Cultural Immersion

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Although I was exhausted after an 8-hour flight plus the many hours spent at JFK international airport for the formalities, I jumped right into orientation. Paris was everything that I imagined it to be and it didn’t disappoint. The city is incredibly beautiful and clean. The architecture is amazing and the sky is bright and sunny. I was lucky to be present on the day of “fête de la musique” and the city resonated with various genres of music. My first week in Paris was full of excitement and amusement. We went to a movie premiere at the Champs-Elysees Film Festival. We also took a day trip to Barbizon village and visited Fontainebleau. Barbizon was the home of many notable impressionist artists of the 19th century such as Rousseau, Millet, and Diaz de la Peña. These painters came to the tiny village of Barbizon after being rejected from Parisian museums and circles. For many years all they did were landscape paintings and now their artworks sell for millions of euros and are exhibited in the Orsay museum.

One thing that I found interesting is how much French I have spoken since I arrived in this city. It sure is a good feeling to reminisce about the beauty of the language and readopt the subtle grammar rules while employing complex words to express my thoughts. This is a whole shift from my American experience. This was further experienced when one of our professors took us to a Haitian Poesie event at the cultural center in Bobigny. Bobigny is a historically disadvantaged neighborhood that saw a lot of crimes and high rates of unemployment among its youth. So in recent years, the French government decided to invest in the arts and culture to shift the youth away from criminal activity.

The event consisted of freestyle poetry and music that the artists read and the public was invited to participate. I went on stage to read a poem in my native tongue that talked about tolerance and acceptance of different cultures/religions/views. Everybody loved it. The event made me think about how music and poetry remain powerful tools to eliminate barriers and unite people regardless of their differences.

There you have it. My first week in Paris was full of excitement but I had some trouble adjusting to the time zone and settling in the city. I had trouble sleeping at night, partly because the day is long in Paris. The sun doesn’t go down before 10 pm which makes the nights very short. I worked at night in the United States, so I am used to staying up all night and sleeping during the day. Switching to night sleep and daytime activeness was quite difficult, and I had a hard time adjusting to my new schedule. But after a few days, my body adapted to it, and I was able to score a few hours of sleep at night. Navigating around the city isn’t difficult. Everything is quite explicit, and Parisians are eager to assist foreigners. So far the people I have encountered are very pleasant and they made my transition to this beautiful city very easy.