To study in Paris is to be born in Paris ∼ Victor Hugo
I don’t remember when I first heard of Paris, too young to recollect I guess. But there
had always been this vivid picture imprinted in my memory, of the magnificent Eiffel Tower
soaring into the night sky.
It was and still is to me, the existential portrait of dreams coming true.
Coming from India, a developing economy and the world’s largest democracy, the
migration to liberté, égalité, fraternité and voila Paris was incredible. I have been since coming here, living my life’s greatest adventure.
It’s pretty easy to fall in love with Paris, maybe just an evening stroll down the Seine basking in the sunset will do that to you. If you are one of those hard ones, you might need the Latin Quarters and a crêpe at Notre Dame. And you are done.
If I had to name only one thing that won my heart, it has to be the culture. Respect, courtesy and empathy is still very much in vogue here, while it’s rapidly losing ground all over the world. In Paris, you will find people stopping to admire beautiful places, not just to click pictures, but to actually see it.
You will find people reading in metros, not on their phones but actual books.
People will help you if you are lost, complement you even if you are strangers and try to speak English with you. You just need to be polite.
I say Bonjour no less than 50 times a day now. That and a smile, changes everything.
Belonging to India, where we seldom talk to strangers, this was a major culture shift. What was not so different though was the absolute love for good food. I connected with many of my French friends over our love for desserts.
The food is definitely my best connect with Paris, and it somehow makes me feel at home.
What we often forget is Paris is not only about the French experience, it’s an international affair. My masters at TBS introduced me to so many countries with such varied cultures. My classmates come from China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Morocco, Iran, Lebanon, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Russia and France of course! Can you imagine the diversity? It’s a TBS melting pot! I have learnt so much in these few months, about the world and also about myself. What I realised eventually is no matter how far away countries we come from, we are all more alike than we are different.
We are all here to fulfill our dreams, to fuel our ambitions and to make our family back home proud of us. I believe this realisation has helped me connect more with the world at large, giving a sense of hope and belonging.
What my advice would be to my fellow international students, is to please not forget that you are in Paris. Go out, meet new people, don’t restrict your world to your campus doors, but go beyond them. Paris is a kaleidoscope with colours from all walks of life. This is the best place for art, for architecture, for history, for food, for fashion, for international interactions, for discovering yourself and realising who you want to be. Make the most of it. It has only been 6 months, but Paris has changed my life, I have evolved so much from the girl who walked in through Charles de Gaulle airport last October. It has been a life altering experience, and I think I finally understand what Victor Hugo meant when he talked about being born again.