When I walked into school that first day, I was overwhelmed by the flood of young men clad in suits, bee-lining for the newspaper stand. I followed my French friend over there and grabbed a copy of whatever it was that he grabbed, Le Figaro perhaps. I can't remember, and it doesn't matter. I sat with all the suited men on the bench in the center of the hall, and crossed my legs in unison with them, opening up to the first page. It was such a boring and confusing read that I couldn't even get through the first article, so I shut it and decided to go to my first class – the dreaded Droit Constitutionnel. Little did I know I was about to get intellectually anvilled.
The professor sat on a table and called out attendance, then immediately began assigning exposé topics. It was a bit like the Hunger Games rush to the Cornucopia: All these french students climbing over each other to get the chance to compare Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. I hadn't heard of literally anything she was saying... "Le Discours de Bayeux" "La loi du 3 juin" "le quinquennat"!!! Yes, it did occur to me that I may have made a huge mistake. I left the class that first day in tears, feeling that my academic success in this school would be like reaching for the moon.
If you've followed my blog throughout the year you have probably heard me reference this class quite a bit, and for fear of sounding annoying and redundant I must reiterate that, although it was obviously incredibly difficult, it was a very formative part of my experience abroad. Therefore I found it relevant to come full circle and end my year-long reflection series by opening with that. In a weird way, that class was a microcosm for my time in Paris: Fascinating, rigorous, confusing, intensive, eye-opening. And so I am grateful for it, even though it was something of an anvil.
I've been home for a little over two weeks now. My departure was rushed; I had to do laundry and finish packing and cleaning and also buy myself one last chocolate croissant. I spent thirty seconds eating my pastry, being as dramatic as possible while looking out the window to the lovely view one last time. I was late to leave for the airport, as usual. I also hadn't slept, of course, since I was packing and had friends over until 1. My friends that I had called home for the year. And now I'm finally back in my original home. And I've had a busy last two weeks given that I've started my internship. I Facetimed with those best friends yesterday, which inevitably invited the sadness in. I love being home... I've missed my family and that fresh smell of pine. But of course I can't help but feel like Paris was passing like a hand waving from a train that I wanted to be on (to quote Jonathan Safran Foer). But I have so many things to be grateful for and many people to thank as a result: My best gal pals who took my hand on this transformative journey of ours; the guys who opened my eyes, were lovely surprises and who taught me difficult lessons about life; and the groups of lovely people who I shared many laughs with at routine visits to the bars or museums.
And finally, to my wonderful parents, who sent me off to a faraway and distant land despite their greatest reservations, who funded this not-so-cost-efficient existence, who accepted many 3 AM calls of distress and confusion and who shared in my joy/excitement every step of the way.
I'm sad to leave a place that left me so inspired all the time, where, as I've said, political and artistic movements abound and create the currents that move the city. I'm struggling to re-find this inspiration within myself but I know I'll get there someday. But at the very least, I'll know that it no longer feels like reaching for the moon, but rather, that the moon is reaching for me. (Sabrina 1954!)