As I write these words, I’m sitting in the airport in Dublin (where I’ve had to go through security twice since stepping off the plane!), awaiting my return plane to Chicago (and then onto Columbus, Ohio). I’ve left Paris for the last time—or at least until I return again, which is at a yet unknown point in the future. For my penultimate blog post, I thought I’d share with you all my last few weeks in Europe.
After the extremely stressful first week of December, in which I had a ten-page paper, a quiz, a book presentation, and two finals, I was done with all but one of my classes. At Sciences Po, there are 12 weeks of regular classes and then a week of “make-up” classes—if one of your classes is canceled, you are required to make it up (perhaps because their semester is so much shorter than a normal one), and this week is intended for those make-up classes. Somehow, every single one of my classes had been canceled at least once, and some twice, and so I actually had an extra class that week. The only Sciences Po classes that finish after this week are their lecture classes, which meet twice a week instead of once a week. Lecture classes have finals for a week and a half before the semester ends, and you don’t find out when your finals are until about halfway through the semester (it is very different from Northwestern in this respect). My last final was on Friday, December 11, relatively early in Sciences Po’s finals week, so I had an entire week to relax and study before finishing up my stint as a French student.
I had decided that the weekend of December 5-6, my last weekend in Paris, would consist of me enjoying the city to the fullest. Unfortunately, my plans were derailed when I came down with my first illness in several years on Saturday, and could do nothing but lie in bed and rest. On Sunday, I managed to visit the Musée de Cluny, which is Paris’ medieval museum, and go on a mini shopping spree, which I finished by eating at Café Med, an absolutely delicious crepe restaurant on Ile-Saint-Louis which is usually completely full. In what could only be a sign, there was one table open when I stepped inside—and I snapped it up immediately. Culture, shopping, food—it was a perfectly Parisian day.
The moment my final ended on Friday, I bolted out of the classroom. Sitting downstairs, I watched as the various members of my class trickled out to join us. Over the semester, I had grown to become friends with many of them, including three who became my closest friends in Paris—Kelsey, Jason and Pedro. Over dinner and drinks in a nearby restaurant popular with Sciences Po students, we toasted our success (or lack thereof) during the semester. One by one, everyone sadly said their goodbyes and left, until finally only a few of us remained. The goodbyes I had to say at the end of studying abroad were some of the saddest of my life, because I didn’t know when I would next see many of my new friends.
The next day, I headed to Prague, and later Vienna, with Jason, Pedro and Jason’s friend Ryan. I tearfully bid farewell to my roommate, who would be traveling with her boyfriend and his parents. Over the four short months we had lived together, we had gone from slightly awkward co-habitants to best friends who saw each other literally every day (not only were we in a class together, we also had many of the same friends.
I took full advantage of my last week in Europe, enjoying the endless Christmas markets, visiting the Castle of Prague and palaces of Vienna, exploring the classical music scene in Vienna, and buying lots of presents for my family and friends. In Prague, I slipped on the sidewalk on an extremely slipperly plastic bag (if you’ve ever experienced Evanston’s black ice, it was just as bad), and received a cut on the chin for my troubles—my last of the many bruises and cuts I got while abroad (I’m pretty clumsy). I even got to see my Northwestern friend Tiffany, who had been in Vienna all semester, for the fourth time since coming to France—that’s practically more than we saw each other spring quarter in Evanston! On Friday the 18th, I flew back to Paris, taking a detour to Rome’s airport along the way. Since I had been to both Vienna and Rome’s airports before, it was with an eerie sense of déjà vu that I awaited my planes (both delayed, of course). I spent that night packing my bags, with only a three hour break for sleep, and checked out of my apartment the next morning.
I spent my very last day in Paris with my Floridian friend Angelique, who is half French and lives in Versailles. After lunch with her, I walked to the Gardens of the Palace, visiting the parts that I hadn’t yet been to. If you ever go to Versailles, don’t miss the Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, the peasant village she built to amuse herself away from the pressures of the French court, and which is tucked away in the northern corners of the garden, far away from the palace. My last meal in France consisted of a savory crepe for dinner, and a sweet one for dessert, as I knew that America had a serious lack of good crepe places. Finally, I walked around Versailles, the town, which is a beautiful example of small-town France, and had a nice long think about all my favorite parts of studying abroad, and what I would change if I could go back in time and do it again. The next morning, I arose at 6 AM, ready for a very long day of traveling. After three planes, four security checks, and 25 hours, I finally arrived in my house in small-town Ohio, a far cry from the busy streets of Paris, and yet comforting nonetheless, and sat down to finish this blog post and enjoy the holidays with my family.