My psychology class recently talked about American exceptionalism and what it means to be an American studying abroad. I had never really thought about these topics as someone who has lived only in the U.S., being surrounded by Americans her whole life. Coming to Barcelona, I also had not thought about them as I had been busy trying to settle into life here. However, during my first weekend traveling, they came across my mind a lot.
I had flown to Paris by myself before my friend did, and I had to find my way to the hostel from the airport. That in itself was an adventure and a struggle. I had just gotten the hang of the Barcelona public transit system and learned a few words of Spanish, but trying to understand French and the Parisian metro system on my own comprised another puzzle. As I stood outside of the train station, I immediately tried to talk to someone buying a ticket. He looked at me quizzically, and I realized that he did not speak any English. Overwhelmed, I navigated around to try to find a train station employee. Luckily, the next woman I spoke to spoke English and helped me figure out how to buy a ticket. Looking back now, I saw that as an American, I had assumed someone would speak English as opposed to me trying to speak French in France. I also cannot imagine someone traveling to Paris and not knowing how to speak either languages, and how much more confusing that could be. It is something so small, but it shows how much I expect from other countries, coming from the U.S. Also, the quick flight to France from Spain showed me how isolated America is. It was so easy to travel from one country to the next in Europe, but it is not in America, unless I am going to Mexico or Canada.
After getting to my hostel, I jetted to explore the city by first walking to the Jardin du Luxembourg and then to the Pantheon. The Jardin du Luxembourg was breathtaking and picturesque. It blew my mind to know that this public space was normal, and people living there could just go and hang out. Though I did not buy tickets to go inside, the Pantheon was still spectacular. I was in awe as I sat on its steps, eating my crepe and kouignettes. (I know, how Parisian of me, right? ;) ). It really made me notice how much younger America is compared to any other country. Nowhere in America would I be able to find such old pavements and buildings. It also dawned on me how much recognition the U.S. has in other countries. I overheard a couple of conversations about news relating to the U.S., such as our politics and upcoming election, while I was on the opposite end of the spectrum and knew nothing about French current events. While I was finishing my lunch, my friend had arrived, so I met her at the Notre Dame Cathedral before ending the day at the Louvre Museum, as well as the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
Saturday was a jam-packed day. We went to see the normal tourist-y sites such as the Eiffel tower, Ecole Militarie, Sacre Couer, and Moulin Rouge. Yet despite all of those beautiful places, my favorite part of that day was taking the time to walk the streets, including Rue Cler, and getting galettes at a nearby creperie for lunch. Though I knew I wanted to stick to my planned schedule, it was relaxing just to take a break and people-watch. Compared to New York City especially, I saw how much more calm and laidback people are in Paris. Instead of working a ton, being in such a rush, and having their heads looking down at their phones, people actually took the time to enjoy the day and drink their coffee. It is so cliché but maybe New Yorkers for one day could take a note from another city, and stop and smell the roses.
Finally on my last day, we went to Musee d’Orsay, which has many well-known pieces of art. It offered free admission that Sunday, which made the lines long and the museum crowded, but the visit was worth it. The pieces of art were really impressive to see up close. My day ended at Jardin des Tuileries because we had heard some Paris Fashion Week events could be happening there. While we were not able to see any high-end fashion shows or models, we were able to pass a trade show event taking place, and we got a glimpse of the exclusive fashion world. I left Paris satisfied and as a Parisian wannabe, hoping one day to return and be a regular, buying baguettes with the Eiffel tower as my backdrop. Talk soon!
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<p>Hi! My name is Chirlien and I am a native New Yorker, going to school at the at the University of Rochester. While I am a science student, I also really enjoy writing, photography,and journalism. I am so excited to be studying abroad in Barcelona this fall. Come with me on this journey as I try to learn the ropes of Barcelona's unique culture and people-hopefully I don't get too lost!</p>