Exchange diaries Paris: From quiet Kingston to populous Paris

As I sat in my seat waiting for the plane to take off, reality sank in.

“I am spending two semesters abroad in Paris,” I thought as passengers shuffled past me to their seats.

Soon, the plane began to make its way down the runway, with the safety video playing on the small screen in front of me. I just sat there ― terrified.

What was I doing? I was leaving behind all the people I care about and the university I love. I was heading into the unknown all alone. I spent the next seven hours worrying about being completely alone in a foreign country for nine months.

By the time the plane had landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport, I was ready to jump on a plane and head back home. I was prepared to just call it quits, go back to Queen’s and pretend the thoughts of studying abroad had never crossed my mind.

However, as I picked up my baggage and made my way out of the airport, I began to calm down. “I can do this!” I kept telling myself over and over.

By the time my taxi arrived at the temporary apartment I would be staying at, my nervousness had been replaced with excitement.

I spent my first few days in Paris taking care of administrative details like my bank account, French cell phone and obtaining housing insurance. The French bureaucracy is quite inefficient, not to mention slow.

You need to have a French bank account to get a phone plan but you also need a French phone number to open up a bank account! What struck me as unusual is that I have to wait over a week to get my debit card and then a few more days until its PIN number arrives in the mail.

After those first few hectic days, I finally had a chance to be a tourist. I walked around with my camera hung around my neck, taking pictures of every possible thing. I even took an open bus tour around the city where I snapped pictures and listened to the pre-recorded tape explaining the history of the monuments we were passing.

I was having the time of my life ― I finally began to fall in love with the city and all its history and culture. It seemed as though all my worries were finally gone. But that feeling was only temporary as my anxiety returned the night before orientation.

Would I make friends? What if I hated the school? These questions plagued my mind until I finally fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.
Once I arrived at the school, I saw hundreds of other students in exactly the same situation as me. So I stood by myself, hoping that someone would want to talk to me. Suddenly, it felt like I was a frosh again. As I looked around, it seemed that everyone else had already made friends.

My downward spiral of self-doubt came to a halt when a smiling Japanese student introduced herself to me. I finally felt at peace. “It’s going to be an amazing year,” I thought. It was the first time I felt optimistic about my stay in Paris.

Things have been easier since then. I have met some very interesting people from all around the world. I don’t feel so lonely any more. I haven’t moved into my apartment yet, though I’m scheduled to move in within the next few days. Once I’m all settled in, I hope that my stress will subside.

Until then, I try to keep myself busy by spending time with my orientation group or visiting the beautiful sites of Paris. Although I’m still settling into my new home, I’m excited for what the city has to offer.

I’m looking forward to good food, good fun and, most importantly, good friends.

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