This is it! My year in Paris has come to an end. Perhaps now is a good opportunity to contemplate the lessons learned; many of which, admittedly, will probably strike me much later. It is indeed quite difficult to write about the growth I experienced – also because it was subtle at times – while I am still here (at least for a few days). I will nonetheless give it a try and hope that the following lessons I drew for myself will help you too, in a way, when studying abroad.
Lesson 1: The illusion of time
Once again I have fallen into the trap of believing I had time. When I arrived in Paris in late August, ten months felt like half an eternity. Now that ten months are over, my list of activities and places to go is still endless. To be fair, I could have spent my last weeks checking things off my to-do list. There are two reasons why I chose not to do so. First, I am currently interning at the German Embassy in Paris. This means that I can only visit museums, for instance, on the weekends. Second, and most important, I simply did not want to feel rushed. I just did what I would do in most other cities: walk around, read some books, drink coffee, meet friends.
Lesson 2: The opportunity for friendship
Moving to a new city, especially abroad, can be scary. But as an international student, there are numerous opportunities for you to meet others. It helps to keep in mind that everyone is pretty much in the same situation. You will not be the only “newcomer” in the city of your choice. Also, after having completed a few internships abroad, I – personally – have the impression that it is much easier to find friends while still a student. The environment of the university helps!
Lesson 3: The applicability of what is learned in class
Try to connect your classes to your daily experience! When walking through the streets of Paris and London, the footprint of history is striking. Its impact is not only apparent in monuments and buildings but sometimes also in local habits and behaviours. I found it extremely rewarding to draw a connection between the things I learned in class and the things I observed every day. For example, a better understanding of the colonial history of France and the UK will of course alter your experience at, say, Musée du quai Branly or the British Museum. It certainly helped me comprehend current public debates to a much greater extent.
This blog post is limited in scope; the lessons I learned go beyond the three paragraphs listed here. It has been a privilege to study in Paris, and I am already looking forward to continuing my studies in London. I am extremely grateful to the British Council for enabling me to pursue my dreams. I am equally grateful to you, the reader, for having joined me on this journey. If you wish to stay in touch (or if you have any questions), please feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn.
JUNE 2019 | Loë Guthmann