Terra: Wandering Paris
When I was staying in Versailles, I often took the train to Paris, usually all by myself. There is nothing like living in a foreign country at age seventeen, with no one remotely close to you, no one who speaks your language, no one to guide you- nothing else will quite teach you how to be independent like that. It may sound daunting, and at points it honestly was but I can’t say I’d ever change it. Sometimes facing your fears dead on is the best way to overcome them. I had to jump way out of my comfort zone at times but without doing that I wouldn’t have had the amazing experiences I had. Not to mention how my self-confidence improved dramatically.
Paris is a great place to get lost. I would just wander the city and see the different things happening. At Christmas time, Printemps is probably the equivalent of Rockefeller center in New York. All the windows are decorated with little “animations” as the French will call them. All the little kids run from one to the next to see the little bears dancing so gleefully while the adults squeeze through the crowds. While I was there I bought fresh roasted chestnuts on the street which is one of the strangest things you might see being cooked on the sidewalk in Paris. Inside there is an enormous tree and the whole building is just toppling with department store fever. It is all worth it to see that beautiful tree and the stained glass ceiling above it.
The Louvre is another place I was “happily” lost in. If you have been you know that once you are inside the halls just seem to go on for miles. There is too much beautiful art and history to ever see it all in that museum. If you want to go, and you want to avoid getting lost, I would plan out what you want to visit for the day and look at the map ahead of time so you know where you are going. Nothing like getting lost in one of the world’s largest and most beautiful places, all alone, and at lunch time too.
Staying in a foreign country is fantastic for a person’s language skills. I had to talk to strangers to get directions, buy food and gifts, find the bathroom, and sometimes just to find the exit. My best advice would be to be patient with yourself. It was scary to speak a relatively new language to someone who is not only fluent in said language but also might not be patient or kind. It happens, not everyone in Paris is a delight but just remember what they put up with everyday—millions of whiney, impatient, and demanding tourists. All you can do is try speaking your best French, take a deep breath and dive in. Many Parisians will speak English to you, but don’t give up, keep using that French and maybe they will catch on that you can speak their language too. I always wanted to try and be the opposite of what they expected from an American tourist. I tried to speak their language, I tried to be respectful of their culture and ways of life.
Sometimes at the end of the day I was so stressed out with my-self. I would think that I tried so hard to speak so well and yet I would still mess up, maybe be laughed at, or even talked down to (probably in English). Learning a new language is so, so, so difficult. Living in a different country without your family and friends is even harder. Doing both at once for several months on end is going to stress you out a little. The truth is, it wasn’t the easiest and most pleasurable thing I ever lived through but my adventures in France taught me so much about the world as well as my-self. It made me so strong, independent, and helped me grow up all while improving my French by a hundred fold. That is something nothing else in this world could ever do as well.