The Side of Paris Fashion Week No One Talks About

The Side of Paris Fashion Week No One Talks About

Strolling through the streets of Paris with my Starbucks in hand, I felt extremely American. In my defense, I knew it was only my first coffee stop of the day. I made my way to the metro station, grabbed a seat and waited for my stop.

Upon walking back up to ground level, the grey Parisian sky was waiting for me. And so was the Champs-Élysées. I strolled down the street, gawking at all the luxurious shops and ran right into Fenty’s pop up shop in the Galaries Lafayette.

A quick walk through the park led me to the Grand Palais, where I saw my first fashion show ever. The photographers were lined up on the sidewalks to capture all the ultra glamorous people wearing giant sunglasses, half of whom I did not recognize at all. They all had one thing in common though: these gorgeous people strolled perfectly through the bustle of the photographers directly into the Elie Saab exposition. The music started. The show began.

After being dazzled by all the beauty I witnessed, it was time to make an essential stop at the Café de Flore. We walked in and sat down.

More Instagram influencers. I didn’t think it was possible to see so many chic people.

My friends and I sat and discussed whether the fashion industry is truly superficial or not. After all, these Instagrammers aren’t really… doing anything. They’re just here. Taking selfies and tons of pictures (in outfits that are, admittedly, super cute).

Are they following trends or are they creating them?

Who actually is creating the trends?

Do the designers and runways shows have control of the fashion world in 2019?

We dipped into a small cobblestone alley because we were tired of walking through crowds of tourists and photographers. At that moment, a Parisian woman walked by me–sunglasses on and purse in hand.

An everyday woman, yet still great style. I could totally recreate that outfit. I turn toward my friends, “All these French women own a pair of jeans that fit them just right and a great blazer. That’s really all you need.”

Maybe these are the people who create what’s new.

The everyday people. The ordinary people. I don’t know about you, but most of my outfit inspiration comes from people I see on the streets.

Sure, huge fashion houses and designers still have an obvious sway in the trends. But I think it’s becoming more common to draw inspiration from one another simply as human beings.

And I love that.


What were your favorite PFW looks? Comment below and I’ll share all my faves!
(Featured photo from Unsplash.)

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Five Things You Should Know Before Visiting France.

Five Things You Should Know Before Visiting France.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been a Francophile. I grew up dreaming of going to Paris, decided to study French in college, and I currently call this beautiful country my home.

But if you’re planning on taking a trip here, there are some things you should know.

1. France isn’t Paris.

This seems simple, but the amount of times I’ve had someone ask me “How’s Paris?” when I live nowhere near the city is… astounding? Sad?

For anyone still confused, here’s a map of France.

Map courtesy of Mapswire.

See that little star? That’s Paris.

Mainland France has 96 departments, so there’s definitely a lot more to see than Paris. The French often consider the countryside more “French” than the city anyway. So there’s that.

2. The French are very kind.

Contrary to popular belief, the French are not rude. They just don’t like tourists. It’s nothing personal, really.

If you are planning to take a trip to France, simply avoid looking like a tourist. This means no super bright colors, no crossbody Kavu bags, and yes…no Chacos.

Oh, and maybe learn a couple French words to at least prove you’re trying. Knowing simple words like bonjour/s’il vous plaît/merci can go a long way.

3. When it comes to restaurants/touristy stuff, you pay for the environment.

Unlike the Americans chugging their Venti Starbucks as they rush out the door, the French prefer to take things slow.

But it comes at a cost.

Getting a meal à emporter (to-go) is cheaper than staying sur place. For example, a coffee could be 1 euro, but it will be 2.50 if you stay to drink it.

I’d recommend indulging the extra euro and just staying to enjoy the atmosphere. There’s truly nothing better than people watching outside of a café as you sip your tiny expresso.

4. Public transportation is your best friend.

Typically when I envision public transportation, I think of Elaine Benes stuck on the disgusting NYC subway and having a mild panic attack.

But in France, the majority of people use public transportation. It’s actually clean (yes, even in Paris). It’s also pretty affordable if you’re a young adult. Anyone under 26 is considered a youth in France and receives discounts on pretty much any public service (museums and movies included).

So don’t be afraid to hop on the bus, metro or train!

5. Prepare for late nights.

The French love their soirées. They typically don’t eat dinner until around 8 p.m. and meals last two (or more) hours. They eat and talk and eat more and talk and eat and are still somehow super skinny…

In short, don’t plan on the next day’s itinerary being jammed pack if you’re eating dinner with a bunch of French people the night before. After dinner and drinks are all said and done, you’ll probably be getting home around 1 a.m.


French culture is fun and wildly rich, so try to enjoy it in as many nonconventional ways while you’re here! Bonne chance!

Got more travel questions? Leave a comment below. I’d love to start doing some travel blog posts, so tell me what you want to know!

Ras de Terre.

Ras de Terre.

My leftover soup was cold (and in a paper bowl nonetheless). I was sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom, flipping through January’s issue of Vogue. As I gazed out at the cold winter sky, my heart longed to be in Paris.

All it took was one giant sneeze to plunge me back into reality. Until I remembered the postcard Pascal sent me. I picked it up.

Le ciel commence à ras de terre.

I smirked. He wrote of the rainy Parisian skyline. My smile dissolved as I recalled how much I missed the dreariness of the city in winter. My mind began to wander, and when I looked back at my own bleak horizon, it was as though a piece of Paris was peeking through.


The gentle breeze blew through my hair as I walked through the park. My eyes were fixed on the desert sand beneath my feet. It was nearly sunset, and I was astounded that it could get so cold so quickly. So much was on my mind. So much could be said. So little was.

Le ciel commence à ras de terre.

I knew it would all be okay. I knew that the inexplicable, inexpressible array of emotions I felt in that moment would disappear just like the dust that covered the ground.


I stood on the shore, letting the water barely touch my toes. I desperately stared at where the ocean meets the horizon, searching for something, anything. I thought of my new life. I was happy and sad and scared and content. The phrase shot into my mind again.

Le ciel commence à ras de terre. Ça veut dire qu’on n’est pas très loin, l’un à l’autre.

After all that time, I remembered the postcard. “We aren’t so far away from each other after all.”

Watching the same sky. Feeling the same emotions. Thinking many of the same questions. Living and breathing and loving and hoping. The sky begins at ground level, and we aren’t so far away from each other after all.

“You can be young and bitter. Just maybe not as bitter as I’m gonna be ten years from now, but I’m bitter. Anyway, don’t tell anyone.”

“You can be young and bitter. Just maybe not as bitter as I’m gonna be ten years from now, but I’m bitter. Anyway, don’t tell anyone.”

One year ago today I said goodbye to the best year of my life. I cried while boarding a plane because I knew I was leaving a piece of my heart in the French Alps. To reveal a bit of my perspective, here are some excerpts from my final days in France.

June 3, 2017.

It’s my second to last day in France and my heart shatters with every beat… As I packed, I couldn’t help but think about how funny it is to fit one’s entire life in a suitcase. (Talk about compartmentalizing.)

June 4, 2017.

I never thought this day would come. I can’t believe we’re already here… We all caught a glimpse of the sunset and ran outside to see the most beautiful view I’ve ever laid eyes on. Genève looked stunning and the whole valley reflected orangey pink hues. An extremely prolonged admiration of the sunset made us realize it was time to begin parting ways… We looked at the glittering lights of the city as I held my breath… I felt the desire to cry choking me. I was happy and sad at the same time and didn’t even know how that was possible… I am perfectly at peace.

 

I look back on those journal entries as though I’m reading someone else’s diary. The girl writing this post does not feel like the girl who spent an entire year traveling France, indulging in the beauty of their language and culture.

Bitterness has been one of the few words to describe how I’ve felt since being home. Even thought I joke about it now, I spent the entire summer (and most of this past school year) in a gloomy headspace which seemed to provide no way out.

I just recently came to a realization that much of my sorrow is self-inflicted. I can’t stop living in the past, and that’s what’s torturing me. So no, I will probably never stop talking about France. It was the most influential year of my life thus far. But I will also no longer live in the past, reveling in the romanticized reality of my mind.

KV

(P.S. Title is from Season 3 Episode 17 of Seinfeld.)

Reflections of a Coffee Addict

Reflections of a Coffee Addict

It’s 8:46 a.m. as I sit down for breakfast and take a sip of my coffee. I cringe. It’s my first day back home, and I already feel like a snob. American coffee is terrible.

When I moved to France for a year, I expected culture shock and other unusual societal norms. What I didn’t expect was to be shaped by something as small– literally and figuratively– as their coffee. I’ve been a coffee enthusiast for quite some time now, and I thought going to Europe would simply help me appreciate the art of coffee even more. Little did I know, it would reveal much to me about society as a whole.

The culture surrounding coffee in France is much different from here in the United States. Much of American coffee culture consists of waiting in line for 20 minutes only to run out the door with our venti mocha frappuccino or vanilla non-fat soy latte or whatever other various sugary concoction it may be. When we do have time to sit down for coffee, it’s usually only for a 30 minute job interview or an easy first date with a potential partner. Unless, of course, you are invested in the hipster side of coffee. That subculture, if you will, contains multiple forms of coffee-making that often seem a bit redundant (I mean… do we really need a drip coffee, pour-over, and cold brew of the day?).

France is a completely different scene. You are strolling dans la rue when you stumble upon a tiny corner café. Little striped chairs and small circle tables are staggered along the awning, piquing your curiosity. A waiter comes outside to offer you a menu. You sit down. Upon ordering un café, a tiny espresso with an equally tiny spoon appears in front of you. You proceed to sip it for the next hour or two while divulging into political or philosophical conversation–and maybe snacking on a croissant– with your fellow French citizens.

Though this may be a bit exaggerated, the point remains. For the French, it’s extremely important to set aside this time. Coffee isn’t just a drink to keep you awake throughout the monotony of your day. It’s a form of true connection; it allows you to have time for the important people in your life. The practice of afternoon coffee is essential for maintaining the sanity one has in the midst of a busy schedule. Unlike the American guzzling their 32 oz. coffee while running late to work, the small and bitter espressos of the French clean the palate and energize the person for the remainder of the day.

Now that I’m back home, I realize that American coffee culture is definitely improving. (But we could definitely still learn a thing or two from the French.)

P.S. For your entertainment here are some photos of me consuming way too many espressos in France.

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Words I Need to Hear.

Words I Need to Hear.

I feel rather uninspired. And as a writer, it’s easy for me to get in these ruts. However, when I do I often just stop everything creative. I completely shut down. So here’s a little note to myself.

Don’t do that. It’s not healthy. Write even when you don’t feel like writing.

Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re happy. Write when you’re upset and stressed and lazy and every emotion in between.

Don’t let your emotions control you. Writing when you don’t feel like it is what makes you great (I’ve received this advice time and time again from great writers I know and admire).

Oh! And before I forget…

I also have one quick question: what would you be interested in reading? If you were absolutely stuck reading my blog for a solid hour, what are three subjects/articles/thoughts you would want to read about?

Leave your answers in the comments below! I can’t wait to hear from you.

 

KV

(Featured Image taken by me in Bayeux, France)

La Vie Française.

La Vie Française.

As many of you are (I’m sure) aware, I spent the last year in France. It was one of the most wonderful, eye-opening, exhilarating experiences of my life.

I want you to meet some of the people who made my experience so great. I interviewed many of my fellow students about their experiences abroad. (To those I did not interview, my sincerest apologies. I still would really love to hear your answers to these questions if you’re interested.) I know this is a long post, but it is very dear to my heart. I love these raw, beautiful responses that are so specific to each person in our group.

 

1. Why did you come to France?

Tifani: I wanted to come back, I already had friends here, and it’s a place that I love. I don’t visit many places that I actually wanna go back to.

Christian: It was a last minute decision, honestly. I decided to come because I thought learning to speak French, even at a basic level, would help me in my future work as a surgeon in places where they are needed most.

Zachary: Since I was I kid I have always wanted to learn French and to visit France. Also, I know there are a lot of benefits from learning g a second language and I knew that it would be more easy to find a good job in the US if I had French on my resume.

Franco: When I was in middle school I had planned to study abroad. And when I got to high school my dad wouldn’t let me take Spanish…

Jason: I think it’s a beautiful language. It’s very useful. I’m also fascinated by French culture: the food, the sports, the people. 

Sarah: To acquire the language skills necessary to complete my BA in French studies with the goal of working internationally.

Shayla: Legit don’t actually know. There are several different reasons why I found myself in France. I had almost come two years ago, and there was still that part of me that wanted to learn French and use this opportunity to travel abroad.

Kaz: I’ve wanted to learn French since the moment I realized English wasn’t the only existing language. I was about 6 or 8 when that happened. But I had lost sight of that for awhile and then I met Sarah and she told me about the language program at Andrews and I signed up to come the following Monday.

Harrison: I love languages, first of all. Also, I love Europe. So I came up with plan that I would do France this year and Italy next year.

 

2. What has been your favorite part of studying abroad?

Tifani: The cultures, the people, and the friendships you make. Getting to try new things and experiences.

Christian: Expanding my cultural horizons. I still have a long way to go, but I feel much more understanding now about cultural differences and the problems they can pose to foreigners.

Zachary: Traveling around Europe and meeting new people along with being able to speak French with people

Franco: The traveling. Also, being able to travel for not that much money.

Jason: All the trips. And to be able to meet locals, that’s fun too. Because when you push yourself and push your boundaries to talk to other people, I think that’s when life-changing experiences and memories are made.

Nephta: Traveling is really cool, but I’d say just the people and the memories.

Sarah: Experiencing different cultures as I get to travel and opening my mind to new ways of doing things

Kaz: It’s been exactly like I thought it would be. Europe is like living in a fairytale.

Shayla: Probably the people and traveling.

Harrison: Actually, the trips I take away from here. I think being here is kind of the day-to-day life, which is good, but then you have that contrasted with your experiences wth other people and your experiences with getting to know yourself.

 

3. What do you think will be the hardest thing about going back?

Tifani: It’s always weird to see how people dress differently. You forget how many people always wear sweats and yoga pants… People just don’t do that here. Men here dress so much nicer. And just realizing that friends and family have moved on while you’ve been here.

Christian: Leaving people that, in such a short time, I grew to love, some as much as old friends.

Zachary:  Knowing that it will be a long time before I can return to Europe. And not being able to see my European friends.

Franco: It’s so different here that basically the whole idea of it is going to be super hard. The people, the traveling, just everything. I can do the same thing at home but it won’t be exactly the same.

Jason: Quite frankly, I don’t know if I can say this, but I’m not a big fan of American culture. Just going back to the whole American system will be kind of hard for me.

Sarah: Missing the people I spent the year abroad with and our adventures together

Shayla: Talking to people at home. And they won’t actually listen and a lot of people just won’t understand how things really are here.

Kaz:  Michigan is boring and Andrews is quite honestly in the middle of nowhere. Nothing at all like a fairytale. So back to reality and the fact that it seems like in America, the world is ending. Readjusting will be difficult for me.

Harrison: I think just not waking up every day here, in a different place in Europe. Again, getting to travel around. I sort of feel like I’m pretending to study and work hard, but I’m going to miss that kind of fancy life where I’m abroad and being a young person. Going back to America means going back to life and the things we have to do.

Nephta: I think just getting back in the rhythm of American culture. Being here has opened my mind to a different place. I almost feel like I’m snobby now.

Reuben: I think it’s going to be interesting how accessible everything will be again.

 

4. Where’s your favorite place to relax, either on campus or in Geneva?

Tifani: Camille and I go on these hikes, and they’re very relaxing.

Christian: The act of relaxing is one that has evaded my mastery as of yet. I am most relaxed when I take walks through the beautiful forest surrounding the campus.

Zachary: I don’t really have a good answer for this question, other than I usually like to go to Geneva on the weekends and lately I’ve really enjoyed Lausanne. It’s so beautiful there next to the lake and with the view of the Alps.

Jason: Top of the Salève, even though it’s not very relaxing getting up there. Or the little well-house next to the soccer field.

Sarah: The top of the shed overlooking Geneva, or hiking in the woods!

Shayla: My bed is better than most people’s. Also, I did like escaping into the woods.

Kaz: Neither. There is a place near Annemasse, with a beautiful view and a nice river. Filled with life. It’s absolutely peaceful and beautiful. Straight out of a story book. Nice little countryside.

Nephta: My favorite place to relax was in the piano room.

 

5. How has this experience helped form who you are? Do you have a stronger sense of self?

Christian: It has not helped form me as much as it has contributed to a better understanding of who I am and in what ways I can further guide myself towards becoming the man I want to be.

Zachary: I’ve finally been able to become more comfortable with myself and less afraid about meeting strangers and traveling alone.

Franco: I definitely think I’ve grown a lot as a person. Being in a different country and being without your family helps you grow as a person. It helps you become more independent. You don’t ever have the option of, “Oh, I’m homesick. I’m gonna go home.” You’re far away with different cultures, different rules, different everything.

Jason: Definitely. I think this year has not only been the best year, but the year I’ve learned the most. Not only academically but also with interpersonal relationships. And street smarts. And I have more of a sense of “I can do this.”

Sarah: Going to France was out of my comfort zone. It was something I really wanted to do, but I was scared. I think it helped me push myself to keep trying new things but to balance that with comfortable things too and not stress myself too hard.

Shayla: People here have different lifestyles than me, and it made me feel like the lifestyle I was living wasn’t necessarily right. I came to realize that it’s okay for me to stick to being me and not make changes for anyone. So I’m more confident in being like, “No, this is who I am, and you have to deal with it.”

Kaz: Definitely feel like I have a stronger sense of self. What I need, want out of life, and where I want to end up at the end. How I learn things in comparison to others.

Harrison: Totally. It’s completely changed my perspective about traveling. But coming here really re-focused my whole life in the sense that I’ve really set my goals towards being a polyglot. It’s completely changed my life path in that sense. But also just having all these experiences. I’ve been to more countries now. I feel like I have a much fuller experience.

Reuben: Different experiences just helped me develop as a person and see how I react in certain situations. 

 

6. What are some of your favorite foods you’ve tried throughout your travels?

Tifani: Moroccan food has been delicious. Their drinks are fabulous. (the orange juice and Moroccan tea.) Italy has incredible pizza and pasta and gelato.

Christian: I wish I could say something fancy, like expensive mushrooms or rare cheeses, but in all honesty, home-cooked meals. My girlfriend and I had the privilege of staying and eating with her family in northern France for a weekend. Best food I had during my time here, hands down.

Zachary: Wow, I don’t know except that I think France has definitely has the best cuisine in the world and no one comes close to France when it comes to desserts and pastries.

Franco: Orange juice from Morocco. Best orange juice I’ve ever had in my life.

Jason: Coming from the guy who sticks to baguettes and bananas, actually the hot wine in Strasbourg was nice. And stroopwafels.

Sarah:  I am not very adventurous when it comes to food, but I’ve loved the crepes of France and gelato of Italy.

Shayla: The falafel and grilled cheese in Paris. In Prague, we came across this bagel shop. Best bagel I have ever had. Tried the waffle in Brussels; they’re not anything to write how about I don’t think. Same with their french fries… Why are they famous for that?! Also, Subway’s always good.

Kaz: So I’m vegetarian, and it’s not the easiest lifestyle to keep up when you eat out at restaurants. I’ve found that my go to’s are Indian and Italian food. I also really like ratatouille, which I got to try homemade for the first time made by an actual French person.

Nephta: So recently we had this mushroom with bread… BEST CAF FOOD EVER

Reuben: I really liked the Hungarian goulash. It was pretty great. I had some really good pizza in Italy. And all the Dutch food I always eat.

 

7. What do you want to do when you go back to the States?

Christian: Spend as much time with family and friends as I can before coming back to Europe this coming school year, to study in Germany this time.

Zachary: Work, make money,  and finish college as soon as possible.

Sarah: I will be at home for the summer, then finishing up my bachelors and plan on using my French to make some extra money during the school year by teaching or tutoring.

Shayla: Cry. Also I’ll be able to go to Starbucks and order things in English, and they won’t look at me funny when I say things in English… EVEN THOUGH THEIR MENU IS IN ENGLISH.

Kaz: Be a real adult! Basically, do everything in my power to finish school and get back to France as fast as I can!

Nephta: I’m not super satisfied with my French. As a film major, I know that French cinema is a big part of film, and I think it would be really cool to maybe one day come back and work here a couple of years.

 

8. What is one thing you wish you had brought with you?

Tifani: Welllll.. Um… maybe my kitchen back home? I miss making food so much. (And having my parents buy the ingredients.) Or my cat.

Christian: Nothing. I’d want to bring some of the people I met here back home with me though.

Zachary: I wish I had my car with me!

Franco: Xbox. That would’ve actually be soooo useful on rainy days or in the projector room.

Sarah: A blow dryer that worked! Mine ended up still blowing out from the extra power, and then I considered buying a new one in Europe, but eventually I gave up. Hey, my hair is super healthy because of that !

Shayla: My navy blue Hollister sweater. Also my eyelid primer. That would’ve been nice.

Kaz: Nothing. I actually wish I had brought less. I’m a terrible packer. But if I could have, I would have brought my best friend. I haven’t seen her in 4 years, and she lives in Jamaica.

Reuben: Some hot cheetos.

Emily: At this moment, I wish I had a hair straightener.

 

9. If you could only have visited one city, where would it have been?

Christian: Prague. I made several unforgettable memories there.

Zachary: Paris.

Franco: I think I’d have to say Liverpool.

Jason: Prague or Lisbon. Same with Brussels, but you said one city….. I might just have to go with Venice.

Sarah: I loved Italy… but I think I’d say Barcelona!

Shayla: Probably Vienna. I have fabulous memories from Vienna.

Kaz: Other than the one I’m currently in, Barcelona might have been my next choice.

Harrison: Tromsø, Norway. It’s the northern most city in the world.

Nephta: Florence. *laughs* Just kidding.. Ummmm.. Probably Cannes.

Emily: Honestly, I feel like every town has it’s perks to it. It’s little bits of history. Even the small ones.

 

10. What’s your favorite French word/expression?

Tifani: Avoir la tête dans les nuages.

Christian: Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Jason: Fais gaffe, mec!

Sarah: Incroyable ou Tenir le chandelier.

Kaz: Avec.

Harrison: N’importe quoi ou Evidemment.

Nephta: Stupide ou Coucou.

Reuben: “Tu m’apportes un vrai bonheur.” Because it sounds bad but it’s not. Unlike everything else in French, which sounds normal but is bad.

 

11. What was some culture shock you experienced coming here?

Christian: How open the professors are with grades, especially among your fellow classmates.

Zachary: The Socialist political ideology and so much cigarette smoke!

Jason: One thing that caught me by surprise was that you’re expected to give kisses as greetings. French people can be very open and direct also. They definitely let you know how they feel.

Sarah: Honestly, just the language barrier was really rough for the first few months. It made me feel more like I didn’t belong, so I would withdraw from the cultural experience when I didn’t understand.

Kaz: The kissing when you meet someone new. And overall how polite and well polished people here are.

Nephta: The amount of water in the toilets. And transportation.

 

12. Any embarrassing moments you’d like to share?

Christian: Every single time I speak French to a native speaker. Seriously.

Zachary: Yes, I have several but they’re not appropriate for children…so I can’t share them. Although, I did tell my French history professor “je suis excité” to see the Mont Blanc so that was pretty embarrassing.

Sarah: Ummm, I like to keep myself from embarrassment, and I think I avoided that? Or I’ve blocked out the moments.

Kaz: The first week of classes I broke my tooth and I wore my mouth guard and I scarf over my face till I could get the tooth fixed. It was brutal.

Harrison: I have some embarrassment if I’m trying to speak to someone in French and they speak back in English. Or if I completely mess up what I’m saying, and I know and they know and we both know. Like, you tried.

Nephta: I’d probably say french class because everyone just dogged on me because I sucked. Actually just like speaking to people in general.

Reuben: I always tripped in front of Sarah, which was the worst. I wouldn’t trip very often, but when I would trip, it would be in front of Sarah. Every time. It was kind of annoying.

 

13. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Tifani: Worry less about what other people think of you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Christian: If something feels wrong, don’t do it.

Sarah: Study to learn – to expand your mind and to better yourself. Don’t be selfish, it’s probably more fun to give away what you’re holding on to. Give your time to people and express love – you’ll never regret it – but know when to walk away from people/friends who aren’t investing in you.

Shayla: Don’t ever get Tinder. That’s stressful.

Kaz: Nothing is that serious. Stop worrying so much. Things always work out the way they should. Don’t stress yourself just take a deep breath, and thank God for eventually getting you through to the end to see what he was doing.

Nephta: Experience more. Go out more. Stop watching YouTube so much because that’s not going to help you in the future. Unless it’s helpful YouTube videos.

 

14. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone wanting to study abroad?

Tifani: Really throw yourself into it. Don’t hold anything back. You don’t want to leave at the end of the year wishing that you had done more.

Christian: Do it. Just do it.

Sarah: DO IT! Know that the travels will be amazing, and the sights will be glorious and learn from everyone you meet! Open your mind to new things! Never forget that it’s the people you’re with who make the experiences incredible and unforgettable.

Shayla: Do it.

Kaz: Take advantage of every opportunity. Travel as much as you can. Eat as much as you can. In terms of learning the language, be conscious of your learning style.

Harrison: I think it’s just a matter of deciding it’s something you can do something and getting outside of your comfort zone.

Nephta: I’d suggest that you take a class before you come here. Also, learn how to adapt quickly because you don’t want to be running around looking like a tourist. And talk to French people. It feels like home because you all speak English, but honestly the French people are really cool.

 

15. What’s one overarching lesson you’ve learned while studying abroad?

Tifani: To be open-minded. You can’t assume that you’re always right and that you always know best. Just because someone does something different doesn’t make it less worthy.

Christian: Don’t waste your precious and fleeting time with people you don’t like.

Zachary: Because a lot of people in Europe speak English, you have to really learn to push yourself to practice French.

Sarah: Be open to new people, new experiences. It’s hard to let go, but sometimes things/experiences/people only stay for a little while to move you along in life and then they let you go with the current and you move onto a new chapter without those things. But never forget what they’ve taught you.

 

And finally, I asked people to give some anonymous comments dedicated to individuals, as well as the group in general. Here are some of the things that were said:

“What I really like about this group is that we’re a very diverse group. I think most of our group have dual citizenships. It’s great just because there is a lot of diversity and a lot of room for experiences with different people.”

“Learn how to use your brain and learn how to listen.”

“Christian, you’re an emotionally strong guy, in touch with yourself, loving, and you give to others, even when you’re not feeling your best. Keep plugging away at life because it has beautiful things to offer to beautiful souls like you.”

“Franco, let your love/kindness come to the surface a bit more. It makes people feel really special when you show them your affection.”

“Some people I feel like I’ve had great experiences with. I would definitely like to say an overall thank you. I really did like the group, by and large. The group spirit was pretty good.”

“I think that it was definitely kind of clique-ish.”

“Delia, you shouldn’t have left I miss you.”

“Franco, you turned out to be a really cool person. I wasn’t always sure.”

“Nephta, I didn’t really get him at first. I was like, what are you doing. But I grew to find him really funny.”

“Lily, I just love you. I love her so much. She’s literally like one of my favorite people I’ve ever met.”

“I believe I’ve said everything I have wanted to say. I’d like the think I’m honest and straightforward with people.”

“I love most of the people here, and we’ve definitely become a weird type of family. But I think it would also be nice if people would still be just as friendly but mind their own business.”

“Stop complaining so much about everything and just suck it up.”

“You all need to relax a bit more. You guys worry too much and worry leads to stress and disease and wrinkles.”

“To the whole group, I love you guys. Honestly. I feel like we were blessed with amazing people. Keep on learning languages and working on French. I’d like to thank everyone for making this one of the best years of my life.”

 

Alors, c’est tout. Merci d’être vulnérable et réel avec moi. Merci de m’avoir permis de faire l’expérience de l’Europe avec vous. Je vous aime tous.

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KV