The Honeymoon Phase—and after!

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Paikea Houston
January 11, 2024

Bonjour, mes cheris!

Welcome to my blog! If you aren’t already familiar with me, my name is Paikea and I am currently in Paris!

Le sujet du jour is my thoughts on the Parisian honeymoon phase: when everything is new and sparkling and even the freezing cold and eternally grey skies can’t get you down. 

Avant tout, I want to say that I have already been in Paris for one week, the first half was spent being a regular tourist and I am currently in the orientation portion of studying abroad. Depending on your program, things might look different for you in terms of arrival time and what your orientation entails. Regardless of those differences, I am almost certain that it is important to attend your orientation, take their advice, and spend some time on your own exploring the country you are traveling to. Here in Paris, I have seen a lot of different tourist sites: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, l’Arc de Triomphe, la Gallerie de Lafayette, the Paris Fair, Versailles, the Catacombs of Paris, and the Pantheon. Some were incredibly crowded (I didn’t even bother trying to go up the Eiffel Tower) and my trip involved a lot of speed walking and holding my breath in pent-up frustration as I walked sideways through the insane crowd standing in front of the Mona Lisa (honestly skip it, the statue of Nike is much nicer to look at and it isn’t tiny). Before getting to the point, I want to offer one super fun fact: the Ferris wheel at the Paris Fair has a great view of the Eiffel Tower. If you get on it about 2 minutes before the hour (at night obviously), you might be able to catch a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower glittering from the heights! Moving on…

D’abordeverything is exhausting and terrifying. After you get off the plane and you are launched into a world of incessant movement and rapid-fire (insert language), your very bones weary from several hours of travel and stress, you are going to feel awful. You are not going to want to do anything other than sleep or cry (or yell at someone who got entirely too close to you on public transportation). My recommendation to you is to get yourself to your accommodation, do what you have to do to finish any responsibilities you have to your organization, and then sit in your bed and take slow deep breaths. It will be okay! I do not recommend sleeping immediately unless it is a respectable time to sleep in local time (if slightly early… don’t sleep until 6 pm (18:00) local time at the earliest. If you have a couple of hours before a reasonable bedtime, just get adjusted to where you are staying by reading or watching a movie, something to keep you engaged but isn’t too taxing. If you are feeling up to it, go out to eat somewhere that doesn’t necessitate talking or just go for a stroll in your neighborhood. The sleep you will get after is going to be amazing and you can reduce the jetlag.

Deuxièmementyou are going to be enchanted by everything. With the sleep deprivation taken care of and your initial travel stress and tiredness reduced, the city is going to be magnificent. Everything is going to be amazing: the food, the culture, the dog poop you step in, the public transportation—even the waiter who looks at you weird for asking for ice in your glass of water (don’t worry, I’m still missing having ice cold beverages and this is completely normal). You are going to feel like a tourist exploring the place they have longed to be at for ages and your thoughts will most likely resemble this format “Oh my goodness, I have AGES to see everything I want to see! The city is at my fingertips! This is so cool!” You might willingly shell out 42 dollars for a single sandwich and a tiny glass of wine because it’s authentic. You might smile and wave at everyone and overestimate your language skills by trying to have a conversation with everyone (if you are in Paris like I am: do NOT do this, people will think you are crazy or immediately clock you as a tourist and try to take your wallet/phone/small dog.) Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice way to feel, but the danger lies in what immediately follows.

Troisièmement, all I can say is that the honeymoon feeling fades leaving you disillusioned and discouraged. The grey of the city gets to you, the crowds and faulty transportation get on your nerves, and you start realizing that your (insert language) slips too often for you to fit in and now you realize that you are here to stay. Somehow you have to stay here in this unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar customs for the semester to come and you aren’t nearly as prepared as you thought you were. Now the ages you thought you were going to have are looming ahead, as are all the responsibilities of school. You aren’t a tourist anymore, you are back to the regular life of a student just in a place where all of your comforts and grounding realities have been stolen out from under you. Yeah, it looks pretty bleak. But listen, this is also temporary! Maybe the crowds won’t lessen, and the metro still has delays, and the sky stays grey for the majority of the week but this will start to feel like home, like a place you can really belong. You start settling into your daily life, your language skills improve, and the people you meet become your friends. 

Right now, I am struggling through the exit of the honeymoon phase: I feel exhausted, lonely, and homesick. I can’t help but feel dread at the incoming months of work and challenges, even if I know in my heart that these challenges will push me forward on my journey of personal and academic growth, it still takes more energy than it should to get out of bed and get things done. I procrastinate when I never used to, I don’t have the desire to explore everything I haven’t seen (which is most of it, and I feel embarrassed my ridiculously silly slip-ups in French. However, I am actively trying to get through this by enjoying the little moments of simple joy: today in the Parc Monceau, the sun came out, the magpies and crows were chattering, and as I sat on a park bench and ate a warm crêpe listening to French indie music I felt my mood brighten and the initial joy I felt upon arrival return. I am only beginning one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I know I am going to regret the time wasted laying in bed, staring at the ceiling wishing I was back in the United States. 

Whatever you are feeling a week to 3 weeks in—don’t forget that excitement you felt leading up to your trip and how this new place dazzled you in the beginning. You are more than a tourist now and yes, that can be daunting, but it is also an opportunity to make another place home. You have the opportunity to take a place people dream about visiting and make it your everyday experience. So what if you are on the student grind and you have three papers due next week? You are on the student grind cranking out one of those papers in a cafe that people put on their TikToks and Instagram Reels as “best places to eat when visiting (insert city) and other people wish they were you… you are in the cafe you used to wish you could sit in. You are living your own dream, so make the most of it. It will be rough some days, but those days can have beautiful little moments sprinkled in them if you push yourself to keep going, keep exploring, and keep believing in the process. Soon enough, this unfamiliar landscape will be a landscape you remember ten years in the future as home

Enfin, you deserve the best experience abroad so ask for the help you need, keep yourself engaged in the local culture even if you don’t feel like it, and enjoy those little moments when the sun comes out and your crêpe is warm and sweet. This slump won’t last, and you will eventually catch onto the slang you don’t quite understand right now. Good luck fellow travelers, and I will see you in the next one!

À la prochaine!

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Paikea Houston headshot

Paikea Houston

I am a person who loves her family, good food, and sunshine. I always believe in trying things at least once for failure is never certain. I'm here to take you along with me to travel further, work harder, and dive headlong into the great wide world!

2024 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
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