Where this story should begin is a mystery to me, as a million factors have led me up to this point in my life. I suppose I could start with when I first stepped onto the streets of my new home. I had made an incredibly long journey from England over to Paris by bus, train, bus, ferry, bus, train, métro, then on foot. I emerged from Rambuteau métro station onto the city streets, burdened down with all my stuff for the year. Exhilaration and pure euphoria can’t really describe the emotions that were running through me. A little scared of getting lost, I eventually made it to the CEA Global Campus in Paris. After another taxi ride to my dorm (AEPP), I found myself in my new room. I (sort of) unpacked my things and went outside to the courtyard to do what would shape my entire experience while in Europe: hoopdance. I am a professional hoopdancer and I do performances with LED and fire hoops. I have done many shows, but none in a metropolis like Paris. Over the next few days, I got acquainted with my new roommates, CEA, and of course, the city.
I began contacting all the major clubs in Paris, sending out my resume and some journalist photos. In the meantime I would go out at night on the weekends and street perform, my favorite locations being: in front of the Pompidou, the Bastille Opera house, and the magnificent Notre Dame. Other than having the incredible experience of busking in front of the most iconic buildings in the world, I began to make friends with other Parisian street performers and other denizens of counter-culture. Eventually I was invited to an underground venue, which was a graffiti art-covered, abandoned, underground parking lot that had been turned into a practice center on Monday nights. A DJ plays techno-trance music while jugglers, poi dancers and other circus-like artists practice their routines for the streets.
This was the Paris that I was looking for, where I wanted to live every second in its entirety. Eventually Club Queen, one of Paris’ biggest clubs on the Champs-Elysées, contacted me. I did a couple shows there and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I even had my own costumer and makeup/hair artist. The crowd (consisting of several hundred people) went crazy and cheered the whole time while I performed. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Although the performances paid very well, I needed some more money on a day-to-day basis, so I walked into the Irish pub across the street and asked for a job. I got the job in the first few weeks I was there, but my French was still not very good at that point. Working that first night taking food and drink orders in English and French while running to and from the kitchen, trying not to break anything and avoiding basically spontaneously combusting was one of the most stressful moments of my life. It also accelerated my French. If I didn't know what to say or if I couldn't understand what the customer was asking, I would mess up whatever order they wanted. My vocabulary augmented profoundly, and I quickly learned essential French phrases that I've relied on ever since. Plus, it made me feel like I was actually living in Paris.
At the CEA Global Campus in Paris, I'm taking classes in Haute Couture in Paris (a fashion history course), Introduction to Drawing, Modernist Art History, and French Conversation. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my classes! I honestly can't wait to go to school. My professors are amazing, the courses are incredible and extremely challenging without being daunting, and I learn so much every day. The classes are small, so I feel I can get extreme individual attention. I've had classes before where I feel like the professor is just going through the motions and has a monotone syllabus that never changes. I feel like here, they honestly care if you're learning and expand the course with outside reading, museum visits, lectures, etc. It's really a hands-on experience. Did I mention I love my classes?
I can't even compare how I was when I first stepped foot onto French soil. I remember not being able to understand one word in French, and struggling to think how to say simple things like, "How much does this cost?" and "Can you tell me where _____ is?" Now I can hold a fluent conversation with pretty much anybody. I understand about 3-4 out of every 5 words, but obviously it depends on the subject I'm discussing and who I'm discussing it with. I still have moments where my mind goes blank, and I can't quite express myself fully, but I feel I do pretty well.
I just had an audition yesterday to open a new soirée party at a large club close to my apartment. I really feel like I belong to this city. It's become such a huge part of me. I’m not just spending a year abroad here; I’m living here; working, meeting new people, taking care of my own place, and generally becoming ‘one with the city.' Wow, could that have sounded more cliché? Coming from a farm, I never pictured myself becoming comfortable in a concrete jungle, but Paris is just one of those places that can imbed itself deep in your heart and spirit if you let it. In a way, it’s also very sad. I know I have to leave one day, and I will never really feel satisfied in just one place. I miss home very much and I want to go back at some point, but Paris has just become a part of me, and feels as much like a real home as anywhere else. I will certainly miss it.
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