Paris is amazing. Seldom before have I been in complete and overwhelming awe of a building or piece of artwork, and it’s happened almost every day since I’ve been here. It took time to process everything, to let the city grow on me, but after a week and a half I’m already dreading my departure. It’s so unlike any other place I’ve lived, and it has such a specific energy that will make it hard to leave. There’s history here that a has a physical presence, even on my daily commute.
I haven’t started classes yet, but every weekday our program has two hours of orientation and language review. My French proficiency has already improved, but I still have trouble forming or understanding even the most simple sentences. Being conversational will still take some time, but I am sure I will get there before I leave. Learning a foreign language is completely different than other areas of academia. It requires constant active attention, and repeated practice. It’s like learning an instrument. Or, you know… a language.
I’m developing a more comfortable chemistry with my host family, and they’re insistent upon giving me a great appreciation for French culture. Which I think I already have. They provide me with one meal a week, the first of which I had last night. It was a typically French four course meal that they insisted wasn’t very good (i.e., it was incredible!). We had a solid dialogue of franglais, and they asked me a lot of questions about American culture that I, as I naïve American, had no idea weren’t common knowledge. After the meal, we watched television — a show that from what I could understand was basically a French Mythbusters.
There are so many things to do and sights to see in Paris that it’s been a little overwhelming to try and do them all. My goal is to get the major items off my checklist before the Spring comes, and the lines for tourist attractions get out of hand. This week, I visited Notre Dame, Tour Montparnasse, the Arc de Triomphe, Musée D’Orsay, and the Dali exhibit in the Pompidou.
The view from the top of Tour Montparnasse is considered the best view of the city because 1) you can see the Eiffel Tower, and 2) you can’t see Tour Montparnasse. It’s an ugly modern building that clashes with the elegant, classic style of the rest of the city. But it’s tall, and gives you a beautiful view.
The Dali exhibit in the Pompidou was just a little bit mind-blowing. Seeing his famous surrealist paintings in person is an amazing experience, and I probably could have looked at just one painting for an hour. He put so much detail in every painting, and his style is so beautiful and strange, it’s hard to get bored by looking at his work.
I’m constantly reminded that being here, as my first time out of East Coast of North America, is a life-changing experience. I’m up and down, homesick and terrified to go home, ecstatic and terribly overwhelmed; I love it here.