The Most Foreign Concept of Studying Abroad in France

(If you’re looking for a blog post about fun adventures and funny concepts, this isn’t it. But, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve attached my “iconic study abroad photos” at the bottom of this post).

I don’t remember the last time I had to sit still.

Two weeks ago, I moved to France to follow my dream: to continue my education more than 4,000 miles away from the place where people bleed black and gold and scream MIZ or echo ZOU.

And since then, I have run into some pretty foreign concepts including, but not limited to:

1. The lack of public water fountains

This one really gets me. I feel dehydrated. I’ve spent some serious time searching the hallways of SciencesPo trying to find a water fountain without success. I’ve found plenty of alcohol, though, so that’s something.

2. The lack of crunchy peanut butter.

I have no words. Mom and dad, please mail me some.

3. The small student population

I didn’t go to a stereotypical American high school like you see in the movies. In fact, I graduated still uncertain of several of my 600 classmates’ names. There wasn’t this idea of everyone knowing everything. Of serious gossip. Something scandalous might have happened and people would have talked, but that’s it. It was old news within a day. We got over it because our lives were constantly moving on to bigger and better things. Honestly, it’s bizarre to me. So when we were told that there would be a total of 300 students, I wasn’t exactly sure how to react. Mizzou has 30,000.  300 is 1% of 30,000, right? Close enough?

4.  Everything is so serious

So far, I’ve been called out on numerous occasions for being “too happy.” I didn’t think that was possible until arriving here. My professor joked on the first day of class that I was “the only student he’d ever seen smiling in their ID photo.” One point for team USA, right?

The Struggle is Real

But what I’ve struggled with the most is the abundance of free time. Everywhere I look, everyone is just chilling.

And I’m not saying they don’t work, because they do. A lot. But what I can’t grasp is the idea of  free time. I peer outside my classroom window to a quad full of students smoking in frigid temperatures and think to myself “It’s freezing! Run as fast as you can from one door to the other and hope you don’t get frostbite!” But they’re like, “Nah, man. It’s fine.”

But it’s about more than student habits. It’s the whole culture. The electricity store tells me to turn in my form “when it’s convenient.” I’m starting to think that nothing is ever open (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run to get something just to find the store closed). Taking two hours for lunch and getting tipsy at noon is just another part of life. Classes end by 5 and suddenly I’m supposed to spend the remainder of the day doing whatever I please.

Literally, whatever. Marathons on Netflix? Totally cool. Drinks down the street with friends? Great! Hours and hours of homework? If you want! Discussions on the meaning of life? But, of course!

And so the journalist inside me is like WAIT. WHAT? HOW? I keep staring down at my blank agenda thinking I’m most certainly missing a meeting or an assignment or a deadline. But I’m wrong. I don’t have a 500 word story, flawless and fact checked due in 30 minutes. I don’t have rehearsal to run to or a meeting about Greek week to attend. I don’t have to balance three jobs with hours of classes and millions of organizations.

But it’s not just me. I came here with 6 other journalism students from MU, and all of us are frantically wondering the same thing. We waste our time thinking about ways to occupy it. We’ve become dependent on social interaction, and the constant checklist that’s been wired into our DNA.

I have time to sit in my apartment and stare at the blank, white walls. (But not the same blank space that TSwift is talking about).

And I’m not gonna lie, I kind of love it.

France is great. It’s better than I imagined, better than I’d ever want it to be. I came here thinking I’d improve on my French, and spend a lot of time partying without learning too many things. But in this short amount of time, I’ve realized that I have a lot to learn. And the even better part is that the French can teach me. While I think the concept of actually having free time will take some time to get used to, I think I’ll be a better person in the long run.

There will always be things that frustrate me, and things I will desperately miss from home (mostly my dog, peaches):

But if I move back home in June with the understanding of what’s important in life, with the idea of how to take a moment to realize life’s little pleasures, to just say “fuck it” then I think it’ll all be worth it.

P.S. I’ve already started to learn

Alright, here you go:

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