As I near the halfway point of my time abroad, I’m met with feelings both expected and new. While I reject the idea that my time in France necessitates a halfway point in that this alone implies that I won’t be here forever, it doesn’t hurt to have this moment to reflect on my first four months here. As expected, I feel infinitely better about my French; I feel connected to this city, this culture; and I feel ready for the months to come. There are, though, a few sentiments that I either hadn’t anticipated or at least not to the magnitude that I do now.
First and foremost is gratitude. I’ve witnessed so much selflessness over the last few months that I could have never imagined. A perfect example is Thanksgiving, a time when I wasn’t expecting much in the way of this American holiday but a series of days that ended up being filled with really meaningful events. First there was dinner with one of my friends’ family who was in town for their Thanksgiving breaks. Instead of dining as a family as most would, they warmly invited a group us into their home for a full-on Thanksgiving dinner. Only a few days later, Vio — my French Hopkins pal — invited a big group of us Hopkids-in-Paris over for yet another Thanksgiving feast. Gratitude came in other forms, too: spending Christmas with Vio and her family in Normandy; Vincent inviting Bianca and I over for a day in Versailles; a lunch of saumon fumé and foie gras with my host mom to celebrate the holidays; my sister coming all the way to Paris to spend her winter break, bringing with her Sour Patch Watermelons, Reese’s AND Annie’s White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, along with a week and a half of great memories which were made.
Next comes certitude. I’ve never felt so right that I’m where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing. The École du Louvre has made me 100% assured in my studies in the history of art. The art I’ve seen so far all throughout the city, at cornerstone museums and tucked-away galleries, has completely changed my conception of contemporary art. These two make me even more excited to return to Hopkins, write my senior thesis and plan out the next steps in this field that I love oh so much. There’s also certainty that my first four months here have been filled with worthwhile and excitingly new experiences — il faut profiter de Paris — where not a minute was wasted, so this makes me even more eager to see how these next handful of months end up playing out. Perhaps above all, I’m certain that deciding to do two semesters abroad was hands down the right decision for me.
What follows is a feeling that I am able, capable. Just yesterday I met up with my advisor (whose greatness I’ve written about before) for lunch here in Paris. She’s teaching an Intersession course abroad called Surveying Paris: Museums, Monuments, Memory which means that she’ll be in France for the next three weeks, giving us the chance to catch up on all that’s gone on lately. Discussing projects that I want to take on, exhibitions that I want to curate and plans for after college brings about a certain comfort, especially in knowing that there are plenty of opportunities out there. I’ve had no shortage of reassuring talks with Hopkins faculty and this time was no exception, leaving me to feel that whatever I want to pursue, I can and will.
Sometimes you throw yourself into a new experience and what you end up getting back is more than you could have ever anticipated. I’m very lucky to say that my time so far in Paris has been exactly that.