James Harmoush, a junior international affairs and economics double major at CU, is currently spending a semester abroad in the Sciences Po program in Paris. He’s been there for almost two months already, and he’s finally starting to feel settled in. I was able to chat with James about his experiences in Paris so far.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about Paris?
“My favorite thing about the city is the overall feel of it. It’s always active regardless of the time of day, French culture permeates through the city very strongly with a bit of an international presence. I love that there’s always something to do depending on my mood. There are bars and clubs for the night scene, and museums and monuments for the day, not to mention the city is just littered with restaurants serving fantastic food (at times at an absurd price) which leads me to the worst qualities of the city.
“Smoking is really a habit that the French need to stop associating themselves with. I’m so tired of walking by it no matter where I am. Also, the higher prices of day-to-day goods astound me. I guess it makes sense considering minimum wage here is 10 euro, which arguably causes the higher prices.”
What is your living situation like?
“I am living in a boarding house in my own studio apartment, fit with a kitchen center, a bathroom, a closet, and most importantly, freedom.”
What do you do for fun?
“A lot here. Knowing that my time here is limited, I’ve tried to experience several facets of the cities. I go to museums, monuments, parks, restaurants (that are within my budget), bars, clubs, anything to experience the city. I also spend quite a bit of time in my apartment here. I enjoy cooking what my limited kitchen center allows me to cook, as well as playing video games on my computer or catching up with my friends back home.”
What are some cultural differences you’ve run into?
“I think ostensibly I’d have to say the conservation of space. Everything is just smaller here, it’s like they’re trying to keep Paris as compact as possible, rather than expand into the outlaying regions like I’m used to in the States, especially out west.
“Also, I’ve found the drinking culture here to be much more social. The French, to my experiences so far, don’t go out with the intent of getting as drunk as possible. In fact, drinking isn’t even the goal of the night, just a helpful addition. People go to bars, they order a few drinks but never too much, and talk to everyone in the bar. In clubs, people relax, talk to people, and dance, again, seldom drunk. I’m not saying that people aren’t getting drunk here; it’s just not the goal of the night most of the time.”
Have you made friends in Paris?
“I have actually, from all over. I’ve met some people who go to school as far away as New Zealand, and as close to home as Colorado College in Colorado Springs. It’s amazing, and I really like the mixing of all these cultures under one roof. The locals seem to just keep to themselves, which makes sense. International students aren’t here for the long haul, so I’m sure it almost comes off as long-term tourism, so they avoid us.”
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.