, just a small sun on my right inner forearm. After seeing on Instagram that the tattoo shop (called L’Encrerie in the 11th arrondissement if anyone’s interested) would be doing a flash day whereby you can go without an appointment and choose one of their pre-designed tattoos to have the same day, I thought why not? So after queuing for over an hour in the morning, I chose my design and had it permanently inked on my body a couple of hours later. Honestly, I cannot recommend the tattoo shop enough, they were all so lovely and even chatted to me in English which I’ve come to learn is not so favoured by the French. Last week was quite an exciting one.
During my last few days, I haven’t got anything major planned, I’ll just be visiting the few museums I’ve still been meaning to go to and spending as much time with my friends as possible. After having to say goodbye to one of my closest friends yesterday it made me realise just how much I’m going to miss everyone. Whilst being away from support networks for months, I think we naturally start to depend more on new friends and forming strong connections with them. My (unexpected) tears whilst saying goodbye yesterday seemed to prove that. But as the cliché Winnie the Pooh quote states: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. Yet even as I sit writing this article in the Jardin du Luxembourg on a sunny June afternoon, I’m still very excited to be heading home. I’ll certainly miss Paris and the friends that I’ve made here, but I’m equally keen to see all those I left behind five months ago.
In short, the year abroad has been a huge growing experience. For the first time, I lived truly alone in a new city and had to navigate forming friendships, life in a foreign language, and a pinch of a pandemic. Like anything, it came with its fair share of ups and downs but I would recommend a year abroad, or any significant time abroad, to everyone. So now that I’ve officially ticked ‘living in Paris’ off the bucket list, I guess all that’s left to say is thanks for joining me on mon voyage!
My main takeaways: independence is a great thing, travel as much as possible, and goodbyes are never easy.