Life, Love, Stress, and Setbacks

I don’t know where to begin. I’m living in a new country, and it is so many things all at the same time- beautiful, overwhelming, exciting, scary. Katherine coincidentally ended up being my roommate, and our apartment is small and cute- a perfect Parisian experience. We live on a really cool street that lacks tourists and English speakers but has cute cafés, pâtisseries, and sandwich stands. My host family is so much better than I could have imagined; my host mom, Gaëlle, is literally the nicest person on the planet, and her nine-year-old son, Naël, is equal parts sweet and sassy. They don’t speak English, which I actually love because it forces me to practice my French and to try and figure out other ways to explain something when I don’t know the right word for it. I’ve been taking French for longer than Katherine has, so I actually have to translate for her sometimes. Naël expresses his sassiness with occasional remarks of “En français!” or by correcting our grammar. I appreciate it though! It is very helpful.

Paris itself is a very beautiful city. I have actually been here before; I visited Paris for four nights last summer, which is what officially cemented my desire to study abroad here. I feel comfortable here and an actual connection with my roots. You see, my ancestors came from Russia, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, and France, so it’s understandably difficult for me to feel like I have a culture. However, France is the only one of those five countries that I have been to, and I honestly do feel more in touch with my people and can maybe understand a little bit more deeply why I am the way that I am. Seriously! Anyhow, I like being in a place whose culture I understand and whose language I more or less understand.

However, everything isn’t all peaches. Moving to a foreign country is difficult. What doesn’t help is the nature of the study abroad program that I’m in; I’m here with other UW students, taking classes with UW professors and, while I do like the people in my program (holla!), it’s hard not to feel like I’m isolated in a UW bubble. For the past few weeks, I was constantly traveling and meeting cool people every day; it’s much harder to meet actual French people/non-Americans now that I’m not staying in a hostel, Couch Surfing, or attending a French university. Part of my program also requires weekly “field trips”, in which all 23 of us go somewhere in Paris and look like a big American tourist group. I want to feel like I actually live here- not like a tourist in my own city.

And though I’m pretty good at French, I’m not fluent. It’s also kind of odd being in a city in which nearly everyone speaks perfect English as well as French; like, it’s a weird thing to know in the back of my head- that if I try to communicate with someone in French, they might realize that I’m not French and start speaking to me in English. I feel even more pressure than if I was a beginner at French and could have that as an excuse- that “Je parle le français un peu!” I almost feel like I can sympathize more with immigrants and international students within the U.S. who aren’t perfect at English. It’s fuckin’ hard! It’s scary to try to not only communicate with but establish meaningful relationships with people in a language in which you are not fluent.

Regardless, I have been doing some really fun things! The other night, for example, Katherine, her French/UW friend Marine, and I all went to an open mic night at a café. It was an English-speaking event, and it was so inspiring to hear such awesome poetry. Also, yours truly performed at it! I’ve only performed at maybe two open mic nights in my life, and for the longest time I was incredibly secretive and sensitive about my poetry. I’m finally starting to change that, and performing was quite exhilarating!  I want to start going there regularly as well as attending their writers’ workshops.

I also started taking ballet! In the land where ballet was invented! Here, they simply call it “la danse classique.” I’ve been focusing solely on salsa dancing for the past couple of years, so it felt soooo good to return to the kind of dance that I used to do back in the day. I just love moving my body and feeling graceful and elegant. Thus, I have also decided that I’m going to become a ballerina (at least while I’m in Paris).

Other less interesting things that I have been up to? Why, hours spent sitting in cafés and writing, exploring the nightlife, shopping, going on long walks around the city, going to Balenciaga exhibits, and, uh, studying…

It’s been odd trying to settle down here when, in the month of September alone, I was in a total of five different countries. Thus, I’m trying to create a balance between having, like, some sort of a normal life and having adventures. But why be normal when you can be adventurous?!

Also, here’s the one photo that exists of me in Paris. C’était au restaurant :D.

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