After many months studying abroad in Paris, the semester is just days away from its close. Our classes have nearly concluded, and our final exams will soon commence. Two weeks from now, each of us will depart from the CEA Paris Center to move in different directions towards familiar homes across the Atlantic or even towards new adventures abroad.
When we began our collegiate years back in the States, many of us found ourselves in very new environments—new people around us, new learning in diverse spaces, new opportunities to pursue, new passions to nourish, etc. When we moved abroad for the semester, the same environmental shift occurred, though this time with the nuances of both foreign language and foreign culture layered atop. In this context, exploration became a necessity, and discovery organically followed. When you know nothing, you explore and discover in all you do. We identified our local grocery stores, we memorized our routine métro routes, and we found our survival vocabulary. We exerted ourselves to make it work; as Americans living here in Paris, we've adapted, and with foreign norms have become our new normal.
| inside the Musée d'Orsay—
a great place to pass time!
|a peaceful walk along the banks of the Seine|
Now, in retrospect, I think the semester has pushed us to develop a unique sort of fortitude, one that only those who have taken the dive into study abroad can claim. This strength, it seems to me, manifests as a fuller and truer ability to survive—and maybe even thrive—independently, when away from all familiar things. With time, in this new territory, we’ve come to find new spaces to make our own, and now the cafés we frequent, the parks we roam, the bookstores where we window shop become a distinct backdrop in the ongoing narrative of our lives abroad. The people around us and the routines we follow become elements of this narrative too, making us more complex characters. Though we represent such a broad range of pasts and futures, we seem to agree unanimously that who we know ourselves to be today have developed because of the setting into which we ventured together: Paris.
| Aimlessly wandering the streets can be
a gateway to incredible discoveries
| Paris' monuments—architectural marvels \
AND great sites for people-watching!
The semester abroad has also been our christening as globetrotters. With such incredible access to a smorgasbord of European adventures, we’ve grown comfortable with lots of movement, with improvisation and ongoing adaptation. A mere hour on a plane can take you from Parisian parks to German markets, then onto Swedish ferries and Dutch canals—and from this comes more than fresh Insta content. A certain understanding of the world and a certain propensity for empathy come spring from this experience of such complex, diverse cultures.
|Paris' omnipresent Velib bike-share bicycles|
|the city as seen from above—but circa 1929!|
Even after the escapades through Europe, it always comes back to Paris—for Paris is a place like no other, as magnificent as you might hope, packed with more curiosities than you’d be likely to suspect, and more ripe with possibility than anyone outside can imagine. It is my hope that by being Parisian for this semester, we may return home as better Americans—more aware and open, more curious and prone to understanding the ways diversity of culture, perspective, and experience serve to make us all more learned and loving humans.
|Sunsets here are best viewed from up high, like here at Centre Pompidou.|
Jared K. is the Spring 2018 CEA MOJO Photographer in Paris, France. He is currently a junior studying Management & Innovation and Global Studies at Champlain College.
Jared Knepper is the Spring 2018 CEA MOJO Photographer in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Champlain College.