Three weeks in, and I am feeling more at home in Paris than ever. I am learning to speak in simple phrases, I don’t have to pull out my map every time I get on the metro, and I finally know which way the gate opens in order to get out of my apartment complex! I also eat an entire baguette pretty much daily, which I’m not sure actual Parisians do… But, as the French say, c’est pas grave.
This past week, I visited a good amount of token tourist locations. One of the highlights of my week, however, was Wednesday afternoon. CIEE set up a rendez-vous with French high school students from one of the best high schools in Paris, Lycée Henri-IV. As we traveled to the school, we were all rather nervous because none of us speak French fluently and we weren’t sure how much English the French students knew. When we got to the school, we entered a huge room chock-full of smiling and eager-looking students. “Hello!” “Bonjour!” “Salut!” they said as we filed past them to take seats on the opposite side of the room. As we sat down and the introduction proceeded, American and French students alike eyed each other from across the room.
“… Et maintenant, we will pair you up!” said Lucie, our program advisor who had brought us to the school. A name boomed out over the loudspeaker…
I looked to my right where Lexi, my closest friend, was sitting, turning red as we American students clapped obnoxiously and the French students howled at whichever student of theirs was called. Lexi and the French student whose name had been called proceeded to walk outside to have a conversation while the rest of us waited for our names to be called.
I now know how Harry Potter felt before his name was called during the sorting hat ceremony; slightly anxious but also very excited. I didn’t have to wait long; I was the third name called out of about 40 students. I walked to the front of the room and was met by an adorable French girl whom I had noticed on my way in. We smiled at each other and walked outside to sit down on a bench. She knew much more of my language than I did of hers, but I asked her to speak to me in French anyway. The conversation ended up continuing in “Franglish;” we asked each other how old we both were, where we were from, and what we were studying. Anouck is 17 years old, she studies English and French literature, and she has lived in Paris all her life. She has also been to Britain, where she refined her conversation skills.
During the conversation, I learned that most people from France really want to travel to the U.S.! It had never occurred to me that people from the country that I have always dreamed of traveling to would want to come to the country that I was from. Even though Anouck and I were essentially on a blind date, the conversation couldn’t have gone better. One of my goals for my semester abroad was to make a French friend, and I have a feeling that I’ll be able to check that off my list soon.
Besides that, I went on a couple of essentially Parisian excursions, which included visits to the Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company. New places and new friends make for another remarkable week in La Ville-Lumière.