Frank in France

I apologize for the great break I have assumed from my blog, especially to all of my readers, but I wanted to wait to have a truly excellent story for your eyes.

I don’t remembering breaking the news, but I am abroad for a semester in Paris, France. I’m currently staying at an amazing foyer, or French-style dormitory (but functionally more independent than its American counterpart), and I’m taking classes at Sciences Po, one of France’s leading social science research institutions, in the intellectual-y and expensive-y Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood (think Sartre and Beauvoir). There is so much I need to process, and in need of dire reflection, I turn to my blog.

First, this is my first time overseas. Living in a country you’ve never been in is quite an emotional experience. While I’ve spent the past 7 years of my life studying la langue française, nothing truly prepared me for this kind of social immersion. As a “foreigner”, being constantly “the other” is often tiring, having to traverse across cultural expectations of “correctness” at all times. The French are very fond of politeness rituals, and initially it was a shock as in the United States, these rituals are more or less unnecessary, or rather contingent on the relationship with that person/group. Moreover, being an underrepresented student studying abroad (I am the only Latinx person in my cohort), and being underrepresented in France as a Chicanx at elite institutions is a very strange dynamic of navigating foreign spaces, which is something I’m aware of in the US, but not in very different contexts such as this one. Nonetheless, this consciousness allows for a greater awareness of inequality, which is very delineated in Paris (more on this later).

Still, it’s very, very fun to partake in this experience. One of the very important aspects of this “experience” is food and ordering it. Thanks to Yelp, my friends and I have come across some exquisite plates, and some less-than-Yelpworthy restaurants. In Paris, customer service is a hit-or-miss, but it’s part of the social ritualization of the grand culture here. Another noteworthy food experience is the French restaurant universitaire institution, which is a government-subsidized dining experience for students. For 3,25 euros, you can get a full hot meal, dessert and appetizer included. It’s amazing. And lastly, of course, bread, chocolate, and macarons are a must, and highly pleasing. Boulangeries and patisseries are located at walking distances everywhere in Paris, rendering the ability to fill your sweet tooth easy, provided the monetary resources, of course.

Public transportation is another interesting facet of my Parisian life. The métro in Paris is wonderful, as access to everywhere within Paris is present. Never have I ever felt so mobile in a large city. I particularly love the métro, as I will always remember the night I saw the beautiful, glittery lights of the Eiffel Tower on Line 6 for the first time. It was a quasi religious experience (the actual religious experience was entering Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur). While on the métro, people are either always reading a classic novel, wearing their headphones, having a passionate conversation in rapid French on the phone, and/or having a penchant for picking up the frenzied English of my friends and I when riding together. Public transport also allowed me to live my Amélie Poulain fantasy – to have chocolat chaud and crème brulée at the famous Montmartre café from the Amélie film.

Paris is really, really picturesque, and simultaneously, a very complex city with an intricate social and political scene. I’ve recently joined a couple of student associations at Sciences Po, and I’m really excited to learn more about contemporary social issues passionate people are working together to tackle. I can only hope I continue to améliorer mon français, and learn more through these diverse and rich experiences. À bientôt!


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P.S. If you are a first-generation college student and have any questions about studying abroad, please do not hesitate to ask me any q’s you may have!

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