Back in April, I had a realization: I was less than two months away from studying abroad in France. The time that I’ll spend in Paris would be the same as the time from then to when I leave. Half of me hoped it would feel like a long time. The last month or so of school always goes by at a snail’s pace. The weather goes from pleasant to disgustingly hot (at least where I come from). There are exams, papers, and last-minute arrangements for next year. If this period feels like a long time, wouldn’t that mean a longer time in France? The other half of me wanted the school year to end as fast as possible. Maybe time will slow down when I land in Paris. From then on, I started thinking about my program with IES Abroad every day, using it to get me through the hardest part of the semester.
Now that it’s May and I am done with my second semester of school, I have moved from imaging what I’ll do this summer to making real preparations. I am less than a week out from my departure, and that means a shift in mindset from planning to executing. Last month, I was busy studying for finals, but now I am busy making a packing list, confirming my itinerary, buying supplies, and finding out my housing location. I am also setting goals for my time in Paris. I have been taking French for six years, but I would not consider myself fluent yet. I hope to work in international relations after I graduate, so I hope I can become fluent by the end of the immersion program this summer. My study abroad experience will also be my longest time away from my family. Since I go to college near where I grew up, my six weeks in Paris will be an important time to become more independent. Finally, I am eager to experience the city from a student’s point of view. One of my IES Abroad classes is on the history of Paris, and that will help contextualize my surroundings.
When I’m not directly preparing, I speculate about what I will do in Paris when I’m not in class. At the beginning of the pandemic, I kept myself entertained by simulating trips around France on Google Earth. I scoped out all of the major sites in Paris such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde, and Versailles. Since then—and especially after enrolling in IES Abroad—I have been thinking about how I will retrace that virtual trip in real life. I have also been to Paris once before—but it was a long time ago and I did not entrench myself in Parisian daily life as I will this time around. My time with IES Abroad will be a new experience, and all I know is what I’ve researched, what I remember from several years ago, and anecdotes from various French teachers and classmates who have been to France.
This brings me to my final message before I depart: My commitment to being realistic. The idea of travel can be deceiving. It’s easy to get so lost in imagining what a study abroad experience would feel like, that it becomes difficult to live in the moment and enjoy those six weeks in a new country. I admit to endlessly reading travel guides, trying to imagine how my Parisian summer will look. So along with every other preparation I make, I try to ground myself in the moment, both to enjoy the time with my family before I leave, but also to get ready to enjoy my experience in Paris, free from expectations that might set me back.
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Bonjour! My name is Sam Kornylak and I am from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I'm currently studying economics (with an environmental science minor) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. After college, I hope to go into international development, so I obviously love learning about other parts of the world and the people and geography there. This summer, I will study abroad in Paris with IES Abroad, and I am looking forward to sharing that experience with others through the IES blog. I have a passion for writing (I'm a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel), traveling, reading, and meeting new people, and these are all things I hope to do while I'm in France.