When I got on my flight to northern Italy in January, I did not expect to be writing an article such as this, from my back garden in the UK, when I had planned on living la dolce vita to the max and soaking up the Italian sun with an aperol spritz in one hand and some delicious handcrafted gelato in the other. Instead, I’m sitting in the garden of my home in the north west of the UK with a cup of tea in one hand and a creme egg in the other ... underwhelming is an understatement! But for now, I am safe at home and I hope you are too!
Even though quarantine has given me a lot of time to procrastinate, I have also had a lot of time to contemplate the adventure that was my year abroad (well ... more like half a year!); 2 new countries, 7 new cities and a ride around the city of looove on the back of a motorbike ... that isn’t bad going if you ask me!
What’s crazy for me might be like a walk in the park to you ... but as a gal whose home town is even smaller than Durham, I can guarantee that I went positively crazy with the new found freedom my time abroad brought...
It’s funny to think that I spent four months in Paris and didn’t even visit the Eiffel Tower, the city’s most iconic attraction. Whilst there is no escaping the synonymity of Paris and Le Tour Eiffel, you can escape the city’s tourist attractions if you travel a little off the beaten path which I guarantee will unveil to you the city’s alluring charm.
I remember the day I arrived in Paris; I was drenched in sweat, exhausted and had seemingly forgotten how to speak French. I arrived at what was to be my home for the next four months and cried as the reality of being on my own in my tiny, dilapidated flat hit home ... never did I think that three days later I would be dancing the night away in a tiny (but buzzing!) jazz club just off Canal Saint-Martin with my newly found friend, with whom I spoke entirely in French! That was to set the tone for the rest of my Parisian adventure; picnics by Canal Saint-Martin, walks by the Seine and exploring the magical streets and vintage shops of Montmartre. My favourite spot in Paris has to be Montmartre ... I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but there’s a magical quality in the air that just kept pulling me back.
Many of my most wonderful memories of Paris occurred when I was simply wondering around the city. There’s a beautiful French verb, ‘flâner’, which can be translated as ‘to wander’ or ‘to wander about aimlessly’. I don’t know which came first, the verb ‘flâner’ or Paris. However, one thing I am certain of is that Paris is a city where one could wonder endlessly whilst never failing to come across beautiful streets, bars and buildings.
To any student who is soon to embark on their year abroad, I would say this ... welcome every opportunity that comes your way. Say YES to everything in life for an entire year and embrace your inner Carl Allen (played by Jim Carrey in the film Yes Man), who unleashes the power of yes after a self-help seminar. You don’t need to attend any seminars; you just need to embrace your year abroad and the amazing, transformative opportunities it brings.
By Molly Stazicker