Here I am — a junior — feeling like a freshman, all over again.
I arrived in Paris last week and spent my first day with a couple of friends who are also studying here. Although I had major jet lag, we enjoyed exploring the fashionable Marais district and watching the spectacle on the Pont des Arts, where lovers often commemorate their relationships by hooking a lock with their initials onto the bridge and throwing the keys into the Seine.
Wednesday marked the start of the orientation program for the Centre (my program in France), a process eerily similar to my experiences at CU orientation. Events are group-based and everything is luck-of-the-draw — I’m in a randomly assigned hotel room with a randomly assigned roommate; some people have multiple-room suites, and others have a tiny room with two tiny beds.
And since almost everyone from our school is in the same hotel, I feel like I’m re-living the start of the crazy adventure also known as dorm life. Should I leave my door open and play music? Should I go around to different rooms and try to meet people?
I’ve been halfway tempted to make a cute drawing of my name and stick it on my door — but I’m not sure the hotel staff would appreciate even the slightest renovation of their workplace.
Like everyone’s first few days at CU, Council on International Educational Exchange orientation features a series of forced socialization periods. However, instead of playing name games and doing scavenger hunts, they’re mostly comprised of events like eating five-course meals together or cruising the Seine. Throughout the past week, I’ve managed to get to know the people from my school and to already make some good friends.
Orientation has led us on typical tourist outings, but we’ve also been learning how to be long-term residents of Paris.
We’ve purchased Metro passes and been sent on excursions that have forced us to learn how to use the system. Although I learned how to navigate the Metro in high school, I never learned some of the most important tricks — like knowing how to catch trains which arrive within seconds of each other.
A member of the Centre’s staff led us around the area near our school and learned of the best places to eat lunch on the cheap. The blend of ethnic restaurants, random boutiques, and packed bars is strongly reminiscent of the Hill, especially later at night when people are out and about. The local tabac stores bring a certain… je-ne-sais-“Smelly Deli” back into my life and make me feel right at home.
Our hotel is in Bercy Village, a pretty new section of town; the pedestrian mall in our neighborhood is made to look like a centuries-old village, but one of my Parisian friends told me this area was only constructed around five years ago. Therefore when I’m in the hotel, I feel like I’m in Denver more than I am in Paris. When I look out my hotel room, I see an office building, not the Eiffel Tower. Who knew Paris is actually a bustling commercial center?
I start my French language classes this week, before the rest of my courses begin. I’m really looking forward to them; having responsibilities and a schedule will help me adjust to life as a resident of Paris, and it will also give me time to explore more of the city.
I’m anxious to move in with my host family on Friday and to start the rest of my classes next week. Like the beginning of freshman year, this transition period has been fun but I am excited to start school and to really begin living the Parisian life.
Jessica Ryan is a junior media studies major at CU-Boulder. She writes about study abroad experiences once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.