Study Abroad: Semester in Paris broadens language, perspective

“So where’s home home?” is a question we residential students hear all the time. Before spring of my junior year, my answer to this question was Syracuse. Thanks to my semester abroad through the SUNY at the Sorbonne program, “home home” now also includes Paris. To many people, Paris means the City of Light, the Eiffel Tower, the home of famous artists and writers and the “Mona Lisa.” And sure enough, it is all of that. But for me, Paris means watching children sail tiny boats in the fountain at the Jardin du Luxembourg as I passed through on my way to class. It means listening to music soar through the impossibly high ceilings as the choir practices at Notre Dame. It means watching a ballet at Palais Garnier—the same opera house that was the basis for “Phantom of the Opera.” It means getting lost in the Louvre every Wednesday night. It means visiting a crêpe stand so frequently that Nicolas starts my order as soon as he saw me walking down the street.

My home in Paris was Foyer Didot in the 14th arrondissement. Situated next to a small park, my neighborhood included bakeries on every corner and cafés throughout. My building housed students from all over the world and young Parisians. We ate dinner together every night in the cafeteria in a broken mix of our common languages. The trash talk being thrown across the foosball table was an assortment of English, Spanish and French and turned into laughter as my French neighbor took to correcting my insults.

My classes had a similar mix of international students. Our professor took this into account as she asked us questions like, “What do you perceive to be the greatest problem in your country?” and “Is your country doing anything about climate change?” Practicing speaking in French had never been so interesting––there were perspectives from Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Romania, Turkey and the United States all in the same room.

As a French major, I went to Paris predominantly to improve my language skills. I remember thinking to myself that I was in over my head when my grammar professor spoke to us on the first day of class and I did not understand 90 percent of what she said. But after language class two hours every day and communicating around the city, I found that my French had improved a hundredfold without me realizing it. In May, I found myself carrying a conversation with a French stranger on a train heading from the south of France back to Paris.

The SUNY at the Sorbonne program was the perfect way to improve my language skills and experience French culture while living in Paris. If you’re interested in making Paris your new home, head to the Geneseo Study Abroad website or stop by the Study Abroad Office to speak with a mentor.