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Parker: Almost done

May 12, 2011

I have reached the last week of my time here in Paris, and things are getting very interesting. Last week I attended a re-entry session where they discussed re-entry shock, that is, the opposite culture shock that comes with returning home after being away for a semester.  It really made me realize that going home might not be as great as I sometimes dream it could be, with all the people, places, and food I have missed in the last four months. Everyone (I hope) will be interested to hear about my time in Europe, and I don’t know what I will share with them. I imagine it will be something like coming home after a day of high school to a simple “How was your day?” from my mom. I could expect it every day, but when it came, I usually had nothing to say, usually settling for a simple response of “Fine” or “Okay.”

Not only do I have to worry about going home, but first I have to worry about getting through school here. In the last week, I have had three 5-page papers due, given three final presentations, and had five finals, an even bigger challenge after the generally light courseload I have had this semester.  Obviously, doing work and preparing finals is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of all the things I want to do in my last weeks in Paris. In fact, I have quite a list of things to do. Yikes. Time to get on that.

I believe the main difference between a semester abroad and anything shorter, say, six weeks, is that in four months, you are able to really become a local. You get to know the city (or most of it…Paris is HUGE!), the places, the sights, and you have a chance to visit things more than once. However, it can be hard to stay on track when it comes to exploring the city. It is easy to find one place you love to go and revisit that place over and over. Then, when the end of your four months comes whipping around the corner, you are left with a couple short weeks and a list of things you have yet to complete before you leave. With a shorter program, I think it is easier to grasp the amount of time you have, which leads to more planning and less left to do when your time is up. But to me, that then becomes almost like an extended vacation.

I can’t say enough how glad I am to have had more than 4 months in this beautiful city, and to have been able to call it my home. It was always nice to come back to Paris after a vacation, or a weekend away. I wouldn’t trade this feeling of belonging for anything.

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