Wednesday 21 April 2010

Retour au monde réel ... de l'autre côté du monde

As I sit here thinking about everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve experienced, all the people I’ve met, all the things I’ve done that I'd never done before these last 3 months, I can’t help but smile and nod my head. I never thought I’d have all these memories and pictures to look back on. I left a life of repetition and familiarity for a life of the unknown. I left loved ones to be on my own. This was something I needed to do for myself, because if I hadn’t it would’ve definitely been my biggest regret.

There comes a time when you must stand alone. You must feel confident enough within yourself to follow your own dreams. You must be willing to make sacrifices. You must be capable of changing and rearranging your priorities so that your final goal can be achieved. Sometimes, familiarity and comfort need to be challenged. There are times when you must take a few extra chances and create your own realities. Be strong enough to at least try to make your life better. Be confident enough that you won't settle for a compromise just to get by. Appreciate yourself by allowing yourself the opportunities to grow, develop, and find your true sense of purpose in this life. Don't stand in someone else's shadow when it's your sunlight that should lead the way.

I have grown so much from this experience and been put in situations I never thought I’d be able to pull myself out of. I have seen so much and at the same time have not seen nearly enough. There is still so much of Europe to see. Three months is not nearly enough to see all of Paris, but I am so blessed to have seen everything I have.

Every time I visit a new city I visualize a globe and pin point myself in the world. It amazes me to envision myself at that certain point on Earth. As I walked along Jardin des Tuileries from Le Louvre to Concorde enjoying the warm sun on my back, I stood at the center of the garden. I had Le Louvre at my back, L’Arc de Triumph to my front and the Eiffel Tower to my left. Standing in that one spot imagining where exactly I stood on Earth and how much I could see from such a tiny point was illusionary. No words can describe the feeling of trying to take it all in. All these surroundings I've come to know so well, that I've heard so much about, that have so much history, were standing so close to me.

As I sat in Jardin du Luxembourg today watching the kids sail boats in the pond outside Le Senat, I thought about going back home in a couple of days. I thought about telling my family all the stories of my adventures and everything I’ve seen, but no pictures or words can come close to this reality. I thought about shifting through these hundreds of pictures I've taken here, thinking back to that moment in time; where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, and how I was feeling at the time.

I know I’ll stare at my computer screen for hours looking at the pictures thinking about my time here and how remarkable it was. As of right now, I am enjoying my last couple of days here because I have so much to do when I get back. I have to get ready for graduation, find a place to live, get a job, and prepare myself for reality.

Before I left for this trip I told myself…

Pick some flowers and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Say hello to strangers and enjoy the people you know.
Don't be afraid to show your emotions because laughing and crying make you feel better.
Feel the calmness on a quiet sunny day. Find a rainbow and live your world of dreams. Always remember life is better than it seems...

And that’s exactly what I did!

Monday 12 April 2010

Loin de la Vérité

There are plenty of stereotypes about the French, some of which include, they smell and don’t shower often, they are rude, and they hate Americans. But don't be fooled by these myths and urban legends because the truth is far more interesting.

The French being rude is easily their biggest stereotype, and the most inaccurate. The French are among the friendliest and most helpful people I've ever encountered. There are cultural differences that lead some to believe the French are rude. The key is to understand the culture and learn at least some basic French terms before you go. A very little effort towards education and understanding will go a long way to getting friendly treatment from French people. There may be some French people who dislike Americans, but most are friendly and polite to their U.S. visitors. In fact, French teens and young adults adore and try to emulate Americans.

Since I’ve been living in Paris the majority of French people I’ve met have been very helpful. My first day here I got lost trying to find the dorms and an elder man could tell I didn't know where I was going and gave me directions. Another time, I got off at the wrong metro stop going to Versailles where another fellow French man gave me directions how to get there. When my boyfriend came to visit me from America we were walking around the city enjoying the scenery when a biker stopped and asked if there was something in particular we were looking for and if needed help finding anything.

I believe these stereotypes came from the media and friends who have previously visited Paris. I think they also come from generalities. I would say that stereotypes are the result of ignorance and laziness. Stereotypes are for people who are too lazy to get to know an individual. There seems to be a preconceived notion of what people may be like which is based on a shallow and often meaningless characteristic about them. Sometimes a stereotype is based in some degree of truth or on some famous legend but that doesn't necessarily make that stereotype true.

Some stereotypes can be relatively accurate while others are based on nothing but lies. Stereotypes are simply a conventional understanding that many people use to judge other people by. However, the only true and accurate way to judge a person or a group of people is to independently get to know them and strive to learn and study them with an objective mindset.