My Tunisian parents immigrated to America some years ago. I grew up right in the ‘gravy’ of old Italian Catholic South Philly, and spent my formative elementary school days playing with my Cambodian, Chinese, and Black friends. In fifth grade I moved on to a magnet school in center city, Masterman. There too I was in classes with other kids from different backgrounds, but for the first time, put simply, we weren’t all broke. My new classmates weren’t all from similar economic backgrounds and didn’t carry plastic bagged lunches that came from the corner store. Sometimes, we had grand celebrations and shared our own family stories with each other through food. My parents would send me to school with fragrant couscous or chicken. School was awesome, and together, we learned about the world beyond our marble halls.
One cannot truly enjoy or appreciate Paris until they come to the understanding that Paris exists in the cultural mixing pot of France, which similar to the United States, is home to its own melange of inhabitants. Based on my experiences, when I arrived landed in France, I was expecting just that. To me, one of the most exciting parts of going to France was to be surrounded by France’s own mix of unique people, who all came with their own stories, backgrounds, tastes, and talents.
While I was in Paris, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the classics–crepes, macarons, cheap lunches from the boulangerie, and so on. But my favorite gastronomical experiences by far happened off the beaten path of what restaurants and cuisine are typically recommended online to students studying abroad in France. I was happy to dive into the delicious and diverse world of food in Paris, and my palette craved more than just traditional “French” food. Some of my favorites were the pho, often from small family owned Vietnamese hole in the walls, a giant piping hot assortment of Ethiopian food, served on freshly made injera and eaten with our hands, and flavorful and expertly seasoned Argentinian empanadas.
My best advice to any student who will ever study abroad is to travel with a light spirit, heavy appetite, and awareness that every nation is an entire world within itself.