During my time as an education student, I spent a lot of time writing reflections about what happened in the classroom and about my teaching. By now, I think I’ve got the hang of this whole reflecting thing. Hey, I’m even doing it for fun now! As my Master’s program is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good time to look back on all of the things I’ve learned and accomplished during my school year in Paris, France.
Accomplishment #1: Moved to Paris
At the end of August, only with one giant suitcase, a camping backpack, and a messenger bag, I hopped on a plane and 8 hours later I arrived in my new home of Paris. After spending the previous year in a more rural area of France as a teaching assistant, I was ready for city life in one of my most favorite places in the world. I’m very privileged and grateful that I was able to do this. Not everyone has the means or the desire to move across the world far from their family.
Accomplishment #2: Began Taking Classes at the Sorbonne
As an undergrad, I was kind of afraid to study abroad. That’s why I chose to do a six-week summer program organized by my university where I was with other JMU students rather than on a semester exchange by myself at a French university (shout out to my friend Katie who did this in 2016!). After graduating with my BA in French and completing TAPIF, I finally felt ready to take classes at a French faculté. Okay, to be fair, not all of my classes were at the Sorbonne, just half of them because my Master’s program is still an exchange. However, once I started classes, I realized it wasn’t that bad. I could understand pretty much everything my professors said, and I was surrounded by lots of other international students becuase my program was for teaching French as a foreign language (Français langue étrangère – FLE).
Realization #1: Letting Go is Hard, but You Will Feel So Much Better
Time to get personal! In the fall, I was beginning the second year of a long-distance (abroad) relationship. I had been with this person for a long time and even though I knew we had grown apart and wanted different things in life, I still was having trouble letting go. Finally, a couple weeks after my classes started, we decided to close the chapter on our relationship. It was hard to do, but I honestly felt so revived afterwards and was able to heal quickly. Luckily I was surrounded by great people, a thriving city, and challenging work.
Here’s a quote from Les Belles Images, a book I read for my 20th Century Feminine Novel class by Simone de Beauvoir that describes how I was feeling at the time:
Elle est orgueilleuse, elle est forte. « On ne se conduit pas comme une midinette. » Elle souffrira mais son orgueil la sauvera. Rôle difficile, mais beau : la femme qui encaisse avec élégance une rupture. Elle se jettera dans le travail, elle prendra un nouvel amant…
She is proud, she is strong. “One doesn’t act like a starry-eyed girl.” She will suffer, but her pride will save her. A difficult, but beautiful role : the woman who takes the blow of heartbreak elegantly. She will throw her self into her work, she will find a new lover…
Accomplishment #3: Homebody to Social Butterfly
Okay, maybe I’m still more of an introvert than an extravert, but in the Fall I started going out with my friends more. Although my main purpose of living in Paris was to study, I still wanted to enjoy all that it had to offer. With Helen, another Master’s student and Sara, an English assistant who did our Master’s program last year, we explored the different neighborhoods of Paris, made some French and expat friends, went to art expos and went to random Facebook events (which is how we started our weekly language exchange tradition). Whether it’s on a Saturday night or a Tuesday night, you can always find something to do in Paris.
Accomplishment #4: I Manifested a Job
It’s about to get a little hippy-dippy, so bear with me. Now this could all be a coincidence or luck, but I’d like to think I was able to get my part time job by manifesting it. What that heck is manifestation you ask? Well it’s kind of like the law of attraction, where of you focus your energy/thoughts on something, you will attract it into your life. With manifestation you visualize your goal and manifest it into your reality ; in simpler terms, I focused on what I wanted and accomplished that goal.
So how did I manifest my job? Well it all started as a thought. I wanted a part time job related to teaching so I could have some extra spending money in Paris (the most expensive place I have ever lived), but I wanted to do something teaching related. I thought about tutoring, but then wished I had applied to do TAPIF again, but in Paris, becuase it’s a decent salary for a 12 hr/week job. I started looking to see if any schools or if the academy was hiring local recruits, but it seemed too late. Soon after, I got an email from the director of my Master’s program, who would send us information about tutoring jobs, language exchanges, etc., saying that a private school in Paris ( less than 15 minutes away from where I was living) was looking for a part time English assistant. I immediately updated my CV, applied for the job, and later had an interview. While preparing for the interview, I visualized my self already working there. I already had experience as a language assistant and I had a Master’s in Teaching so I knew I was qualified for the job. I also told myself not to get my hopes up and that if I didn’t get the job, it will be okay and I will find something that would be a better fit for me (not in a negative way! You have to stay positive when manifesting). Less than a week later, I got offered the job! Manifesting is not wishing for something and then it magically appears, it’s focusing on what you want and taking the actions to make it happen and not loosing sight of that goal. Sometimes that goal is achieved quickly and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the end result might even be a little different than what you imagined in the beginning. Having a patient and optimistic mindset is key.
Accomplishment #5: I got a Haircut
Hey, sometimes accomplishments don’t have to be big. In November, I changed my mind about growing my hair long and letting the natural color come through. Instead, I got a lob (long bob) and went back to my favorite hair color, auburn. I thought new city, new me. My shorter hair made me feel edgy, but still cute, yet sophisticated. Thinking about going shorter? Go for it! Your hair will grow back, and you’ll feel much more refreshed without those split ends.
Accomplishment #6: I Survived my First Semester in Paris
I finished all my classes and did well in them! I didn’t get as many As as I have in previous years, but I didn’t care becuase I learned and I took really challenging graduate classes in French!
Accomplishment #6: I Finally Visited the South of France
My grad year in Paris was my 4th time in France and I don’t know how I never went to the South of France before that. Needless to say, Provence and the Côte d’Azur were on the top of my list. As a reward for finishing the Fall semester, Helen and I took a long weekend trip to Marseille and Montpellier. It was beautiful and sunny, but not as warm as we hoped (I honestly don’t know what we were expecting, it was January). Then, at the end of the month, we also went on a weekend trip to Nîmes, organized by Middlebury. I still have yet to go to the Côte d’Azur, but since I am moving to the South of France in the Fall, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit!
Accomplishment #7: Putting Myself Out There Emotionally
In the winter I was able to move on from my break-up and I developed a crush on someone I met. Now this crush was definitely not the healthiest. It was like one of those middle school crushes where you get supper giddy thinking about the person and then super sad when they don’t seem interested. Anyway, I was idealizing who this person was and overanalyzing what they did. Long story short, I expressed my feelings and got rejected. I was able to move on when I took off my rose-colored glasses and listened to my friend’s advice and actually saw that person for who they were, not just how I imagined them to be.
Accomplishment #8: L’amour à la française
In a surprising turn of events, I met someone new after being rejected and started dating. I couldn’t believe it, I found a French guy who wanted to make me veggie tacos. Four months later we are still together. This Spring has been extra special thanks to the love, caring, and authenticity he given me. I feel proud of the maturity in our relationship and I’m excited the adventures we will have in the future. I also know that no matter what happens, we will be friends for life.
Accomplishment #8: Ran a Half Marathon
Since the end high school, I have always tried to be a runner. Unfortunately, I would always let life get in the way of my consistency. I would stop running becuase the weather was bad ( I didn’t want to wake up early in the Summer and I didn’t want to put on layers and layers to run in the winter, plus I only wanted to run outside). This Fall however, I became more of a consistent runner. I was inspired by my friend Helen, who is an awesome runner (go Helen!) because I kept seeing her pictures she took by the Seine when she would run. I like being outside so I thought, hey I bet Paris would be a fun place to run in! Soon enough I ran 5 miles just becuase I enjoyed being outside in the city. Not long after that I was able to run 6 miles in 60 minutes, not too shabby for a beginner.
Helen then tried to convince me to run the Paris half-marathon with her, and my mom, who is also a seasoned marathon and half-marathon runner also encouraged me. I thought about it and told myself that if I was able to slowly increase my milage, I could do it. I was thinking it wouldn’t happen for me this year becuase my body would start to hurt after a certain amount of time ( running in the streets of Paris is pretty, but hard on your joints and lungs). Then, one day I somehow ran 11 miles! At that point the half-marathon was only one month way so I went ahead and signed up. Yoga and hydration definitely helped my body survive the long distance running. Sometimes I’ll end up running longer than I set out to becuase I underestimate distances and I’ll tell myself that I’ll run from one monument to another (I ran the 11 miles becuase I wanted to see if I could run to the Eiffel Tower).
On March 10th, 2019. I ran 13.1 miles (21.097 km) in 2 hours and 12 minutes with an average of 10:00 minutes per mile (about 6:12 min/km). I took a break from running for a little bit to let my body rest and so I could focus on my research, but now I’m trying to get back into it. The hardest part about running is just making yourself get up and do it.
Realization #2: A Little Bit of a Good Thing is better than a Lot of Just an Okay Thing
I was never really a fan of champagne. I always found it to be too bitter and too bubbly. I didn’t let my dislike for this sparkling wine didn’t stop me from visiting Reims (the capital of the Champagne region of France) a few weeks ago however. After going on a tour of the cave in the Pommery domain (where Brut Champagne was created!) I tasted a glass of their Brut Royal Champagne and it was the best champagne I’ve ever had in my life. Of course I have expensive taste! Then I realized, it’s expensive for a reason : it’s high quality. I think it’s better to have high quality champagne once a year rather than having mediocre champagne every time someone has an excuse to celebrate something. The price and the low frequency of good quality champagne consumption makes it even more special.
This idea can apply to other things too. For example, my boyfriend is kind of a minimalist and has a limited number of good quality and expensive clothing items. I have a closet (and boxes in the USA) of some few good quality, but mostly okay quality less expensive clothes, especially shoes, which I replace very often. I think if I get over my American consumerist mindset, I’ll be able to donate my old clothes and only keep and purchase the ones that I need and feel my best in (if Katie is reading this she’s probably thinking : I’ve been saying this for years, Cam!).
Realization #3: Don’t Settle
In a short period of time I had to make a decision of what kind of job I wanted to do when I finished my Master’s. You can read more about why I made that decision here. It was such a tough decision because it meant I would be leaving Paris and the friends I had made there. However, I’m super excited for my new job as a lectrice and to discover a new part of France. Luckily the country is small so we will all be able to visit each other often. Some part of me felt like I was letting my friends down by leaving them, but actually they are all so supportive of me and want me to advance my career and be happy. I still feel a little bit sad thinking about leaving Paris, but I know I would have regretted letting this opportunity slip away.
Accomplishment #9: I Finished My Thesis in French
The thing I had been stressing about these past 9 months is finally over (except I still have the defense next Monday) : writing a 30 ish page research paper in French. Lots of tears and headaches later, I am done writing in French for a while. This was one of the most challenging academic endeavors I have completed, especially becuase this semester was a very busy one. Now I’m ready to enjoy my last few weeks in Paris, go on a mini vay-cay to Italy, and teach some French teens and pre-teens at a Summer camp. Then I’ll go back to the US to see my family for a month before moving to Perpignan.
It’s incredible how many things have happened since I moved to Paris and I can’t wait for what’s next! Thanks for reading my little ramblings. Tell me something you have realized or accomplished this year in the comments!