Like Home, Only Not

I’m writing this from a cafe while I wait for the rain to pass. There’s jazz playing, I have a chai latte, and the guy across from me is working on his Macbook. The sign on the wall is encouraging me to buy a cinnamon roll. If I don’t listen to the conversations around me, it’s easy to feel like I’m just around the corner from campus instead of 4,000 away.

I mean, it also doesn’t hurt that this is a Starbucks.


Still, it’s a good demonstration of how my first two weeks in France have been surprisingly… normal. My room (at right) is furnished by Ikea, just like my room in Oregon was. Normal. The room is gigantic and has a balcony, and there’s a piece of tree hanging from the ceiling. Not normal.

There are people riding around on bikes from the city bikeshare and I’m ten minutes’ walk from a major shopping district. Normal. The bikes are actually useful (and cheap!), and everything is closed on Sundays. Not normal.

The stores are full of school supplies, and I find this to be really exciting. Normal. The notebook paper looks like this, and I can buy fountain pens for two euros. Not normal.

The registration process, which I learned about on Monday, is probably more complicated than necessary. Normal. I have to take nine courses, all of which will be in French, and I can attend them for two weeks before I have to register. Not normal.

There’s a cat. Normal. I don’t have to go across town to my uncle’s or downstairs to Fr. Michael’s apartment to see the cat. Not normal.

The weather is absolutely beautiful here most of the time, and not humid at all. Not normal. When it does start to sprinkle, people pull out their umbrellas even though it is not actually raining. Alas, this is normal.

All of this is to say that for as weird as I expected things to be here, they’re really not that different at all. Different language, different river, different money—but life itself? Let’s just say I can’t complain.

This piece is cross-posted on the Georgetown Study Abroad Blog, where you can read about the experiences of Georgetown students studying across the globe.


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