Monday, September 30, 2013

Damon H. - Paris, France - Fall 2013

Bonjour from Paris!
I am writing this blog post to you from one of the most cliché (a word we stole from the French, mind you) places in Paris: the banks of the Seine. I am quietly enjoying my Sunday afternoon doing homework, people watching, and chomping away at a smoked salmon and cheese sandwich. I felt like this would be the perfect setting to write you all because it is one of the things that has caused me the most mental struggle whilst studying abroad. You have to balance the struggle of being a tourist and doing your best to see all the sights, all the while working really hard to be a local and live as they do. It’s a balance that has really eaten at me some days.
I don’t have an answer as to how to best attack this situation, but I hope to have an answer for you by time I get back on the plane. At this point, I’m attempting to look at it like I’m getting the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds, albeit both worlds aren’t always the best…but they are both wonderful in their own way. I have done my very best to enjoy the experiences of each day here in Paris, whether they be extraordinary monuments, experiencing the city, traveling to the beaches of Normandy, and touring Versailles, or if they are experiencing the truth and culture of everyday life in Paris, including conversations with my host family and of course all the wonderful meals. For this reason, you have to learn to be an optimist, so get started now people.
I waited to write this blog as long as possible so that I could write it after I hit the legitimate bottom of the culture shock roller coaster. I didn’t want to feed you all the lines about study abroad being the most wonderful experience of my life because every day was beautiful and awesome and full of positivity. I wanted to write this when I understood that study abroad is a time in your life, a real time in your life, REAL LIFE. There will be good days, okay days, and very rarely, some rough days. But that’s what makes study abroad worth it; that’s what makes it an enjoyable learning experience that you are able to say with confidence was a wonderful life changing experience and most likely the best choice you’ve made to date. Don’t be scared to study abroad because it might have some difficulties, study abroad because the best days will be much better than the good days you have at home on campus at Elmhurst. I promise.
And in closing, don’t forget to look forward to the exciting things, because so many of them are in store. Like right now, I’m dreaming about my trip next weekend to Nice in the south of France on the Mediterranean. A weekend getaway on some beautiful beaches… beats laying in your dorm room watching Netflix all weekend with the occasional “getaway” to the Roost.  
Visualize what’s in store for you!
P.S. Feel free to ask me some legitimate logistical questions you have in the comments below…. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Damon! I loved your post. Thanks for staying realistic while also sharing your excitement. I'm going on Semester at Sea in the Spring, and since we pop in and out of so many countries, I will definitely deal with the tourist issue you speak of-- probably even more so than you, unfortunately. My goal is to be respectful and just blend in as best I can, while also learning and experiencing as much as possible. I am glad to hear you are doing well, and I hope you enjoy Nice! It's one of my favorite places and I'm envious of you right now!

-Carolyn Peters

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Damon!

I absolutely loved your first post and surely hope you have more posts in the future! I really appreciated your honesty about the experience thus far, it's good to hear. I'm not sure how much French you speak, but when you were choosing your courses for the semester was that something that you really had to take into account or were there any other concerns that you had? How are classes going for you? Are they structured a lot different than from back home? I look forward to hearing from you!

Abbie Teague, CPP250

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! How was your culture shock experience when you first arrived? Were you completely blown away or did you expect it?
Shelby, cpp250

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Damon Holst said...

Hey guys! Glad I got some responses!

Carolyn- You will definitely have to work on staying open minded about your experiences as to not take any of your stops for granted. My best advice would be to choose a few touristy things to do in each city, and then spend the rest of the time "doing as the locals do". Ive found that can elicit some of the better experiences!

Abbie- I spoke pretty good french before arriving (better than I thought), but it was my biggest worry. You will most likely be surprised with how satisfying it is to be able to accomplish things and get what you need through conversating in a foreign language. I didnt have to worry about language when picking classes because the majority of my classes are in English. I take a french course and then due to my level of french, I was able to take French Business. They are difficult because their way of teaching language is much more conversational rather than grammar based. My classes are English are manageable. The major difference I have experienced is that they rely on students to present the material for each day, and then they will lecture on it. A little different than the US!

Shelby- To be honest, my culture shock experience wasn't too bad. There were a few things that were just pesky, but nothing that brought my mood down. The little conveniences of home that aren't here bother you, but not to the point of being upset as long as you keep an open mind and understand that the natives find comfort in the things that bother you because they are normal to them. If I experienced a downswing, its because I felt disconnected from not having friends and family around. But you eventually get over being homesick of course!


12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post is intriguing! I could almost visualize exactly where you were while writing this! France seems like a dream as far as places to study goes. I'm glad you spoke of culture shock. Speaking of, what would you say to keep in mind about culture shock that you didn't think about before going?
Best of luck to you!!!!
Ashley R

2:51 PM  
Blogger Juliette Ambrogi said...


I love this post! I was so much more excited to study abroad BEFORE I began the CPP class... ha! I never realized how much it affects most who study abroad. I will be in Poland this fall, and although I have lived there for a summer, have been there multiple times, and know the language, I'm still really nervous that culture shock will hit me hard! Before your time in Paris, have you been to Europe before? If so, how long and how many times? Do you speak any French? I'm just trying to get a sense of how much people know about the culture that they will be entering.

Juliette Ambrogi

10:43 PM  

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