I arrived on the twenty-eighth of December. From that day till the third of January, when class started, I had spent my time roaming the streets, getting accustomed to the food, and visiting all the famous tourist spots. While adventuring those few days and checking things off my to-do lise, I thought to myself “One week is enough here. I’ve seen all that I need and want. What am I going to do for the next three weeks?” and slowly began to dread the start of class because that meant that I still had three more weeks. But that’s because I didn’t really see Paris for what it is.
Everyone has this idea of Paris. Whether it comes from stories from family and friends, facts or opinions read online, or even the paintings and notebooks sold at Target, everyone has this idealization of perfect Paris in their minds…away from the pickpocketing. I saw the Paris everyone wants to see. The Paris with the unbelievable Eiffel Tower. The Paris with bakeries filled with baguettes and croissants every corner. The Paris with wine with every dinner. However, after experiencing all those “Paris scenes”, I still felt like I haven’t seen the real Paris. The Paris without the tourist attractions, although I can’t count those out completely. The Paris without the perfect hotel room and the help of a concierge. The Paris with struggle. The Paris with struggle of communication and transportation. I wanted to see the “not so glamourous but beautiful in its own way” Paris. I didn’t see that Paris until I started my program with CEA. From hailing a taxi to walking through the doors and into a courtyard to entering my apartment building and having to walk up four flights of stairs, I started to catch a glimpse of the Parisian life and Paris. I guess, in a way, what I really was looking for was the discomfort, and I saw it.
Paris, when you start seeing the little things, is when it starts to truly becomes amazing. The tips and tricks we learned to not look like a tourist was more than that. It was a lesson for me to learn how to plug myself into the community and adapt to the culture and customs. I don’t necessarily see it as letting the American or Asian side of me go, but as adding a Parisian side to me. I am not here to simply study, do my assignments, and then leave. I am here to indulge in the Parisian culture and way of life. Every morning I wake up and look outside my window at the people walking from street to street with grocery bags, baguettes and other pastries, in normal clothes, in work clothes, and I feel like I’m already a part of the community here. Even more when we have class in the morning. Having to wake up, get ready, and get on the busy metro is as Parisian as Parisian can get. We’re in this giant melting pot with so many components thrown in; the culture, the Parisians, the tourists, the sights, etc.
I’m finally starting to see Paris for what it is and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.