Travelling has to be the most exciting and nerve-wracking thing I have done so far in my life. I was honoured to be selected to study a component of my degree (The UNCC 300 Core Module) in the City of Light in my Winter Break. Before arriving imagined Baguettes, Escargot, and Berets. My imagined perceptions didn’t come close to the real deal – this city was nothing like what I expected. Okay, okay I did eat a snail! And baguettes were often included in breakfast lunch and dinner, but what I am trying to say is that the stereotypes of this city don’t come close to what you will discover in Paris. Having never been overseas, there were so many significant adjustments to daily life, but I was thrilled to experience them all for myself. It was an emotional struggle in learning all of these new features of life and travel. I had no idea what I should have expected and I was alone on this ride. These experiences, though scary at the time were an amazing confidence booster in myself. I began to realise if I can fly 16550.10 kilometres away from home to an unfamiliar city I have never been to that I can pretty much take on the world.
From jumping off the plane and driving into the city I was immediately in awe with the cultural beauty all around me – incredible architecture from the Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe. The rich history of this city was unmistakable. You turn any corner and a new surprise awaits you. Tours of the city made me feel like I was stepping back in time. Evident even from our residence in the St Germain district – St John’s University which adjoins to a Church resting the preserved bones of Saint Vincent De Paul. This City is surprising and beautiful with so much to enjoy. On one of my first days in Paris I took a Segway tour of the monuments – it was a such a modern twist which made it easy to experience the centuries of history and culture in Paris without getting sore feet!
The streets are packed with life – fast moving, people everywhere and the cars don’t stop for anyone! The hours I could spend just watching this city. On our first day in Paris our group went walking, venturing through the condensed yet intricate streets of apartment buildings soon becoming lost. We didn’t mind – exploring the City from unknown corner had a certain excitement to it, even being lost was enjoyable in Paris. From the cobblestone streets and
200+ old buildings, to the strict closures of business on Sundays this city has some significant respect for upholding traditions. It was a breath of fresh air to have a day which was simply designed to relax and enjoy what it means to be in Paris.
What truly amazed me was the kindness of the people – the Parisian stereotype is completely inaccurate. There were many occasions during my trip where a lovely person would go out of their way and offer their help/give directions without being asked. People appreciate even a simple “Bonjour” or “Au Revior”, I was happy to oblige, as my French remains as little as counting 1-10 and “Oui”. By showing a respect and acknowledgment of the language it became easier to communicate with other people. However, being a big city, it is still important to always be smart and aware of the people around you – particularly while travelling the metro. This was drilled into me constantly before going overseas, but ensure your bag is always closed and the strap is crossed around your chest to prevent being pickpocketed. Another smart idea I used was to only carry a few essentials with me while walking around the city or going to sights (some cash, id, keys etc), to ensure you are covered but won’t mean that you lose everything if your personal items are stolen.
Language barriers were difficult to overcome, especially when shopping and ordering food. It was hard to be polite whilst also having no idea what the shopkeeper was saying. For any prospective French travellers, I would definitely recommend learning how to say “I would like….”, or “Je Voudrais” and “Please” or “Sil Vous Plait”. Just to make these interactions that tiny bit easier. I felt quiet uncomfortable by my lack of French, because I couldn’t maintain a fluent conversation. It is such strange feeling being unable to understand or relate to someone when you have never travelled before I wish that I would have been able to communicate efficiently because I felt rude with my one worded, Aussie accent responses.
Paris also has those few interesting quirks where you step back and think “Hey! People do not seriously do that!” Well yes folks they do. The strangest things I came across included permitting dogs on leashes to sit in restaurants with their owners. I am a complete pet lover, but inside a restaurant, where people eat?! Secondly, the French seem to not like using cups or mugs for their daily hot cup of coffee. I attributed it to the love of a decent quantity of caffeine, but we had our morning refreshments in bowls? Sans handle? It was an interesting adjustment but I have to tip my hat to the person who decided bowls are better, because as it was I got a spectacular amount of coffee in the morning to combat the belligerent jet lag.
Experiencing and studying abroad in a city as magnificent as this with ACU is something that I will never forget. With beautiful sights seen, life skills developed and a unit completed for my degree – this is a life changing opportunity of which I have loved every minute.