Skip to content

The Adventure Concludes

May 8, 2013

Well, Paris, it’s been fun. We’ll say our goodbyes tomorrow morning at Charles de Gaulle airport, where we said hellos exactly four months ago. I do hope you stay relatively sane while I’m gone.

I’ll be back. I promise.

I hope.

You’ve been incredibly good to me. I admit, sometimes you’ve been a bit of a b!%#^. But that’s okay, Paris. You’ve made it up to me many times. We’re cool.

Despite what I’ve said, I will miss this city so incredibly much. There’s nothing like it in the United States, and I hate that soon I’ll be a 10 hour plane ride away again. I’ll miss the people, the friends and the generous natives and the eager tourists. I’ll miss the languages, hearing French and Italian and Arabic and German and the ones I haven’t managed to identify. I will in fact miss failing at communicating in French, because at least I’ve had the chance, and I’ll miss successfully communicating in French even more. I’ll miss the baguettes and pains au chocolat and chaussons aux pommes, and I’ll miss trying to run the calories off between the Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militaire. I will so miss the sound that the Gare du Nord departure board makes when one train leaves and suddenly all of the tiles spelling the schedule whiz through the alphabet to spell the schedule minus the train that just left, and I’ll miss train stations and trains to new places so, so much. I’ll miss the adventures of various sizes. I’ll miss walking somewhere and seeing centuries of history and art and culture still alive today. I will miss living in Paris.

I don’t feel like being sad now, though I’m sure I could if I tried. I just don’t see the point (but don’t call me out on this if it changes tomorrow. My emotions should never be trusted to be reliable). There’s nothing I can do to stay here longer, and I’m not sure I want to. It has been a very, very good semester, and I do love this city. But I knew I had four months here, and I followed the story as such. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end here, and now it’s time for a close. An epilogue might come later. But now, it’s final chapter time.

(And, speaking of stories and writings: the blog. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it up once my study abroad is said and done and written. There are a few posts I’ve wanted to write, and I may, only I do like the conclusive feeling of this post. I could write about my internship this summer, though I’m not sure how comfortable I am publishing about a workplace. This blog served many purposes — mainly upholding my sanity and keeping a bridge between myself and family and friends back home. In journalism, if you don’t have solid reporting, it’s difficult to write a good article. I don’t want to try to write blogs with little valuable content. If you, lovely reader, have an opinion, I’d love to hear it.)

I’ve learned so much this semester — far more than journalism things. It’s weird to think that, as a 20-year-old, in a way, I’ve grown up in Paris. I’m not going to write about “discovering myself” and “life-changing experiences” and “becoming a new person,” because the study abroad experience, I believe, is often idealized and romanticized and seen as an utterly perfect way of life. It’s not. I still consider myself the same person as I was in January, only I panic less, probably much to the relief of my family. And, while this experience has so much value to me personally, I don’t think my life has any more value or meaning than that of someone who hasn’t studied abroad or traveled internationally. Adventures happen anywhere and everywhere, and lessons come from people connected to places, not necessarily places dry of life. Studying abroad didn’t give me super powers, and it didn’t give me an express pass when waiting in line to meet St. Peter. I continued living like anyone else, only I lived in Paris and saw a few more cultures than I would have back home. Am I grateful for what I’ve learned abroad? More than I can say. Would I have learned the same things had I not studied abroad? Not in the same way, and not as efficiently, but yes.

I will write, though, that I wouldn’t have traded this opportunity for the world. Well, maybe I would, because then I would have the easiest access to Europe ever, right? Even the biggest of challenges had a value, and while the pressure and loneliness and language barriers weren’t the most pleasant things to deal with, I came into this semester knowing there would be challenges and looking forward to overcoming them. That’s the only way to look at hard times, I think: as opportunities to succeed. And because of those, and because of all of the good times and for all the reasons I’ll miss it, Paris is a special place to me. And as excited I am to see my family and friends and America again, I will miss Paris dearly.

So I won’t say goodbye. Instead, I’ll say au revoir. Until we see each other again.

The Munich Post

May 8, 2013

Thirty years ago, my father returned to the United States after living in Germany for three years. My mother left Germany a year later, also after living there for three years. They were in military families, so they frequently talked about their time on the bases as my sister and I grew up. The hub of most of their stories, though, always seemed to be in Munich, where my father spent two years as a student.

Ten years ago, my family and I were going to spend a week in Munich during our spring break. It would have been my sister’s and my first time abroad and my parents’ first time back in Germany. But when my father lost his job, we cancelled the trip, each of us terribly disappointed.

Munich’s been on the bucket list, obviously, for a while. It wasn’t even on the list to do a particular thing; I just wanted to go. Go where Dad studied and Mom visited and where we as a family were supposed to visit long ago. So, being in Europe and having possibly my only chance to make it, I took a six-hour train ride and spent last weekend in Munich.


It’s a truly lovely city, and I can understand why my father loves it. There’s an energy, a bit of a quirky energy, but it’s a calm city. People are happy. They have their lederhosen and beer and traditions, and they have their roads and pedestrian streets and gardens. It’s German and Bavarian,  and it’s old and new. I took a walking tour and learned a fraction of its history. What I love about Europe is how its cities build with their history instead of on top of their history, like I think we do in the States. Statues of kings still stand, and the 1972 Olympic Park is now an athletic garden. When the majority of the city was destroyed in the WWII, buildings were reconstructed to look as they would have pre-war, only with a bit of a modern touch. And even the uglier pasts, like that of WWII, has its recognition. History is important to this place.


History, of course, was the entire reason I came: to see a bit of my family’s. And I confess, never in a trip had I wished my family could have been with me more. When you travel solo, you have to discipline your mind to ignore the downsides. Usually, it’s easy — there was so much to do in Amsterdam and London that I didn’t have time to feel alone. But in Munich, a smaller and less busy city, it was easy to notice that the trip, no matter how nice it was, probably would have improved were my family there, having the trip we were supposed to 10 years ago.

Yet I’m still immensely glad I went. I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I had decided not to go, and I’m glad I had Amsterdam and London under my belt before I took on Munich by myself. It was a bittersweet trip, but some of the best things in life are. It was a very good last European trip. I learned German history and words, and I crossed Munich off the bucket list. Being in Munich was enough. And the nostalgia was completely worth it.


Kindness is Contagious

May 8, 2013

Last week had been one of the more stressful weeks since I arrived in Paris. I moved out of my apartment, had a monetarily complicated meeting with my rental agency, and came down with a sinus infection. Beautiful ending to the term, right?

With leaving my apartment came cancelling my housing insurance, so I made my way to the bank, the insurance provider. I met the teller with the usual apology of “My French isn’t stellar,” adding the new apology of “I can’t really talk that well in any language due to the phlegm surrounding my throat.*”

Oh, she said, cancelling housing insurance? Nope, you can’t do that in person. You have to write a letter to one of the bank’s offices; never mind that you were told earlier to come in person and that you have all of the documentation with you. Here, go find some paper and craft a business letter in your non-fluent language and find a post office and pay extra for secure mailing.

Now, as I’m writing this, I realize the situation sounds very small. Not a big deal, Deborah; keep your cool. But as I stood there, understanding about 3/4 of what this woman was telling me, exhausted from the moving and the plumbing and the coughing, I was tempted to ask her, “Would you like me to lose it here? I can. I totally can.”

Another customer approached us, hearing my confusion and my accent. She asked in English, “Can I help?” and proceeded to lead this remarkable bilingual conversation among the three of us. She asked my questions and found out where I was supposed to send the letter and had the teller give me a piece of paper so I could write it. Then, bless her heart, she helped me write the letter.** She pointed me in the direction of the closest post office, and she told me how to ask for secure mailing. I wanted to hug her.

I have been stunned by random strangers’ kindness here. That woman did not need to take time out of her day to help me with French banking. She didn’t have to bother to clarify the warped dialogue between myself and the teller. She didn’t need to do anything except finish her own business at the bank. But she did more, and no matter how simple or small it seems, I was taken aback by her generosity.

I wanted to repay her somehow, but — and I told her this, “All I have are tissues.”

She brushed it off and said not to worry about it. People helped her when she first came to Paris, and she wanted to do the same. Return the favor, in a way.

I headed to the post office feeling better about the city again. Less exasperated. Less, “screw the last week, I want to go home now.” I left Paris that weekend, as I think I’ve developed a knack for scheduling trips that will ultimately correlate with when I’m most stressed in the city. Taking my last European trip this semester, I went to Munich, Germany. I managed enough — but only enough — with my 10 words of German, the entire time thankful that I lived in a country where I have some proficiency in the language, even if banking in it is a nightmare.

On the train ride back, I sat near a group of six middle-aged Germans, most of whom were visiting Paris for the first time. The one sitting next to me spoke some English, and we chatted about my semester and their visit. She and the others have been friends for 40 years, and one of them recently had a birthday. His wish was to go on a vacation with his friends, so Paris for a week it was. I was impressed.

As we got closer to Paris, she asked me if I knew how to buy metro tickets at the train station. I described the ticket kiosks downstairs where someone could buy 10 or 20 tickets. The thing was, she said, they only needed six to get to their hotel, where they would then buy specific day passes.

Oh. The kiosks don’t do six tickets. Or any number other than 10 or 20, for that matter. But that was fine, I said — I’ll just go with you to the information desk and ask to buy the tickets there.

She was so relieved, and she asked if I knew how to get to their hotel’s closest metro stop. I didn’t, but I and one of the friends pulled out our metro maps and found the stop. I started to describe what signs to look for in the metro station and which direction to take, and then I realized I could get back to the apartment using the line they needed.

“I can take you to the metro and get on with you, if you want?”

So the seven of us, six Germans and an American, got off the train in Paris and walked to the metro station. I asked the man behind the information desk for six tickets, and we went through the station’s turnstiles, only half of us getting stuck with our luggage. We found line 4 in the direction of Montrouge, and I showed them where on the line I would get off and where they would get off.

They were so happy and so grateful, and it felt contagious. To me, it wasn’t any problem; they were so friendly, and home was that direction, anyway. I remember feeling so lost once I got to Paris. It’s an overwhelming city.

My stop came before theirs, so as I prepared to get off I told them a few last minute French word must-knows. We exchanged “auf wiedersehen”s and “bonne chance”s. They tried to give me money, and I tried to stop them. It was small and simple help, pas de problème.

I’m incredibly grateful to the people in Paris who’ve helped me stay afloat in rough situations. These four months have been the most humbling of my life, and I’m grateful for that, too. I’m more relieved and so glad, though, that before leaving I got a chance to return the favor.

*You’re welcome for that imagery.

**I’m pretty good at writing French. Not perfect, but I can write essays and whatnot. And I’m well familiar with writing business letters in English. Business letters in French, though? Not a strong point.

I Won’t Miss You, Paris

April 30, 2013

I have a week and a half left in this city that, against my expectations, I’ve come to love. It’s getting a bit sad, thinking of leaving, no matter how excited I am to see my family and friends back in the States. I’ll miss this place.

I mean, no, I won’t.

No, Paris. To make our goodbyes easier, I’m going to find all the things I will not miss about you. Surely, this is the healthy way to end relationships. You’re not perfect, you know. It’s not me; it’s you.

  • I won’t miss the crazy drivers who speed right up to a stoplight and who think honking incessantly will cure traffic jams. It won’t, but thanks for the headache.
  • I won’t miss the motorcyclists who drive on a sidewalk to park. Please, please, just don’t hit me.
  • I won’t miss how small the sidewalks are. This city was not designed for this many people.
  • I won’t miss the mob of students right outside Sciences Po buildings clogging the entry and exit. There’s an entire street here, and this is where the 50 of you choose to take your smoking break?
  • I won’t miss the smoke. It is not any less gross here than it is in America.
  • I won’t miss the lack of granola bars. Don’t worry, Nature Valley — I’m coming for you soon.
  • I won’t miss the junk food. Okay, I kind of will. I won’t miss how tempting the junk food is. I’m honestly just thankful all my clothes still fit.
  • I won’t miss the dollar-euro conversion rate. I am so excited to go back home where a dollar is just a dollar, plain and simple.
  • I won’t miss the heavy PDA in random places. Really, couple? You’re going to physically express your affection on the Monoprix escalator up to the grocery section? I never knew produce was so romantic.
  • I won’t miss my apartment’s plumbing, which enables any liquid I pour down the sink to come up through the shower drain. Oh hey, milk, tea, and soapy dishwater. Didn’t expect to see you again.
  • I won’t miss dodging dog excrement on every sidewalk despite the numerous signs encouraging dog owners to keep their neighborhood clean. They don’t.
  • I won’t miss the smell of urine in metro stations. I really, really will not miss the smell of urine in metro stations. Gag.
  • I won’t miss my male hallmates who, despite being old enough to rent an apartment, don’t know how to aim when using the toilet. Come on, guys — I’ve asked other males. It’s not that hard.
  • Really I just won’t miss anything having to do with apparent bodily waste.

See, Paris? It’s totally you. Never mind the fact that the list of things I will miss about you is longer than this one. We’re just not going to think about that right now. Maybe tomorrow. But right now, I’m keeping sane by thinking of all the ways I most definitely will not miss you.

I’m a Tourist

April 26, 2013

I returned to my hostel in Amsterdam after a pretty long day of strolling and museum-hopping. One of my roommates, lounging on her bed while casually consuming some form of drugs* that I’m too naive to identify, asked what I’d visited. I responded honestly, mentioning the Van Gogh museum and canals and the Anne Frank Huis that I planned to visit the next day.

“Oh,” she said, sounding a bit disappointed. “You did all of the touristy things.”

She continued to say that when she went to a new city, she would go to a park or garden to get the true sense of the city’s culture. (I didn’t tell her that in Paris, most of the gardens do attract tourists, except for those that often attract the homeless.)

“Touristy places” and tourists have a bad reputation. The places are seen as quick and usual stops for tourists, crash courses in a city’s culture. There’s a very specific yet very broad connotation for your typical tourists. They clog public transportation, they speak with loud excitement and ignorance, they visit only their namesake attractions, they stand in the way of others’ pictures.


I don’t know how many pictures this girl wanted of herself in front of the Notting Hill Bookshop in London, but she stood there for so long I just gave up and took a picture of the shop despite her presence.

But they’re well-intentioned. Tourists, by straight denotation, are simply visitors. They’re visiting a place, and then they return home with some learning and souvenirs.

After three-and-a-half months in Paris, I’m becoming a tourist again.

Right from the beginning of my time here, I’ve been a student. It was my primary definition and purpose here: an American studying in Paris. I was a bit of a tourist the first week, when I was learning how to navigate Paris and the university before classes officially began. And I was definitely a tourist in Amsterdam and London, and even in Reims and York, and I’ll be a tourist in a week when I go to Munich. But in Paris I went to orientation and attended classes and did homework, visiting a few places on the side.

But now my classes are done (celebration!), and I have one last assignment due Monday. After that, I’ll no longer be a student here. My summer break will begin in Paris. I’ll be a tourist, and I have no shame.

I’ve been fitting into my new (and ironic) role rather nicely. I went to two of the main Paris gardens, now gorgeous and colorful after spring’s rather delayed arrival.


It’s been so sunny in Paris this week that I got a sunburn. I feel like I need applause or something, since this would have been unheard of a few weeks earlier.

I saw where an Egyptian obelisk replaced a French guillotine.


Yeah, I think I prefer the obelisk.

And I saw Egyptian, Islamic, Roman, and Greek art in the Louvre.


Who doesn’t love clothes?

I visited a famous English-language bookshop.


The coolest bookstore I’ve ever been in.

And I visited some chimeras and saw the city after climbing 400 steps.

Climbing Notre Dame was probably my favorite thing that I've done in Paris.

One of my favorite things that I’ve done in Paris.

Tourist attractions are attractions for a reason. There’s a history behind all of them, whether it be from political revolution or literary inspiration. It’s a learning experience. It’s one thing to read about something, and it’s another to see it, and it’s a whole other to interact with it. And these places that bring tourists, they’re predecided for us. There are a million and five ways to experience French culture. Even after actually living here I haven’t seen it all, and I went to a Paris school, interviewed market vendors and Academie Francaise workers and purchased food at bakeries and grocery stores. Everything has been completely worthwhile, but if I only had three days in Paris, I would rather climb Notre Dame than experience the Frenchness of a grocery store. Do the French go to the grocery store more often than Notre Dame? Yes. Is there more to experience at Notre Dame than at Carrefour?


I think so.

So while some grumble about tourists polluting culture, I smile as I walk past the Eiffel Tower and its line of visitors waiting to buy tickets. Go climb that structure the French first hated and later loved. Go see what’s become a city’s icon, and see Paris from its tallest structure. Embrace your inner tourist.

That’s what I’ll be doing during my last days here. I have less than two weeks during which I’m a tourist on summer break in Paris. I won’t be loud, and I won’t pose in front of others’ pictures, and I know how to use the metro. But I’ll be a tourist nonetheless since my student label has expired, and I don’t mind at all.

*Don’t do drugs, kids.

When Fear Strikes

April 20, 2013

I was a day away from heading home after the semester’s end December 14, when a gunman took 26 lives and his own in Newtown, Connecticut.

I was commuting from home to my local summer internship when NPR reporters were discussing the Aurora cinema shootings.

I was in my elementary school, just blocks away from my house, when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field.

When these tragedies struck, I’ve been able to go to some of the people I love most in the world, get a hug, and talk it out. It’s a comforting ritual in times of unexpected uncertainty and fear that tragedy can arrive at any moment, resting in the control of someone aiming for destruction.

When I heard about the Boston bombings, I wished for that luxury again.

I’m lucky; I don’t have family or friends in Boston, so the worry wasn’t as intense as it could have been when I first heard of Monday’s explosions. And so shortly after learning of events in Boston, I felt lucky that I didn’t know anyone in Texas when the news of a fertilizer explosion broke.

And I continue to feel immensely lucky to live in countries not plagued by civil war, genocide, and tectonic quakes. Destruction isn’t on the forefront of our fears in America, nor in France.

There’s a bit of security in being away from home when nothing seemed to be going right for America. But there’s a bit of insecurity, too, having the reminders that inhuman and inhumane harm can strike at any time, at any place. It’s the same insecurity that, I think, took the nation on September 11, 2001; July 20, 2012; December 14, 2012; and dozens of natural and man-made disasters in-between that took place both inside and outside the borders. Only this time I can’t follow the police’s and politicians’ advice of finding the ones I love, giving a hug, and talking it out.

If you’re able to follow that advice, please do. Remember to love, and remember to be humble. Stay safe,  Boston, Texas, Iran, China, Everywhere.

Yorkshire Tales

April 11, 2013


That was how Saskia suggested I start today’s blog. Let me know if you like it? It’s so enthusiastic that I might start every blog that way from now on.

You remember Saskia, right?


She spent the last academic year in Chapel Hill, where I was her mentor through a group that helps international students navigate UNC and America. I seriously think we lucked out by being assigned to each other. Last year, our shared adventures included Thanksgiving, an author’s tours, a bit of spring break, Holi, and a few vlogs. She’s a cool kid.

Post-Holi. Can you tell which one of us doesn't like to get dirty?

Post-Holi. We’re so pleased to be covered in paint dust.

She helped me quite a bit when it came to deciding to study abroad. When I chose to study in France instead of her home country of England, we determined it would be superbly awesome if I spent the Easter holidays with her and her family in York.

There was a bit of difficulty arranging it, what with travel costs and conflicting course and bus schedules. And then there was a bit of difficulty actually getting there because of snow and mixed up bus stops. But I successfully arrived the Thursday before Easter.

It was, in fact, superbly awesome.

Saskia’s hometown is a small village just outside of York, and I find it adorably English. There’s the village hall, the church, and the pub everyone goes to. It’s small enough that you can walk or bike anywhere. Everyone seems to know each other, and Saskia’s family was pet-sitting the neighbors’ sheep for the week.

These are not *the* sheep, but these are two of many sheep I saw during the week.

These are not *the* sheep, but these are three of many sheep I saw during the week.

Saskia, her sister (hello, Mhairi!), and friend (hello, Jo!) took me to see York on Friday. Like Reims, York is an old city. Roman walls kept intruders out, and now the walls keep tour buses out. It’s a pretty cool city for New York to be named after.


New York lacks the ruins, and it lacks streets with buildings that date back to the 1500s.


York is old, but it’s energetic and a bit quirky. There are shops and street musicians and ice cream stands, cathedrals and cobblestones and Roman walls. It’s a fun city to explore.

The Easter weekend itself wasn’t spent in the village or city but deep in the English country side, at Saskia’s grandmother’s with the entire family. The house is, in Saskia’s words, “Halfway down a hill in the middle of nowhere.”

But nowhere is gorgeous, isn’t it?


Saskia’s family is beyond lovely. I need to take a moment to thank everyone, from Oma to Lucious Lolo (that’s not a typo on my part) and Polite Paul and Very Mhairi and Mother Dunn (especially Mhairi and Mother Dunn, and Alastair and Steph, too) for welcoming me and making me feel like a part of your large, hilarious, loud, and extraordinarily kind family. Thank you for finding stroopwafels and for inviting me for an nighttime walk even though it was one of the darkest moments of my life (literally, not figuratively) and for giving me a place at your table.


I’m delightful, see?

It was so, so nice to be with a family again, especially on Easter. And it was one honestly of the happiest, most fun Easters I’ve had in a long time. There was amazing food, beautiful scenery, pop-up charades, and wonderful people. There were also Kinder eggs, of which I am always a fan.

Saskia’s immediate family continues to get thanks after Easter for showing me more of England than I probably would have ever seen. On the way back to York we stopped in Whitby, a town known for its fishing and tourism.


We saw horses next to an abbey that’s thousands of years old, bought Whitby Rock candy and cotton candy, played mini golf, walked to the ocean, and ate fish (or in my case, sausage) and chips.




It was a beautiful day, and our journey continued to Goathland Station, home to steam engines and the filmed Hogsmeade platform.


I like to think these two are the best of friends.

I would be stuck in York until Thursday, since the bus that would take me to London to take the train to Paris didn’t run the days following Easter. I didn’t mind, though, and I still don’t mind; it was such a great week. And I think I learned more about English history and culture than I would have learned about journalism in the classes I had to miss (sorry, teachers. You’re great, really, but I’m going to have to call an educational absence on this one). Saskia’s mother denies it, but I still think she knows everything that has to do with the world. We talked about religion and England and America and culture and journalism and classical music and adventures.

I like these adventures. I’m going to miss them when I leave Europe — a lot. It was a very, very good English adventure, and I have to thank Saskia and her family again for showing me so much, from the city to the country and from pub food to home-cooked English food. But after a week, Thursday came, and so did my bus.

It had been almost a year since I had last seen Saskia. I’m consistently terrible with goodbyes, and Saskia’s a champ at them. I’m kind of jealous. But the championing was contagious, so I hugged her and her mother and got on the bus like a pro.

It was a bit of a revolution. Or perhaps a revelation.

I was a small type of wreck the very beginning of January, as I was preparing to leave the States. I’d already said goodbyes to some people, and the hardest ones would be on the day of my flight. It’s always been that way — 9/10 of an experience I’ll enjoy, and then I then panic and feel down during the last 1/10 in order to brace myself for the end. It’s never intentional. And I don’t think it’s terribly uncommon.

But on Thursday, I didn’t want to feel sad about leaving. I just didn’t. While I don’t think this was the last time I’ll see Saskia and her family again, I don’t know when the next time will be. And I didn’t want to spend those last moments downcast — especially when we had had such nice weather.

How much more valuable would my time be if I just stayed happy, waiting for my bus and concluding a fantastic week with a friend and family, holding off on any other emotion until I got on the bus, where I would have hours of commuting ahead of me? And how much valuable would my remaining four weeks in Paris be if I just stayed happy, finishing my classes and planning what else to see, than feeling down that the semester is coming to an end and that it’s impossible to see everything?

It’s breaking habit. But it’s a good habit to break, especially now when I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to come to Europe again. I can feel down on the plane ride home. But I don’t want to spend time on this bit of land with negative emotions if I can help it. I think I learned more than history and culture that last day in England.

Dunn family + extended family, thank you so much again for everything. You all are awesome.

And to everyone, I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

(The one on the left is in fact not mine. Saskia still likes America. I like rabbits.)

(The one on the left is in fact not mine. Saskia still likes America. I like bunnies.)

America, I’ll see you in less than a month.

The 20 People You Need When Studying Abroad

April 5, 2013

There are two types of people you need when you’re spending a semester across the ocean: those who are still at home, and those who are on the same side with you.

At home, you need the friend who knows your default needs, the friend who is never not there for you and who you know will still be there when you return.


Me: I really want you to be able to come to the airport when I get back to the States, but I don’t want to waste your time. For all I know we might just be at the airport for five minutes and then head home.
Friend: No, it’ll be more than five minutes at the airport. We’re going to spend at least five minutes hugging anyway.

You need the friend who will find time to chat with you in her crazy schedule and then with whom you have conversations on any topic, from Harry Potter to the new Pope.


Friend: Hi! So, I won’t be able to Skype Friday. We’re trying to figure out next year’s housing, so we’re going to the rental agency to grill them about a house that they’re trying to rent to us that should have been condemned last year. Next weekend I have a meeting at 1, so I’ll have to stay on campus until then. I’ll be able to Skype at 2:30 though!
(Sometime after 2:30)
Friend: OH MY GOSH POPE! I am so pumped. He seems awesome.
Me: I think so, too. I also for some reason really really like that he picked the name Francis?
Friend: HOW has no one chosen Francis before? Really. It should be the most popular name.

You need the person with whom you grew up with, who, even after spending years on the opposite side of the country, still knows you better than anyone.


Sister: Side note — I’m watching the first Anne of Green Gables with Mark and he doesn’t know what happens in the end and I’M SO NERVOUS
Me: Ahhh!!
Sister: I KNOW. I’ve already gotten all choked up. I had to tell you; I knew you would understand.
Sister: Mark and I got a dozen Dunkin donuts yesterday. It was no bueno.

You need the people who have absurd amounts of patience to answer your questions about finances, airplane crashes, and the feasibility of making chocolate chip cookies in a frying pan on a hot plate.


I found this photo while scrolling through the archives. EVERYONE, TELL MY PARENTS HOW ADORABLE THEY ARE.

Then there are the people who aren’t back home, who are abroad like you or who are are abroad by your definitions but home by theirs.

You need the 14 classmates with whom you can share anecdotes of new life in Paris and frustrations about schoolwork and who make being a student here far more enjoyable.

I have no pictures of my 14 program classmates, so here's a picture of where we spend half of our school days.

I have no pictures of my 14 program classmates, so here’s a picture of where we spend half of our school days.

You need the person who’s a native to your foreign land and who will not only put up with your naivete but will also invite you to dinner on a regular basis, the person who you really won’t know how to thank for everything.


Me: Thanks again for having me!
Friend: No worries! I’m happy to welcome you home.

You need the friend who will invite you to spend the Easter weekend with her family and then let you stay a full week since the buses won’t run right after the holiday, the friend and her family who will welcome you to their home and give you chores and city tours and Easter eggs, all of which you really, really appreciate.


Friend: I was just thinking about you coming to visit, and I’m really excited and if you don’t manage it, I think it may be one of the most crushing disappointments I’ve ever experienced. Just in case you needed a little guilt trip to motivate you.
Friend: It cost a grand total of 50 pence, so I will hold that against you for the rest of your life. Anyway, show your number to the man at that bus, and get on it. Get off again when you see our smiling faces. The stop you’ll be getting off at is at a Tesco.

Yes, Saskia, I admit you told me to get off the bus at Tesco. Thank your mother for finding me on the bus despite my lack of memory, and thank you for a fantastic Easter weekend. Don’t worry, a proper post about it all is coming.

Until then, lovely readers, just find good people. The world is filled with them.

The Saskia-Centered Update

March 29, 2013

Hey, Internet friends,

So this is Saskia:


She came to UNC last year, and I arrived at her hometown in York (the original one) last night. I’ll be hanging out with her and her family over the holiday weekend and a bit beyond, so apologies if I don’t write an actual post until next week. But she and I haven’t seen each other in nearly a year, and there’s York to see and Easter festivities to have. As you can see, we’re predicting it’ll be pretty exciting.


Happy Easter/long weekend, everyone!

The Calendar

March 21, 2013

Thursdays have become special days this semester. For starters, they’re the beginning of my weekend. They’re laundry days, grocery shopping days, sleeping days, and, more excitingly (what do you mean laundry isn’t exciting? My load of colors only needed 2 dry cycles today!), travel days. I left for Amsterdam on a Thursday, left for London on a Thursday, and I’ll leave for York next Thursday.

And, in seven Thursdays, I’ll leave Paris for the United States.

I’m officially more than half-way through with my time abroad, which is completely bizarre. I leave May 9, making the time abroad exactly four months. I passed the half-way point March 8 (sorry for not blogging; I was experiencing French culture), and now there are seven more weeks, 49 days, until I return home.

It’s bittersweet, just like that Tuesday when I boarded a plane for Paris was. A bit of me, to be honest, is kind of relieved. Sometimes I’m just tired of so many things here — the smell of urine in the metro; the claustrophobia that comes with over-crowded school buildings and sidewalks; the stress of having a life, people I love and technical logistics, in both Paris and North Carolina; the bit of guilt that comes with sometimes feeling physically and emotionally fatigued during this opportunity.

And part of me isn’t ready to leave and doesn’t think I’ll be ready to leave in seven weeks. I know already I’ll miss hearing different languages and accents on a daily basis and going for runs between the Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militaire and successfully (or unsuccessfully) speaking French and having the ability to buy a train ticket and just go to another country. I’ll miss the independence and the adventure and the different color of life here.

The good news is it means I’m returning to a very good place and leaving a very good place. There’s a reason I still consider my parents’ house to be more of a home than Chapel Hill, but, somehow, and completely unexpectedly, Paris has become a bit of a home. Between some rough patches and some wonderful times, it took a year for Chapel Hill to earn the title of second-home; naturally, I thought Paris would need just as long.

Nope. Take two months and some incredibly low and incredibly high points, a good bit of independence, and a few train stations and you’ve got yourself an odd sort of home in Paris, a home that’s so temporary but so personal. People say you learn a lot about yourself while studying abroad. It would be more accurate to say I’ve learned more about what I can do while studying abroad, and when a city’s the main backdrop for those lessons, I guess it just takes the expedited route to being called a home.

We’ve been through a lot, you and I, Paris. I am very tired of you and very attached to you. So, congratulations, I suppose. Way to just whiz past those additional 10 months I thought you’d need, champ.

This next month I’ll probably spend leisurely panicking about all of the schoolwork I have to complete before the semester ends, my three 2,000+ word papers and two exams and many small assignments in between. But there will be some fun in-between, too, and I have a couple of weeks in Paris and maybe elsewhere after classes end to ensure everything is ticked off the bucket list.

And then Thursday, May 9, I’ll be at Charles de Gaulle. An 8-hour plane ride later and I’ll be in America, and after a long layover but a shorter plane ride, I’ll be home. Home for two weeks with my family and friends and so many errands that I won’t even mind running since it’ll be home. I love Paris. I really love home.

And then I’ll be at the airport again, boarding another plane to Philadelphia. And 10 days later, after some intensive editing training, I’ll be on another plane (I’m going to be so sick of air travel by the end of the year), only this time to Florida, where I’ll stay for 10 weeks intensely editing.

I really enjoy writing, and I really enjoy editing. Just give me an activity that involves words and I’ll be content. So even though it means more airplanes and more time away from North Carolina and more time overheating because I have such terrible heat tolerance (thanks, Dad, for being from the north and all), I am very excited to spend the summer in Florida. I accepted a Dow Jones News Fund copy editing internship, so I’ll be editing for either the wire service or the international desk of The New York Times at its regional editing center.

Aaand I usually rush past the news after people find out since it’s bigger than the usual news I have, and it was rather unexpected, and I haven’t yet gotten used to the idea, only the shock that comes with it.*

One day I’ll write about how the internship almost conflicted with the study abroad program and how three weeks before I was supposed to be on a plane leaving America, when I was offered the internship, my dad said “Well, it’s not too late to cancel on Paris, is it?”

Obviously, I came to Paris. And there’s thankfully enough magic in the world that allows me to take advantage of both fantastic opportunities, and I couldn’t feel more grateful and fortunate.

So that’s the upcoming calendar. It’s unnerving and exciting, as most valuable things are, I’m finding. One-and-a-half months in Paris. 10 weeks in Florida. Then four months in the beautiful Chapel Hill.

And then I graduate.


I would panic, but I’m finally recognizing that some things are too far in the future to worry about. I will request, though, World, that you please slow down a bit. Don’t you think you’re moving a bit fast?

*You can’t tell since it’s writing, but in my head I’m saying this in one very quick and rushed breath. Just so you can adjust your reading accordingly.