Emily Eastman spent the fall of 2011 in Paris, France studying French at the Institut Catholique de Paris, readingin Gardens, eating palmiers, and conversing with locals. Read on about her Parisian experience…
1.) What were you totally freaked out about before going that turned out to be no big deal?
Before leaving for Paris, I knew that I would probably have my fair share of moments where I would want to break down and cry. The main thing that made me nervous was missing the feeling of familiarity with places and people I love! I couldn’t wait for the moment where I stopped feeling like an American tourist, and started to feel like an ever so slight Parisian where I could comfortably navigate and talk my way through Paris. As soon as I landed in Paris and started to meet the other students, I realized that everyone is in the same boat…total foreigners in the distant land of France, and we soon got through the initial discomfort together.
2.) What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?
I am not ashamed to admit that I could most definitely qualify as the world’s worst packer. As a classic over-packer, I had no idea how in the world I was going to attempt to pack for three months. The delta requirements seemed pretty strict: one 50 lbs. suitcase, a carry-on, and a purse. I successfully packed a 50.0 lb suitcase, and with the help of some vacuum bags, my carry-on and “purse” weighed approximately 70-90 lbs. combined. Looking back I wish that I would have realized that simplicity should have been my focal point while packing, I needed to focus on the “less is more” motif.
3.) What’s something you did for the first time while abroad that you’ll continue to do now that you’re home?
In order to experience the true Parisian lifestyle, I attempted to embrace the unfamiliarity of each moment. If I was to be hesitant and shy within this foreign country, I knew that I wouldn’t be experiencing Paris’ people and culture and by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I had interactions and conversations with people that I will remember forever!
4.) What’s the most annoying thing about everyday life in your host country?
One of the things that drove me crazy as time went on was how Parisians can identify everyone as foreigners, and in turn start talking in English in order to make the conversation easier. As I traipsed around Paris, I wanted to be testing out my French, and yet there were many times where I was responded to in English…If I was feeling feisty I would acknowledge that they spoke to me in English, yet refused to respond in anything other than Le Français…
5.) What local food and drink do you miss most now that you’re back?
I would have to stick with the stereotypical response that I desperately miss the French cheese, bread, and wine. I also miss the dinners that my host parents would make; coming down to the dinner table was always a surprise….
6.) What food and drink from home did you miss most while abroad?
Wendy’s natural-cut fries with sea salt, and a chocolate frosty.
7.) What standard local fashion styles would elicit strange looks in Seattle?
Surprisingly, I felt that Seattle and Paris have somewhat similar styles, both cities master the idea of total simplicity, while at the same time looking completely polished. There are vintage thrift shops located all around Paris which would always be swarming with young Parisians, reminding me of the thrift shops in Seattle as well.
8.) What’s something you experienced while abroad that would never happen in Seattle?
At SPU I have yet to go on a field trip for a class…but within the first two weeks I had already been on TWO field trips! My French cinema class went to a movie theater to watch a French movie, and my Gastronomy class went on a gastronomical tour of the Latin quarter in Paris which included visits to bakeries, patisseries, oil shops, cured meat shops, and some of the renowned restaurants of Paris.
9.) What’s the coolest place you visited while abroad?
One of my favorite pastimes back in my hometown of Portland is to bike, and I was able to bike in the gardens of Versailles on one of my days off from school! A couple of friends and I headed over to the Versailles gardens where visitors are able to rent bikes for the day, which was absolutely magical. The Versailles gardens are gigantic, so the last time that we visited Versailles, there wasn’t enough time to walk around all of the different gardens. Biking was a great way to get around and experience the entirety of the gardens, and when visiting in November, the trees were magnificent!
10.) Where do you want to go next?
I would love to explore more regions within France, specifically Provence… but I also wouldn’t mind taking a non-stop flight straight back to Paris and to my home on Rue Marcel-Duchamp…