Let me guide you through my weekend getaway to Paris, France as an exchange student studying abroad in England.
To begin with, this was my first time visiting France and my energy to encounter a new culture and stuff my face with delicious pastries was high. Upon arriving in Paris my friend and I grabbed a taxi to our Airbnb and got ourselves situated before heading into the city for dinner. Studying abroad has evolved my confidence in many aspects: one being my ability to navigate public transportation, which I would consider an elite skill to possess. Although there is a comfort that I had purposely planted when deciding to study in England, the language is the same as in America ( to an extent). With that, I’ll admit the first night in Paris I put off trying to navigate the transportation system due to our difficulty trying to get tickets. When entering the train station you are required to purchase a ticket and scan it, in order to enter the underground and catch your train. In England, if you wish not to go through the efforts of getting a ticket you have the advantage of simply tapping your card on the gates and going to your destination. We faced a language barrier when attempting to ask for guidance from the information booth in the station. The struggle we faced was not being able to purchase a ticket because at that specific station, they only took cash, being we study in England we only had pounds and not euros.
Later that night, after dinner I was determined to utilize the transportation system to get back to our AirBnb. Luckily this time around ( and for the rest of our trip) we encountered a station that took a card payment and we successfully bought tickets to catch a train. There was a sense of accomplishment I felt after arriving at my destination using public transportation in a new region. I believe this is fostered by feeling more confident in my abilities and independence to take care of myself and not feeling discouraged when things don’t align perfectly. The duration of our trip required reading signs in french and being surrounded by a new way of life.
An interesting interaction I had when eating breakfast with a friend allowed me to gain a better understanding of an aspect of French culture. While my friend and I were finishing up our meals, we planned the rest of our day and were eager to see Paris and visit the Eiffel tower. After talking for a bit and taking our last bites, we sat around waiting to catch the server’s attention. When he finally came around I kindly asked for the check, to which he responded “ no”. I was in shock and confused, he followed after saying to not rush and take our time then walked away. It was a funny interaction being I’ve never been denied the check to pay, in fact, I often feel rushed at a restaurant to leave as soon as we are done with our meals. My experience with French culture during my stay taught me to be more engaged at the moment and to not rush through life even the small parts like enjoying a cup of coffee.
Of course, he returned and eventually brought us the check and laughed that we need to relax more. This trip brought me lots of cultural awareness regarding the language, people, and best of all the food. I embraced every aspect I could, I utilized my french dictionary of two words: thank you and goodbye every chance I could. I ate escargot, which is cooked snails, a popular appetizer in France. I used their public transportation and walked through the city the entire duration of my trip and visited many local bakeries. My experience in France was my first step in embracing a culture completely out of my norm and I look forward to a lot more of that.