Being Alone Isn’t So Bad After All

Caitlin Hartley
June 17, 2013
Yesterday was a learning day. It wasn’t a super awesome day, and it wasn’t horrible either. I just had a few realizations that I would like to share. First let me tell you about my daily routine of my life in Paris. I wake up at 9:30 and get ready for school. I always wait in my room for a little while to hear if my host mom has left for work. She doesn’t have a set time when she leaves, but usually is out of the apartment before me because it’s just so much easier to get ready for school in this small apartment with her not around.Anyways…after I’m dressed, I usually make myself some coffee or drink some OJ, and then I’m off to school. It takes me about 10 minutes to talk to the metro, 10 minutes to ride the metro, and then about 5 minutes to walk from the metro to school. I’ve gotten really accustomed to everything in these past two weeks. I even bring my mom’s Kindle on the metro with me now, which is really helpful because so many Frenchies just read on the metro. Everybody keeps to themselves. If you look around or smile at people, they will know you are foreign, and somebody will likely try to steal from you. Awesome, right? So the Kindle comes in handy, and I’m getting school reading done while I’m at it.I have class from 11:15 a.m. -2:30 p.m. everyday. It kind of sucks because my block of classes is right at lunch time, so I don’t really have time to eat anything. So usually, I’m starving halfway through the middle of my second class. After class I might grab something to eat with friends, explore, go on a field trip to some beautiful, historic Parisian place or just go home, do homework and Skype my mom. This routine that I have made myself has really brought me some stability in this super different life that I was suddenly thrown into. Of course I wish I didn’t have to deal with school while I’m in the most beautiful city in the world, but I like having my daily routine, and having a purpose with each day. It has definitely helped me.


Now let me tell you the second realization I had yesterday, and it all came about thanks to one of my program’s workers. His name is Douglas. He is 24. He just started working for IES Abroad (my program) last year. During college he decided to study for a whole YEAR in Paris, and then when he finished school, he came back to Paris to work here. Below is a picture of me with Douglas and my new friend, Caroline, at Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny.


During my first week here, when I was kind of down in the dumps, and just having a hard time adjusting to everything, I went to the IES office to ask them what I should do about my history of Paris class because I was having difficulty understanding the teacher (who talks in French at the speed of light). I ended up breaking down and crying right there in the office in front of Douglas. It wasn’t him at all. It was just my first week and everything was happening all at once. After that happened though, Douglas was super sweet to me. He has been really encouraging and is always asking me how I’m doing. He told me even though studying in France for a year was one of the best decisions of his life, there were times when he felt so lonely and questioned why he did it. He said he could totally relate to how I feel, and hearing that…just made me feel so normal. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who knew what I was going through. It has been so greatHe told me all these things that made me feel good, but one thing I really loved hearing was this: he said, “Everyone says that you’re so lucky to be here…and don’t get me wrong, you are very lucky. But you’re also so freaking brave to be here. Not a lot of people would have the courage to come live in another country for six weeks and try to learn a new language and be a part of a whole new life all by themselves. That’s scary. And you had the courage to do it.” It just made me feel so good. I never thought about it like that when I was signing up to study abroad…I always thought about this as finally taking my dream trip. But, now that I’m here, and I’m having this battle every day, I am proud of myself for doing this.  And when I say battle, I don’t mean every day is this horrible obstacle that I have to overcome. I mean that every day I have to talk and think in French, and my brain has to work that much harder, and for the first time I’m all by myself. And guess what. For once, I’m okay with it. Before coming here, I hated being alone. I always needed to have someone with me or I needed to pick up the phone and have someone on the other line. And a few days ago, I realized I don’t really need someone to be with me for me to have a good day.I was supposed to meet with up with my friend, Caroline, a few days back after class, but every time I called her, it went straight to voicemail. Turns out she was in movie and had turned her phone off. But at the time, I didn’t know that. I had no idea what to do. She told me to meet up with her, but I couldn’t even get in touch with her. I called her about 5 times. Normally, I would freak out. I wouldn’t know what to do. I would panic. I would pick up the phone and call my mom and ask her for help or advice. But, no…not this time. This time, I walked back to my school, even though school hours were over, I got internet and messaged her on Facebook that I couldn’t get in touch with her and that she should just call me if she gets her phone working. I then just walked. For the first time since I arrived….all by my lonesome, I just walked around Paris. I took the metro back to my district (the 7th). And I went to the post office to send some postcards, I walked around and went in different shops. I stopped at the patisserie and bought an eclair for myself. I felt French. haha I was so surprised at my contentment of being alone. I even walked to this park and sat on a bench and just wrote in my journal for 15 minutes. It’s crazy that I’ve only been here for two weeks because I’m already seeing the changes in myself.


I don’t want to sound too corny, but it’s true. Paris has already taught me a few things that I’m not sure I could have learned back in America, and I’m so grateful for it. And Douglas told me one more thing that was on point. He said when I get back, after this program is done, I’m going to feel so strong. He said no matter what type of obstacle or challenge gets in my way, I will know I will be able to conquer it because I was able to accomplish my summer in Paris, and that, my friends, is why I came here.


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Caitlin Hartley

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Caitlin, and I&#39;m 20 years old, but I will turn 21 this June (when I&#39;ll be in Paris)! I&#39;m super stoked about my trip this summer. I&#39;m a journalism major at the University of Florida and I&#39;m attaining my minor in French Language. I am hoping this trip will really advance my growth in the speaking aspect of the language. I love love love sports. I grew up going to football games with my family. Go Gators! This will be my first trip out of the U.S., but I&#39;ve never been so excited for something in my entire life. I love writing and eating, and I know this will be a great opportunity for me. I hope you will enjoy my blog!</span></div>

2013 Summer 1, 2013 Summer 2
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University of Florida
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