Today’s blog post comes to us from Olivia Modarelli! She’s doing a gap year program in Paris with API, and sharing her experience through blogs and vlogs! Be sure to check our blog and YouTube channel to see more of her adventures.
Yes, we’ve all heard one form or another of Aristotle’s famous words “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know”.
Although I’ve certainly mulled this idea over internally, I didn’t realize the extent to which his words would ring inescapably loud and true during my time abroad.
I’ve been here in the beautiful city of Paris for less than two weeks and I have already learned so much not only about the city but about myself and what I can work on to better myself as a living being over these next few months. As a gap year student, this is my first time living on my own for an extended period of time, and when you are forced to be independent, I find that you quickly acquaint yourself with the aspects of you that are not so dependable. It may sound cliche, but I’ve already had two picnics involving bread and cheese under the Eiffel Tower thus far so I might as well keep it going. Plus, I believe all of my findings have the potential to benefit everyone; abroad or otherwise.
The first thing I’ve learned is that sometimes I need to take a deep breath and not expect perfection all the time.
This goes for both me and the city itself. The worst thing you can do is go into a trip with unattainable expectations that the enjoyment you get out of your stay is fully dependent on. I have been guilty of this before, so I was aware that the pedestal Paris stands on in my mind may have to be lowered at some point. I found that going in with this mindset was the best of both worlds! Don’t be afraid to put your dream city, dream job, and dream life up in the sky. That is the kind of thing that breathes life into our cycle of 24 hour increments of “living”. But also allow them to fall down sometimes…who knows, maybe a new dream may float into its place. In my case, there is no new dream replacing Paris for the time being.
However, not expecting absolute perfection from myself at all times will probably make it a better experience. When entering any new situation, you have to give yourself time to find your way. You will stumble. This is a guarantee. You may fall. This is likely. But that will make for a much more confident walk when you get back up. For me, finding my way on the metro was a scary process over which I was stumbling for a few days. But eventually I got it! And I feel much more confident in myself in knowing that I figured it out despite whatever fear I had, rather than me just magically knowing how to get around on the metro the first time I tried.
Another aspect of this trip that is teaching me things I didn’t even know I needed to learn is my time in the classroom, although maybe not in the way one would think.
I knew I still needed to work on my communication skills back home. My guess is that everyone does for one reason or another. What I didn’t realize is how easily I could be thrown back into a place that I felt I dug myself out of communication-wise long ago. Of course I am learning the French language itself in all its history and beauty, but the most meaningful thing it’s teaching me is to fully trust in myself and what I have to say. These are things I struggle with in my own language, so I believe if I can master it in one completely new to me, I will go home with an unbelievably improved attitude toward and ability concerning meaningful conversation and communication.
Of course there will be many more lessons to learn and more falls to take, but I can’t wait to see what kind of person I’ll go home as. Let’s all shoot for the stars and aim to be the best people we can be while helping others do the same. And of course, remember to always save room for bread, cheese, stunning lights and anything else that makes you happy!