By Lindsey Rosa
“You’re a freshman, you won’t be even considered.” That’s what I heard from almost every person after I told them about my plan to apply to the Paris Travel Course for the Arts Management Program back in the Fall of 2017. I’m glad I didn’t listen to them because I applied and got a spot on the trip, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Having never traveled without my family, or out of the country I was quite nervous when I found out that I was accepted onto the trip. I waited until the last possible day to pack all my things, and we left MCLA on a Friday at 9 a.m. Little did I know this trip was going to change my life.
When we arrived in Paris the following day, it seemed normal, it didn’t feel like I was in a new place. It wasn’t until we arrived at the Latin Quarter did I notice a culture shock. We were given an hour to find food and I was in Paris, so I had to eat a crepe. I picked the nearest stand to our drop-off and stood in line. I was listening to the people in front of me order. I was listening to the language they spoke (French of course), then I heard how the crepe maker responded (broken French, perfect!). When it was my turn, I got the cheapest thing on the list, a banana and sugar crepe. She could tell I was not from there, mostly because my accent was foreign to her. In broken English, she told me that she had just moved to Paris from Spain a few months back and she didn’t know much French but did understand English. I was grateful to have this connection on the very first day because it just laid the stepping stones for me and understanding my place in this foreign country.
Over the next few days I had experienced many aspects of the culture in France. The food, drink, art, and style made me think about my life and how I was brought up. I found countless moments in the trip where I would escape to the backstreets, where most tourists would fear. On our trip to Montmartre, we were given a few hours of freedom. This was my favorite part of the trip because this section of Paris is filled with shops and homes. At the top of the hill there was a large windmill. I couldn’t get access to it, but I ended up exploring the area around it. There was a small park about the size of a classroom. My friend and I sat in the park listening to the sounds of the cities. It was sunset, about 60 degrees, and we were surrounded by the sounds of cars, birds, dogs, the fresh, clean air, and my favorite was the language. I found myself closing my eyes and taking in every moment of the experience. I wanted to remember how the air felt, how the grass felt on my feet, and how lucky I felt to have been given this opportunity. There are so many things in this life that we take for granted, this was not one of them.
I learned so much from this trip about myself, but the most important thing I learned was the diversity of different cultures. Culture is seen throughout our everyday lives. It’s in our music, tv shows, our rituals, and the way we treat people. We live and breathe our culture, and its hard to see it when its all you know. It isn’t until you take a look at someone else’s that you become aware. Paris made me conscience of my own culture, and I am grateful that this opportunity was given to me. I can only grow from here.