Amy Glazier-Torgerson, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2013
Paris was amazing. Doesn’t that sound bland? Doesn’t that poorly reflect the energizing, overwhelming, and confusing quarter I spent abroad in Paris? I know that it does, but when people ask me conversationally “how was Paris?” I don’t know how else to respond.
Last weekend, I participated in sorority recruitment as an active member of my chapter at Northwestern. I had been back in the United States for about three weeks by this point, and was feeling pretty well acclimated. I missed Paris, but I was still reuniting with many of the American traditions I missed so much: Mexican food, athletic centers/gyms, running outdoors, large cups of black coffee. I loved speaking English again and feeling my personality shine through. And, most importantly, I loved spending time with family and friends again. But during that weekend, where I met dozens of people for short conversations, and reconnecting with the 100 other sisters in my chapter, I started missing France. Everyone, in my chapter or going through recruitment, asked “how was Paris?” when I brought up my quarter. Which, of course, I did frequently. When I struggled to answer “how was Paris?” in a quick, summary statement, I wanted to go back so that I could live my quarter all over again. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to accept that the quarter had ended.
It was difficult for me to give an honest answer during that weekend. I repeated “Paris was amazing!” hundreds of times. But during late nights with my roommates and best friends, I explained that being abroad challenged me as well. Although I did truly spend a good amount of my time last quarter eating baguettes, croissants, and macaroons, and exploring Paris and foreign countries, I also missed my activities at Northwestern greatly. I missed my life that was so essentially American. I felt isolated at times alone in my room, living with a family that no matter how kind and helpful, was not my own. I felt guilty about poorly keeping in contact with some friends and selfish for leaving my work-study job working with Head Start preschoolers in Chicago. There is a lot of reflection that I still need to do in the next few months to understand how my fall quarter abroad influenced me. Already, though, I feel like a more honest and genuine person, at least in that I am willing to admit to my close friends, and at times strangers as well, the struggles I faced in Paris. It was truly amazing– but every minute was not perfect, of course.
Now, just like during my stressful weekend of winter recruitment, I would love to relive my experience, but with my friends and family, who could also experience what I grew to love. For now, I’m enjoying the communities and patterns from Northwestern that I missed so much. And while I readjust, I’ll Skype my friends from Sciences Po, print and frame photographs of my arrondissement, and feel grateful for my amazing– honestly– quarter at Sciences Po.