Me, walking into a room wearing sunglasses and a sports jacket: Hey, thanks for having me here today, Jacques.
Also me, already sitting in an armchair wearing a turtleneck, with pen and notebook in hand: Of course, Jacques! You know we always love to have you on the show.
Me, sitting down in an opposite-facing armchair in front of a low burning fireplace: Always a pleasure.
Turtleneck, shifting in his seat: So, what we’re discussing today is your recent time in Paris—you spent two months as a cross-cultural intern with a gastronomy podcast, A Poele. Overall, how was the experience?
Sports jacket, folding my sunglasses and sliding them into my front pocket: Well, it was nothing short of fantastic, Jacques, I’ll start with that.
See, it was so much more than just a trip abroad—with my work, homestay, and classes, I wasn’t just sightseeing in another country. I was more than a tourist; I was actively getting engaged with the culture around me. My supervisor and my host mother were wonderful resources who took the time to be cultural ambassadors. They could explain odd interactions or give me recommendations that only the locals would know about. In my classes, I was given the space to reflect on my personal growth and question my assumptions on how to navigate the world. I’ve come back with more than when I left, and I’m not just talking about the clothes in my suitcase!
Turtleneck: That sounds great, but looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
Sports jacket, stroking my chin and reflectively glancing towards the fire: That’s hard to say. I’ve not done all that I would have liked to do in France, yet I don’t have any regrets for the things that I have done.
So no, I would not go back and redo those two months to somehow try and improve them. Now, I think I know what I need to do the next time I get the chance to work abroad. Number one on that list is I wish I had made more connections with the locals, maybe through joining a sports club or getting involved in a community through volunteering. Aside from that, there are always more places to eat!
Turtleneck: We will definitely circle back to the food—before that, though, what did you learn? How did you grow?
Sports jacket: I grew as a person because I came away with more perceptive—both of myself and my surroundings. Especially in my classes, I took the time to try to interpret how my actions affected and were interpreted by those around me, even in simple situations like a crowded metro. I was given a cultural analysis toolkit that let me reflect on my own values and compare them to my understanding of the surrounding culture. I would ask myself, what is my place in this society as a guest? How can I best impact those around me while also not compromising my own beliefs?
I didn’t find a clear answer, but I think I came away with a few clues.
Turtleneck: What was the most shocking aspect?
Sports jacket: Definitely the perception of Americans in France. I’ll admit, I thought the French would have a more negative view, but really all the complaints I heard were more involved with tourists in general, no matter the country. France has a huge industry in tourism, so I imagine having to be constant hosts for confused guests must get tiring. The French actually really love American culture, and I could see the cultural fusion in their fashion and music, especially with the young people.
Turtleneck: So let's end this with a rapid fire Q&A on some of the highlights, starting with food. What was the best restaurant to eat at?
Sports jacket: I’d say it was a tie between Aux Bon Crus and Bouillon Pigalle. Both are traditional French restaurants that won’t empty out a student’s wallet.
Turtleneck: Favorite meal?
Sports jacket: I loved the boeuf bourguignon! I have that stew every year for my birthday and getting to taste it in France was amazing. The truffle macaroni and cheese is a close runner up.
Turtleneck: Best place to get clothes?
Sports jacket: Whew, definitely Kilo Shop, which is a vintage store that sells items based on weight. I bought overalls, button-ups, and more for a great price!
Turtleneck: Most inspiring museum?
Sports jacket: Musee d’Orsay for sure—I love impressionism a lot more than classical art. I didn’t even bother visiting the Louvre.
Turtleneck: Well that’s all the time we have, so what’s next for Jacques?
Sports jacket: With this trip I’ve finished my bachelor’s degree, so I guess finding a job! I’ll be working another summer internship until the end of September, but aside from that I’ll be finding a job in the world of communications—I might just have to wait tables at a French restaurant in the meantime.
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<p>I love writing so much that it has become both my job and my hobby. One of my favorite things to write for lately has been my (very nerdy) hobby of Dungeons and Dragons. I love it because I get to create a story together with my friends. Otherwise, I enjoy creative writing (short radio plays, stand up comedy) and reading.</p>