Arts

Illustration: Kim Wiens.

Ch. 7: Travel

Before I decided to come to Paris on exchange, Europe seemed like a far off “Neverland”. Growing up, the term “vacation” meant a three-day road trip to Chicago with my family.

While flying across the Atlantic was not unfamiliar—I have visited family in the Middle East several times—the closest I’d come to European soil was a collection of stops in various airports on the way to my journey’s end.

In truth, thanks to many Buzzfeed quizzes, I’d always considered Europe as some sacred destination to be preserved until my post-marriage honeymoon.

So, dearest readers, you can imagine that coming to Europe alone was definitely eye-opening. I came to Paris to study—however, it’s very easy to forget that fact.

Easy access to travelling to different countries is possibly the greatest advantage of studying abroad in Europe. While a $1,000 ticket will get you round-trip to Paris from Canada, you can easily fly roundtrip to many countries within Europe for under €50, which is approximately $70 Canadian.

By the end of my four-month adventure I will have travelled to and within France, Italy (and the Vatican City), Germany, Spain, England, and the Netherlands—a feat which would be much more difficult to accomplish if I didn’t have my apartment in Paris to come back to.

While this may disappoint the parents, most of my learning during this experience has taken place outside of the classroom. I’ve been able to meet students from a myriad of cultures, can distinguish between accents I never knew existed, and have made lifelong friends with homes that I’m welcome to all across the world.

In four short months I have been able to taste Bordeaux wine in Bordeaux, go on a week-long pizza diet in Italy, have the greatest hamburger of my life in Germany, and understand the simple joy derived from bread and butter in France.

I will have attended soccer matches in Paris, Barcelona and London—living out a fantasy of mine I never thought possible. I will have seen monuments such as Big Ben, the Eiffel tower and the Colosseum, understood history at the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and visited museums across Europe, as well as been part of a new step in history as it unfolded before me here in Paris.

So perhaps I did come to Paris to learn—however, what I have taken out of this experience is much more than what I possibly could have by solely sitting through three-hour lectures every week.

I’ve learned what it means to be self-sufficient. The thought of travelling alone no longer scares me, nor does the thought of going without my phone or Google Maps for a few days.

On the other hand, as cheesy as it sounds, I’ve also learned the value of friendship. Through every experience, and every trip, my most cherished memories are the simplest ones, spent with the people who matter. Whether that be cooking thanksgiving dinner with friends while many of us missed our families back home, sharing a bottle of wine while watching unintelligible Italian soap operas, or sitting in front of a church eating McDonald’s and discussing slang terms from each of our respective countries, these are the lasting memories that I will look back on.

If you’ve followed along thus far, I want to thank you. I hope that my experiences have allowed you to learn something new, and I hope that this column has encouraged some of you to go on an adventure of your own.

For now I will say goodnight to Paris, this city that I have come to adore. I hope to see you again soon, but for the time being many adventures in Ottawa await me! À bientôt!