Bonjour! J’arrive à Paris ! (Finalement)
After a long and exhausting flight, I finally arrived in Paris. My first impression of France, which took place at Charles de Gaulle Airport, strangely enough, is the Chinese language is everywhere. In fact, it was a Chinese commercial that welcomed me. Then, I was considering whether or not to take the train to Paris (~10 euros) or taxi (~55e)/ Uber (~40e). I ended up taking the Uber because of my heavy luggage which made it impossible to keep dragging them around. When I arrived at the center I was welcomed by Elyse, our apartment RA who also happened to be my housemate! Here is a photo of my room when I first arrived:
There are 2 beds in the room, and normally, according to the program, one would have a roommate, but because I requested that due to mental health reason, I did not want to share a room with anyone, and in the worst case scenario, I could only share room with a person of color. Of course, there is not many POC in the program, so I got this beautiful space to myself, which I am very glad about. It’s very draining to be constantly surrounded by people so different from you, your values and lifestyles. Thus, please do not hesitate to voice your concern to your IES advisor because they would try their best to accommodate your needs.
My apartment is on rue Alphonse Daudet, district 14 and only a 15 minute walk to the IES center where I would spend most of my time attending classes. There’s also a metro 3 minute walk away, so the location is super convenient! I have heard from several other program participants that their homestay families live a bit further (like the other side of the city), if location matters to you or you do not want to travel far for school (even though the metro system is very sufficient), this is also a point to keep in mind and ask your IES advisor. For example, if you live in the suburb (le banlieue) then it will always be a ~30-40 minutes metro ride to get anywhere.
During our recent “CORE session” together with IES staff, we students were asked to prioritized our goals for this semester abroad. Here are my goals in order of importance:
- Improve my command of the French language. Measure of success: pass DELF/ TCF B2 at the end of this semester. DELF C1 at the end of the year.
- Reach out to professionals for internship opportunities in the visual industry, to work at photographer’s studio or a theatre. Next semester I will definitely do an internship.
- Ultimate Euro trip: travel to all of Schengen states. <- This is actually the first and foremost objective of so many students in the program
The reason why I wanted to be in Paris for a year instead of one semester is that currently, in the trajectory of my lifetime, I’m hopping around the world to see where else besides Vietnam (my home) that I can live or base my career. And so, I was thinking if I only stay in Paris for a short period of 3-4 months, then I would only experience the honeymoon phase, in which life is beautiful and there’s nothing to complain. It would be more like a vacation rather than le quotidien. However, my goal is to have a taste of the burdens of living in Paris, and in France generally. What would stress me out, frustrate or scare me? What kinds of compromises I would have to make? etc. in order to have an idea if I could live in France or not.
And so far so good! Apart from the language, Paris feels exactly like home, Saigon, Vietnam. The vibrance, the grittiness, the activities, the colors, the people, the store fronts, the trees lining up on each street, I feel so at home in Paris. I belongs and fits in instantly. My feet and my heart both frolicking the streets of Paris like I was doing in Saigon. This feels like home. This feels good. And the motorbikes! the scooters! I will look into getting my own scooter here! À bientôt!