As I think back to my time abroad one year later, it is difficult to imagine how things would be different if we weren’t currently in the midst of a global pandemic. For me, studying abroad in Paris was that perfect moment in time in which I was able to freely explore to my heart’s content. I was only just getting back into a routine on my university’s campus after studying abroad when the world came to a standstill.
When I reflected on my time abroad during lockdown, I realized it wasn’t the big things I missed. I only went to the Eiffel Tower one time during my study abroad experience, and that was when my mom came to visit. Instead, I found, and still find, myself missing the unassuming, lesser known sights, sounds, smells, and experiences that made up the everyday life of my time abroad.
|Open space by Centre Pompidou (a.k.a., an awesome dance floor)|
It’s the yellow styrofoam of a kebab shop takeaway or visiting the convenience store that is only ever open in the middle of the night and never on a consistent schedule. It’s adult laughter to Frozen 2, which you’ve gotten to on a Lime scooter because there’s a metro strike. It’s a flea market on the side of a road that you have no idea how you’ve gotten to because you took a shortcut through a random cemetery. It’s late night dessert with your roommate at a car-themed café. It’s art in the form of a man’s dance outside the Centre Pompidou, not the works inside.
The same sentiment can be felt when you remove yourself from your hometown, whether to study abroad or when you are stuck inside because of a lockdown. Because the city in which you study abroad becomes your hometown. You aren’t there to study the landmarks. You’ll see plenty of those as you weave your way through your new city and uncover your new secret spots. Take the chance, study abroad, and make yourself at home.
Anna Wojciechowski is the Fall 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Northern Illinois University.