By Guest Author, Christine Monigle, who spent the fall semester studying in Paris
Philadelphia and Paris are actually very similar. They both have a tough, gritty charm that is complemented by beautiful architecture and a rich history. The subway — or le métro — are both shady after 2 a.m. and the locals get a bad rep that they don’t deserve. I often felt I was right back in Philly, especially on streets like Boulevard de Strasbourg and in neighborhoods like my own in the 14th arrondissement. My point is further proven by the fact that the alt-rock and rap scenes in Paris are top-notch. In my humble opinion they’re second only to America. Could I be biased since I only speak French and English? Yeah, maybe. It’s still worth noting this side of France though. Anyway it didn’t take me long to feel right at home in Paris, sometimes it felt like the only difference between Paris and Philly is that I spoke French there and believe me I’m not complaining, I’m a French major so the total immersion was what I needed. Oh and there are twice as many cafés and bakeries, and, while I’m not complaining, my wallet might tell you something different.
During my time abroad, I studied at the Sorbonne in its program specifically for non-francophone students to learn French. I’ll admit I was worried I would get to Paris and understand absolutely nothing but luckily that wasn’t the case. There was obviously still a lot l had to learn and trust me I knew that. The in-depth explanation of the grammar for the French language was what I needed. I knew how to construct sentences and express myself without any problem but it’s all the small details that now, finally make sense. And most of the time I don’t even have to think about what I want to say. The opportunity to study at the Sorbonne definitely has brought my fluency to a whole new level, although I still mix up verb tenses and words frequently. Along with the grammar/literature course, I took a phonetics course and attended two conferences about French culture. I think everything gave me that final edge and the knowledge I needed in order to graduate with a degree in French and become the translator I want to be. Especially since there’s no way I could ever teach French. Oddly enough, I’m applying to teach English in France for a year after I graduate. I think it’ll help me understand French better since I’ll be teaching native speakers how to speak my language. But I don’t know, I haven’t even gotten the job yet.
Even after falling more in love with France and this beautiful language I study, there was still something missing. Even if Paris and Philly aren’t so different, it still wasn’t home. I called it my home for the semester and it felt like it, but it wasn’t. There are no diners for Sunday mornings. There are no pop tarts to have as a snack or for breakfast when I’m running late for class. There are no Targets for me to waste my time in, only Monoprix’s and believe me it’s not the same. I know that even after drinking some of the best wine in the world, eating some of the best bread, and watching some of the best cinema, I’m ready to come home. Even though I have a whole new level of appreciation and love for this “foreign” culture it’s still not mine. And believe me, I mean that in the most respectful way. While Americans and the French like to give each other a hard time, the relationship between us is a brotherly love, and I’m from Philly so I’d know a thing or two about that. I’m probably getting too sentimental and drifting from the purpose of this write-up.
Nonetheless, at the end of this study abroad experience I truly am walking away with a life lesson. The Christine who will return for the spring semester is more humble and even more open than the one you may have known before. While I finish out my semester here in the second most beautiful country in the world, I look forward to seeing all of my friends and family back home for Christmas. And as for France … j’espère vous voir bientôt.
Christine is a senior French major with a minor in communication. She has applied for a teaching assistantship position in France, which she hopes to begin shortly after graduation. She says her semester in Paris was her first time out of the United States and had wanted to travel to France as long as she can remember.