Bonjour to G’DayParis, Summer 2012

I used to say bonjour. I’d walk into my home stay, bonjour. I’d walk into a café, bonjour. I’d pass my teachers in the hallways at the IES center, bonjour.

I’ve traded that in for “G’day.” No I’m not from Australia, I just work at Outback, “an Australian restaurant.” However, as far as I know, quesadillas and cheese fries aren’t Australian.

But this little “cultural” restaurant makes me think of Paris. No, not because of the food or because there is ANY sort of connection between Outback and Paris, but because of that word: “culture.”

I’ve been back home for nearly two weeks, and while I dearly miss Paris, it’s not just that; I miss authentic cultures. On rue Daguerre, the street of my school, I was able to walk half a mile and pass authentic Greek restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Tibetan restaurants, Turkish restaurants, and any other culture you can think of. I know we say that America is a melting pot, but if so, where can I go to find these authentic cultures surviving on one cobblestone street?

So when people ask me what I miss most about my study abroad, I say just that: I miss not only the French culture, but I miss all the other ones I was able to experience through interactions with immigrants from surrounding countries. While study abroad is generally a time where you focus on one specific culture and learn about it, you also expose yourself to so much more than that. In a fifteen minute metro ride, I could visit Chinatown, I could visit la Goutte d’Or (where northern and central Africans live), I could visit le Marais and see the Jewish quarter, or I could sit on rue Cler and merely watch the French stroll by.

So when you study abroad, you don’t just see the culture of your city. You see the world.

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