In the spring of 2022, I had the privilege of studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. There, I fell in love with traveling as I backpacked to fourteen different countries in the course of six months. After meeting so many different kinds of people on trains, in hostels, and other endeavors, I realized that the American lifestyle I grew up in was not sustainable for me as compared to the relaxed way of life I experienced in Europe. I saw first hand how it is possible to work to live, rather than living to work--which is the mindset fueled by many Americans. I soon realized I wanted hobbies, to learn different languages, experience different cultures, and undergo a more holistic way of life.
That’s why this past winter break, I decided to study abroad once more and go to Paris for three weeks to determine whether or not I want to move abroad after I graduate this spring. There, I took a French fashion course at the Sorbonne and lived with a French host mom who only spoke French. I was pushed completely out of my comfort zone as I have only taken French for a couple of years at the University level. Upon arriving at her beautiful apartment in the 7th arrondissement, I was greeted by her warm demeanor and the longest conversation I’ve ever had in French. It was exhausting, but also exhilarating because I realized I was capable of communicating with this Parisian woman who has lived a completely different life than me. Yet, I also learned that translating one’s personality into a different language and a different culture is hard--and also very isolating.
Overall, my study abroad experience in Paris was incredible. But I do not want my pictures or blog post to fool you. It was also one of the loneliest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. As someone who is lucky enough to consider travel a hobby, I hear from people all the time that my life is like a movie to them. And to be honest with you, it’s like a movie to me too. But in my three weeks spent in Paris, I found it hard to make friends and immerse myself in the French language and culture. In short, it was nothing like Emily in Paris--but that does not make it a bad thing.
So, am I still planning on moving to Paris this year? Yes. Even though it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done--I know I have to move there. Because one must do the thing that makes them the most uncomfortable to undergo the most growth. And so, although the mere idea of moving to Paris makes me nervous: that is exactly why I need to move there. And so I will--this September to be exact.
Forcing oneself outside of one’s comfort zone, like solo travel, is something I would recommend to anyone, especially young women. Throughout all my experiences traveling and backpacking I have found a new level of confidence within myself because I have grown to trust myself. I know I can figure out foreign countries’ train systems, live in hostels where you don’t shower everyday and share a room with twenty strangers, live in Paris for three weeks and come out the other side. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone constantly has proven that I know I can. That I am capable. And so I keep pushing the limits of my comfort zone, and in turn, I just become more and more capable.