Five weeks is a pretty long time. It’s enough to learn and adapt to a new lifestyle. It’s enough to grow and change. It’s enough to fall in love. With a place, that is.
At the moment, I am on a plane heading back halfway around the world. I am feeling pretty bittersweet. It’s been a long five weeks studying abroad in Europe and I can’t even begin to describe my wonderful experience. Although I missed home due to its familiarity and comfort, being abroad has been exciting, new, and unpredictable. Coming into this, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t really prepared, to be honest. I thought I was. I thought reading all these study abroad Odyssey articles, watching YouTubers vlog their time in Paris, and going through an online orientation for my program was enough to prepare me for the best summer of my life. Oh boy, Kaithleen you were caught off guard. I didn’t think I was going to be packing my bags for the adventure of a lifetime! (Yeah, I’m exaggerating this but honestly, this was probably the most fun I’ve had in like… forever.)
I didn’t know anyone going into this program. Thankfully, I had my amazing travel buddy Kysha with me to experience it all. Although we were on separate programs, it was nice to have a friend with me here to experience all of Europe. I had a piece of home with me wherever I went. Kysha, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for being the best companion to dive headfirst into these adventures with. I don’t know how we managed to bust missions every single weekend to completely different countries spanning all over Europe, but it’s been one hell of a ride. From the times we were zooming past terminals in Copenhagen to get on our flight back to walking around Utrecht at five in the morning, trying to find our Airbnb, thanks for some of my favorite memories abroad. I’ll definitely cherish them all.
Although I had Kysha, I was lowkey anxious. I typically don’t have a hard time making friends, but I’d be here for five weeks. I expected a lot of small talk and waves in the hallway. Haha, I was wrong again. This program has given me the chance to meet very different people, having to work with diverse personalities. It has taught me to be patient with those who may not share the same perspectives as I do, but it has allowed me to cherish those who are on the same wavelength as I am. It has allowed me to grow trust in strangers that have eventually become some of my great friends. It’s amazing to see how close you get with others when you’re all placed in this situation, trying to thrive in unfamiliar circumstances. Most of us didn’t know a thing about the French language or culture. Some of us have never taken a subway before. Slowing learning these things have been fun, especially being able to experience it with new people. This program has definitely taught me a lot about letting your guard down and simply putting yourself out there. I’m coming out of this trip with dope new friends to go clubbing with on Thirsty Thursdays and food runs when we’re bored, neighbors who I can hit up anytime, and new faces I can say hi to when walking around campus. I’ve met some of the most talented and creative people on this trip. Y’all have such sweet souls and I can’t wait for all the other things you all accomplish after this program. Shout out to my roomies Samar and Yumi for being down grandmas with me. Y’all really got me through this program.
Studying abroad in Europe has made me realize that we live in a bubble. We get so caught up with our daily routines, being okay with what we’re used to. I love California- the culture, the people, the lifestyle. However, I forget that there’s so much more to explore elsewhere. I forget that the life I live there isn’t the only way of living. There are people all over the world who are going through their day-to-day lives too but in completely different conditions. My time in Europe has allowed me to remember that.
The culture is so different. The people are so different. The lifestyle is so different.
France, in particular, has a unique way of living.
Every day, lunch is a leisurely activity. They are given 2-3 hours of their work/school day to eat. This has taught me to just sit down, enjoy my food, and appreciate being in the presence of others without feeling like I have to rush or even check my phone. This has allowed me to eat at different restaurants every day after class. The French definitely have to be foodies because there are restaurants everywhere. Literally. You can’t walk down a street without passing at least five eateries, boulangeries, and patisseries lined up next to each other. God, I’m going to miss all of that. Me being the extreme foodie that I am, I got to try so many unique, delicious foods. I’ve never tried Lebanese food before this trip and I had some of the best falafel. I don’t know how many times I’ve ordered Italian food for lunch. I probably had gelato every other day. I’m going to miss heading to the patisserie before class to grab a croissant and the au marche to grab fresh strawberries and watermelon. It’s going to be so weird not seeing a Franprix or Monoprix every few blocks.
The French have definitely taught me to look my best every day. Every day on the Metro, I’ve seen people dressed so sophisticatedly. I’ve seen such elaborate outfits even when I’m out grocery shopping. The boutiques I have stumbled into featured the most exquisite fashion designs. I had the opportunity to learn all about Yves Saint Laurent’s story and see some of his original designs. I’ve learned to stay tres chic and to express my style wherever I go.
Speaking of the Metro, most of the Parisian population can be found riding the subway. It isn’t really common to own a car here. In fact, none of my relatives that live in Paris have their licenses. My uncle told me just having driving lessons can cost nearly a thousand Euros. Insane to think about because I’m so used to seeing everyone drive all the time. I’ve probably ridden in a car like five times since coming to Paris. Everyone relies on the Metro to get around. It’s one of the most efficient, functioning subways in the whole world. You can easily find a Metro stop from anywhere in the city. You can’t walk for more than five minutes without finding one. Having taken the BART so many times before coming here, I underestimated the subway system in Paris. If you can conquer the Paris Metro, you can honestly conquer any form of public transportation.
Hide your kids, hide your wife cause pickpocket culture is real, my friends! It’s scary to think about how common it is here in Europe. I’ve definitely learned to be more cautious with my things and alert when I am out in public. I indeed have almost experienced getting pickpocketed on the Metro. I’ve even seen someone get pickpocketed right before my eyes. It’s a real thing and they definitely prey on foreigners. Almost every country I’ve been to, there have been announcements on the buses and subways to be aware of pickpockets. To be honest, I was probably paranoid half the time I was out in public. Stay safe!
Being able to experience such a different way of living has allowed me to learn a great deal about myself and my capabilities. I feel like I’ve changed a lot since leaving America. Although I may not have been gone for far too long, I feel like it was just enough for me to realign and take on a new mindset for myself. This has probably been the most independent I have ever been. It’s difficult studying abroad, to be honest. You’re on the other side of the world, without your loved ones. In order to survive, you need to adapt. I feel like that’s what makes studying abroad such a great experience for anyone. Not going to lie, I missed my family, friends, and boyfriend a lot. I often thought, “Wow, this experience would have been better if ________________” was here.
However, this time alone was exactly what I needed. This has allowed me to take the time to focus on myself. This has allowed me to be selfish and do things for myself. This has allowed me to fall back in love with myself. Having this time alone has been so precious. I have been able to step out of my comfort zone on a whole new level and to completely challenge the way I live. I have been able to gain new found confidence in myself. Slowly but surely, I found myself thriving in a foreign environment that has ultimately become a new home to me. It made me realize that I really can achieve a lot on my own. My time here in Europe will be something I will reminisce about for a long time.
It all makes sense now. Every time someone comes back from studying abroad, there’s some sort of new sparkle in their eyes whenever they gush about their time there. Honestly, it’s such a great feat to accomplish. Go off and share your experience because you conquered THAT. There are so many stories to be told! I apologize in advice if I talk a lot about the best pasta I had in Italy or how baguettes will never be the same. Because honestly, they never will *sad face*
Every city I’ve been to on this trip to has taught me a few things:
Berlin, thanks for reminding that being a creative isn’t bad and is something to be proud of.
Copenhagen, thanks for teaching me that the sky’s the limit and I can face my fears gracefully.
Barcelona, thanks for making me realize the blessings I have and the importance it is to keep your faith close to you. Thanks for teaching me to live lavishly and to treat myself every once in a while. Baby girl, you need it.
Amsterdam & Utrecht, thanks for the high and reminding me to enjoy myself and my surroundings.
Rome, thanks for making me realize the importance of my story and to keep embracing the things I have experienced in the past to get me where I am today.
Paris, I don’t think I can even describe all the lessons you’ve taught me. I can only attempt to put into them into words. Living here has pushed me to new limits and tested the way I normally go about my life. Being here has allowed me to appreciate every small thing. Whether it be being able to stroll down the streets and see beautiful buildings everywhere or seeing the Eiffel Tower during my commute, I have been able to find beauty in everything. You have taught me to take pride in small victories whether it be finding my way around the city safely or being able to successfully order food in French. You have taught me to adult and budget my money effectively. At the same time, you’ve taught me to indulge and not to be afraid to spend those extra euros on some macarons or a spritzer.
It has indeed been such a roller coaster with you, Paris. From the humidity and the constant sweat everywhere I went (Sorry, it sounds gross haha) to the awe I had when exploring around the city every day after class, I have such a love/hate relationship with this city. Nonetheless, although I didn’t want to admit it, I’ve always kept been excited to be in Paris. I still have that excitement even after leaving. It’s still so magical.
I’ve dreamed about going to Paris since I was six and being able to fulfill that dream has been so rewarding to me. I am truly flabbergasted. I was able to live my own Mary-Kate and Ashley “Passport to Paris” journey. I can’t thank Him enough for letting my roads lead abroad and helping me get through this experience. I am also very grateful for all the love and support I’ve gotten from those back home while I was away. I am so thankful for this past month. I don’t think I can ever get over this trip.
Lastly, thanks Europe for teaching me to live.
I thank you for the major travel bug I now have. You will be missed, but don’t worry, I’ll be back soon :’)
I would like to end this post with a quote from the beloved Ryker Gamble and Alexey Lyakh from High on Life,
“What does it feel like to be present? To be here in the now and fully experiencing this moment. Free from any weight of the past or any anticipation of the future. Just free. Free to realize that only you can control how you feel. About anything. Free to see things for what they are and free to give your time and energy to what really matters. Accept the fact that everything that makes up your world is there because you attracted it with your own thoughts. Realize that you can control your thoughts and emotions. There’s no big secret. Just choose to think better feeling thoughts. Listen to your emotions and chose to feel good. You can decide to be in a place of attraction and abundance. What do you want to do in your life? What makes you tick? What makes you feel awe? Don’t be misled into thinking that you’re supposed to do anything. You are supposed to do only what you chose to do. The world is vast and full of possibilities. Follow your bliss. Get out of your comfort zone. Stop looking for reasons why you can’t and look for reasons why you can. And… if you can, you should.“
Cheers to more adventures…