Getting International

I love Burlington, the view walking down the path from Redstone to Main campus, the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains to the West of Lake Champlain, with Mount Mansfield to the East, the plethora of outdoor activities one can do at any given point in the year. But, a year ago I felt that my educational experience would not be complete if I stayed in Burlington for the whole of my college career. It only took the thought of living in another country, in another continent for me to get over all that I could possibly miss in Burlington. My destination was Paris, this was to the dismay of a few conservative family members who shared G.W.’s belief, `if you’re not with us, you must be against us’, but politics were not my motive for deciding to stay in Paris for my semester abroad, Jacques Chirac is just as full of BS as George W. Bush, but I’ll save the rest of my comments on that for a different article. The school I went to was the American University of Paris, located between Le Tour Eiffel and L’hotel Invalides in the Seventh District. AUP has a great mix of people, just what one would expect in Paris; 33 percent were American, 33 percent were French, and 33 percent were from elsewhere in the world; most people I met there spoke at least three languages, I was in the vast minority being only able to speak one, but it only drove me more to learn my second, French. I lived on my own, in a tiny chambre de bonne, which literally means room of the maid which is located on the top floor of an old aristocratic mansion. My room was about half the size of a normal double dorm room at UVM, furnished with a sink, refrigerator, and two hot plates; it was quaint to say the least. What made my room was a large window that looked out to the Eiffel Tower which was around eight blocks away. In all honesty I probably only thought about Burlington two or three times in my first month there, its amazing to be in a place with so much history, where everywhere one looks there is a landmark which is known around the world. My first weekend there I went out with people I had recently met, on the cab ride back to the hostel we all stayed at before we found housing we drove right through the grounds of the Louvre, the Glass Pyramid glowing on the left with the Arc de Triumph du Carrousel on the right, at that moment I truly knew I was someplace special. My interaction with the French on the personal level was limited for a while given my lack of language skills, but the French are not the pricks that Americans classically think of them as, although this is not to say they are extremely friendly. There was a small caf?? a block from where I lived where I would go everyday for a double espresso; there the barista was a short, skinny, and balding man who spoke no English, but every time I walked in he reached over from across the bar to shake my hand with a welcoming `bonjour’. If it was slow he’d talk to me whole time I was there, most of the time I had no idea what he was saying, but by the end of my time there I was actually conversational with him. The French are weird because many times you will not get the time of day if you speak English or try to move the conversation into English, but many times the French will go to great lengths to help you with French. On the street is where I learned most of the French I know, I ask questions and struggle through conversations, many times the person I was talking to knew English but would only speak French to me and would correct what I said wrong. Many Americans are put off by that but, I thought it was great, because of that I learned the language much faster. The social life in France and in Europe at large is much different than in the US, at UVM and every other college I have visited the weekend consists of parties where people consume large amounts of cheap alcohol. Getting wasted seemed almost socially unacceptable, even though you can drink anywhere in Paris, on the street and in the metro, and alcohol is not regulated with the strictness as in the US, on average for those in the college age group socializing is much more important than drinking, and when drinking disrupts the normal socialization one is looked at as having a problem. Being an American in Europe I was left open to random political discussions wherever I went. Weather I was doing my laundry, at a bar or caf?? it seems everyone has an opinion on America and on their relation to the rest of the world. Most people I befriended in Paris were not from the US, most were from Europe and the Middle East, the change in perspective was extremely stimulating. No one was totally anti-American, just everyone seemed to dislike/hate Bush and American politics in general, but it was also the case that many over influenced by dumbed-down liberal propaganda produced by the likes of Michael Moore. By the end of my time in Paris I was ready to leave, the things I really missed weren’t necessarily American culture, I was just ready to leave the urban environment, I was ready to take hikes in the mountains and where the awe-inspiring view were a product of nature and not man.