Full Circle & Reflections in Paris
December 19, 2022
by Madeline Liberman
Just like that, the semester is at an end! While APA Multi-Country has technically ended for this semester, I’m still abroad. All of us flew from Dakar to Paris early on Friday, then went our separate ways. It was so strange to part with the APA group. We’ve all seen each other almost every day for the last 3.5 months and we’ve been through so much together. No one else will ever quite understand what this experience was like. However, our group chat is still alive, and we’re hoping to meet up next semester and potentially have a reunion in Morocco after we all graduate!
Most of the other students took connecting flights straight home. But way back before this semester, I decided to book my flight home for Sunday morning, giving me two bonus days in Paris. I thought about going straight home later, and almost changed the flight. But now I’m so, so happy that I made that decision, because it’s allowed me to return full circle to the beginning of the semester and to reflect on how I’ve changed.
One of the clearest things I can recognize now is how my confidence has increased while traveling and in general. I did get a little nervous when I got on the RER train from the airport to the center of Paris, and I was finally completely on my own. But I quickly realized how confident I felt and how excited I was to just spend time with myself and explore. Booking and staying in a hostel by myself for the first time was a little scary to me, but when I arrived I navigated it relatively easily. I was surprised at how clean and cozy the hostel was, and most of my worries felt unnecessary.
On a similar note, this little two-day trip hammered in how my perception of traveling has changed throughout this semester. I remember a
few weeks back in Dakar, I was talking to someone in the program about countries we’d like to visit. The other girl said she would love to visit Australia, and normally I would have said that I never wanted to travel there, mostly because of the terrifying deadly insects. But I realized that I actually do want to visit a lot of places that didn’t particularly interest me before, including Australia. I mean, I dealt with some pretty big bugs in Dakar, and I’m still here! I used to think only about terrifying, daunting, uncomfortable, or unknown aspects of traveling, and those were so big in my mind that they outweighed most of my longing to travel to a lot of countries. Now, I’ve faced a lot of my fears. I’ve been uncomfortable at times- having no hot water in Dakar, not being able to drink or use tap water in Rabat and Dakar, getting lost, struggling with foreign cell phone plans, not being able to communicate with people. None of those was enough to outweigh all of the amazing things I saw and learned over the last 3.5 months.
I’ve spent the last two days feeling so incredibly grateful that I didn’t go straight home. My time here in Paris by myself has been absolutely wonderful. The night of my arrival, I went back to visit my Paris host family! Walking through my old neighborhood in the 10th arrondissement, through the Marais, was absolutely worth the bitter cold. All the streets and stores I recognized were lit up and festive for the season. When I arrived back at my host family’s apartment, my host mom was so thoughtful- knowing how limited my winter clothes were, she had bought me a pair of warm socks and a fleece! It hit me that I really missed our long dinners together, the radio they played all the time, and talking about politics and music with my host dad. I guess I hadn’t fully processed that before, and I really hope I can see them again after this semester.
Another thing I noticed about myself while being back in Paris is how I’m thinking about money a little differently. Honestly, I’ve never spent so much money during one semester. Buying lunches every day, gifts for family and friends, transportation, cell phone plans and service- it all adds up very quickly. At first, this really worried me because I’m usually in a saving rather than spending mode- I always feel like I might need it for a rainy day. But by the end of the semester, and definitely by this weekend, I was realizing how it’s so, so worth it to spend money on things that will make me/others happy. I booked a slightly nicer and pricier hostel than average, and for my lunch on arrival I bought a rather expensive tartiflette (a big pile of cheesy potatoes that you top with pickles and onions- fabulous) at the Christmas market at the Tuileries Garden. The next day, I walked into a lovely little chocolate shop and bought a fancy $9 chocolate bar to bring home, just because I wanted to eat it with my parents. I don’t have a single regret. Of course, when I get back home, I won’t continue to spend money like I’m on vacation, buying meals out and gifts all the time. But I see how worthwhile it can be to do that now and again, if your financial status allows it.
As I write this, I’ll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to fly back home to Boston. I’m really sad that this experience has come to an end, but at least I can recognize how much my world view has opened in so many ways. That’s a wrap for this semester of APA Multi-Country. It’s been a pleasure telling you about FMS, and I hope I’ve convinced you if you’re thinking about choosing it!