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Oh Paris, You Had me at "Bonjour!"

 What's not to love about the City of Love?

It only took a simple "hello" to make Renee Zellweger fall in love with Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire. Likewise, it didn't take much for me to fall completely head over heels in love with Paris – as a matter of fact, my infatuation with the city of love began long before I’d ever even traveled here. The history, the culture, the atmosphere, the fashion, the parisians – everything I had read about in novels and seen in films – drew me to this city. From the new discoveries I make to the little things that remind me of home, my connection to Paris grows stronger and stronger as each uncertain day comes and passes.

3 Simple tips for connecting with your destination:

1. Find the places that feel like you:

  These past three months, I have been able to discover the small things and places that don’t exist in my bubble back home, yet match my personality and interests. I find it impeccable that before my French class at Sorbonne, I can sit in Jardin du Luxembourg and simply work on homework or write certain blog posts (the italics may or may not imply that I am currently sitting in said garden, writing this blog post). Being the bookworm that I am, I often find myself at places like Les Deux Magots, where my favorite author Ernest
Hemingway would come to write or enjoy a scotch, or La Closerie des Lilas, where F. Scott Fitzgerald once read to Hemingway his final draft of The Great Gatsby. And I must admit, being a short metro ride from the Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week was pretty much the coolest thing, ever.

2. It’s not just the place, it’s the people too:

  Let it be known that similar to how us Americans are not all loud, self-important and obnoxious, not many Parisians are snobby and pretentious. While it has been easy to search through Yelp and find a café that I know I will be comfortable in and adore, it's always more of a pleasure unexpectedly connecting with a Parisian. For example, there's the crêpe man just underneath my apartment who often provides my roommate and I with some delicious late-night Nutella crepes and conversation. Or there's Margot, the barista at the Starbucks next to Sorbonne, who always asks me to translate certain French words into english. We have a certain mutual French-English tutoring system and while Margot has my name and drink order memorized by now, I don't have the heart to tell her my name is not pronounced nor spelled 'Malisson.'

3. Appreciate the little things and all of your small achievements

  When arriving to study abroad in Paris, I set a simple goal of discovering and appreciating "les petites choses" or the little things. Knowing that there were so many places I wanted to check off my bucket-list was a bit stressful, but understanding that someone could live in Paris for a lifetime and not discover all of the city's marvelous wonders allowed me to shift my focus from seeing and doing everything to simply appreciating and taking in each and every day. It has been these small moments, which lead to simple feelings, that make me feel more and more connected to this place that I know I will eventually call home again. I get a sense of victory each time I order a meal in french and the waiter responds not once in english, or when a Parisian comes up to me on the sidewalk and asks "Où est le ___?" and I can immediately respond with the correct directions. These achievements, however small they may be, allow me to recognize that I am not just becoming more connected to Paris but rather, I am becoming more and more immersed in the Paris lifestyle. Realizing that I am not simply a student visiting temporarily, but someone who belongs here, makes me take on each day with strength, confidence and spontaneity.


Madison Vlay is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Paris, France. She is currently a junior at UCLA.

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