My love affair with Paris began almost a decade ago when I was a college Junior spending a year in the City of Light. I’d been studying French since I was twelve and was now knee-deep in international finance classes taught only in my second language. Time in class was intense (and mildly terrifying at first), but I was able to schedule my classes so I had long weekends off in which to explore Paris and travel as far as the trains could take me.
Once I returned, I completed my French minor, briefly (and disastrously) dated a Frenchman, and joined the Alliance Française here in Chicago to keep up my language.
Sometimes, I still dream in French.
I talk about my time abroad almost constantly. I used to feel bad for being such a one-trick pony, but honestly, no other decision in college has had such a lasting impact. You just can’t know me without knowing the French me.
Paris was the site of so many adult firsts. The first lease I signed was in French. The first bank account I opened was in France. My first encounter with petty theft and subsequent trip to the police office to report said theft: Paris. I dealt with utilities (including three trips to France Telecom), visa requirements (with a trip to a less-than-glamorous neighborhood to get a chest x-ray to prove that I wasn’t harboring tuberculosis), and multiple government agencies (monthly student stipend; socialism, for the win!). I was a mini-adult with unbelievable, sudden freedom and the resultant self-confidence to get things done.
I am a Francophile to my core and never hesitate to defend my adopted homeland. Don’t even get me started on “Freedom Fries” because you know that was completely ridiculous. I grind my teeth whenever someone tells me that the French are rude (and then, after politely letting them finish their misguided diatribe, I jump in to gently correct). I’m a mini-ambassador and fount of information. French Gruyère is better than Swiss Gruyère. French Fries are Belgian.
Paris, perhaps glorified through the rosy lens of nostalgia, is a place of magic for me. I constantly dream of moving back.
Perhaps someday I will.