Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life after study abroad

Behold, I'm back! After a bit of a hiatus from writing, I am going to try and get myself back into the groove of crafting posts that you all will hopefully find interesting! It has been almost two weeks since I have returned from my life in Europe and the transition has been pretty smooth. Although, I have been experiencing some post-partum pains. Every time I enter into a supermarket, I sulk through the bread aisles, yearning for my crispy and still-warm baguettes or viennoises. When I pass a bakery, the tartes look deflated and dull. The wine is acidic and lacking the air of expertise that all French wine labels seem to bleed. When I drive - and think how much easier it would be to take the metro - I secretly hope that the Eiffel Tower will poke out its peak at wave at me. I feel Paris calling me and I want to scream its name from the Long Island tree tops.

Don't get me wrong, though. Being home has been a treat, as well. There is a comfort that comes with home that no other place can replicate. I am not going to lie, when we touched down in New York - JFK airport, I teared up as I stared out the window. I was back in my Motherland, and I felt like it was welcoming me with these warm and welcome arms. Being away from the United States, a country I value in a way that cannot be put into words, only made me appreciate it even more upon my return.

Being abroad has been an unbelievable experience, one that I have been having a hard time admitting is over. I had been waiting for that adventure since I was in kindergarten, planning my college career around it, and in the blink of an eye, as if it were a dream, it is over. They always say it is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all, or that all good things must come to an end, but I have always been a fan of having my cake, eating it, and then eating it again and again and again. In a way, I feel like I was breaking up with Paris after a whirlwind springtime romance. I left him behind, despite the fact that he loved me well and taught me invaluable things about myself. In the back of my mind, I am hoping that there is still something left for him and I, Paris and myself, but for the time being, I will just take the lessons we learned from our time together and continue on with my life.

My last bit of time in Paris can be described as desperate, but not in the way you would assume it meant. Desperate to grasp all the culture I could, desperate to see everything my eyes could take in, desperate to not miss out on anything that would leave me kicking myself later on. I ran around the city like a starving man, gulping down everything about my surrounding world that I could because it seemed the only way to give my wonderful Paris the proper goodbye. My parents came to fetch me and spend a little time after my semester finished with me in Paris and it was wonderful. The part of my world that was pulling me back home had arrived in the city that I had grown to love madly and everything was perfect. I had tried crafting the perfect excuse to drop everything and move there - nothing was holding us back! After an amazing extra week in Paris with the homesickness dissolved, it made it that much harder to leave. Another week was spent in Spain on the island of Mallorca. It was an island paradise that differed from the hustle and bustle of the French metropole. It was the greatest place to go and wean myself off of Europe and ease myself back into the life of a suburban New Yorker.

When I graduate from Boston University, just like the class of 2012 did today, I know that I will forever know that I accomplished everything I wanted to in college and mainly because I fulfilled my study abroad dreams.

This summer, I am trying to continue with the quick speed of life I lived in Paris by spending 5-days a week in the heart New York City, my favorite city in the world (sorry, Paris, you're a close, close, close second). I am interning for MTV Networks (specifically, VH1) and for a super cool start-up, Outbrain Inc. Both are going to be amazing learning experiences where I will continue this trend of learning about myself and what I am capable of. But, more on that later...(sorry, that was SO future/Bob Saget Ted Mosby of me)

Since I guess this concludes my study abroad aventure, this blog is going to be taking a less European approach and going to detail my adventures in the most dreamed about metropolitan city in the world. New York City, practically the Holy Grail of metropoles. The blog will be undergoing a name change (same URL, though!) and perhaps an aesthetic change very shortly. I can't wait to continue chronicling my journey as a girl in her 20s because, as those of who you have lived through it or at least watched an episode of HBO's Girls, things can get awkward, hilarious, and inspiring.

Check back in soon because I promise I'll have a story to tell. Until then, for the last time...


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still living a moveable feast

My last few weeks have been...draining, eventful, exhilarating, and non-stop.

While, unfortunately, I didn't get much time to write (and I'm sorry for that), I have certainly been doing a lot of living. So, let's recap as best as possible...

My last week of classes was exhausting. So much work and only one night to study for finals! Presentations, and papers, and reading, oh my! Every night was a late night of stressing and wondering why there aren't more hours in the day or more juice in my tank to work even harder.

But, eventually, finals were over and, as I think back on it, I can definitely smile now for two reasons. First, I am done with classes! Ha-ha at all of my Boston University (and other various universities) friends who still have another half of the semester to toil over textbooks. And secondly, I made it through a semester of college-level classes in a foreign language! If learning about history and politics in French isn't a feat, then I might as well throw the towel in for trying to be impressive.

The very same night as finals ended, I jetted off for spring break in Prague, Czech Republic! I have received a lot of questions about why I would have chosen Prague to spend my spring break - going from somewhere cold to somewhere even colder. Well, I wanted to go somewhere a little different than the usual tropical destinations. I wanted a historical experience and a party all wrapped up into one unusual European location. The Czech Republic gave me exactly what I needed.

Each day of break was a marathon to soak up as many of the amazing sights that Prague has to offer, not to mention to scarf down as much of the hearty food (that we definitely have been missing in Paris) that we possibly could. Going to Prague is not a place you go on a diet. Whether it is the pounds of meat, potatoes, and bread dumplings, deep fried cheese, or the foot long wieners as the replacement for Taco Bell as the late night snack, or the world's best beer (arguably), Kortney, Catherine, and I totally ate our way through Prague.

Yum! Pilsner Urquell - one of the national beers of the Czech Republic and my personal favorite.

The style of the city is absolutely stunning, as well. It goes from gothic to baroque to modern in the blink of an eye. The coolest thing is to see the effect of post-communism on the city - the Museum of Communism is right above a huge McDonald's, for example! One of my favorite things to see was the famous Charles River over the Vltava River at sunset - breath-taking. There is a small sculpture of John of Nepomuk and superstition has it that if you rub his belly, you will one day return to Prague. Let's just say I rubbed his belly for a good two minutes straight.

John of Nepomuk - he looks polished compared to the rest of the structure because he gets rubbed so much by superstitious people (like me!).

Tons of people rush to the Charles Bridge at sunset to see the gorgeous sites that it has to offer.

The gorgeous view at sunset from the Charles Bridge.

The night life in Prague was really awesome...especially, if you want to doing something illegal...but, not what you're thinking! Prague is one of the hubs for pub crawls (illegal in many other places in the world), which is when, for a flat rate, a host bar offers an open bar for an hour to two hours and then takes the group to different local bars and clubs with no cover! My friends and I did a couple and we LOVED them. Not only was it a good, debaucherous time, but it was a great way to learn about night life spots that we would have never found our first few nights in Prague. We were able to meet so many people from around the world and make friends in a more relaxed and uninhibited setting. On one of the pub crawls we did, we finished at a huge five story club, with different types of music on each floor. It is the biggest one in Central Europe, but possibly even Europe as a whole!

After a wonderfully relaxing eight days in Prague, I returned to Paris. But, there was nothing bittersweet about spring break ending because I had the special privilege of getting to see some of my best friends - Liz, Leah, Julie, Lexi flew all the way over from the United States to visit me for their spring break, while Kat and Saba hauled their cute booties from London, where they're studying, to Paris to make the reunion complete. Words cannot describe the feeling of relief you get when you see the people you have been missing for weeks and weeks and months. They were a great cure for my nagging homesickness and stress. They have been in Belgium and Amsterdam for the past couple of days, but they are coming back to Paris tonight for the weekend. I'm so lucky to have friends who would fly halfway across the world to be with me.

The final huge development in my Parisian life has been my internship. This is my first week working at a well-known Parisian public relations firm, which focuses on tourism. One of my favorite things about the company is that it is run by a strong woman. I love meeting successful women because they inspire me to want to go further and achieve more. Getting adjusted to a French company has been a little bit of a trial-and-error endeavor, but I think I am starting to get the hang of it. It is very interesting to pick up on the small differences - when you walk in the office in the morning and when you leave for the day, you must say goodbye and hello to everyone in the office; being to early is not good, being a few minutes late is expected. I am really enjoying noticing the nuances and getting the chance to work on my French, especially since I am doing a lot of translating of articles from French to English. I am really hoping that this improves my French exponentially, so fingers crossed!

So, as you can see, these past two or three weeks have been...out of this world. I've had my ups and my downs, but Paris is shining a whole new light on me lately. It is as if I see it with different eyes. Maybe it is the eyes of a working stagiare ("intern" in French), rather than a student. Maybe its the eyes of someone realizing that their journey here is halfway over (!!!!). Maybe its the eyes of someone who has been matured by their experience already.

Whatever it is, Paris is continuing to glitter for me like the Eiffel Tower does every night, without fail. I can honestly still say, Paris, je t'aime.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The City of Lights Will Always Shine

Even after the novelty of being in Paris has worn off, the City of Lights has not lost its gleam.

It has been a month and a half of Parisien living and I can honestly say I am not tired of it. Granted, it has been a little harder lately. It has really struck me that I am thousands of miles away from my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. While it seemed like these six weeks flew by, when I stop running and take a moment to think about it, its really is a formidable amount of time. A lot can happen in a month and a half if you think about it – the world can completely change in less time than that!

It’s really got me thinking about how much I am changing as a result of living abroad, essentially on my own. What if, when I come back to the US, the people who used to love me will no longer recognize this newly-Europeanized person I (hopefully) will have become? For better or for worse, I am changing every day.

It is safe to say that the slightly empty and gnawing feeling, known as homesickness, has begun to manifest itself in my gut. Staying in touch is harder than expected with different schedules, time zones, and sleep cycles. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself that just because you don’t talk, it doesn’t mean that they don’t think about you or wonder how your day is going. Sometimes it really is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or, at least, that is what I am hoping for.

I am already past the halfway point in the class portion of my program. While the workload can sometimes feel overwhelming, I love that I am getting to learn about the effect of colonialism and post-colonialism on Paris and about the politics of the Fifth Republic of France. These are classes that I would have never gotten to take if I stayed on the BU campus for my entire college career.

If there is anything I am gaining while abroad it is perspective. Perspective on a country different on my own, on how to maintain contact, on how to stay connected to home while still making the most of my time here.

One of the things that really help with missing home is seeing a familiar face. Luckily, a visit from my sorority sister, Casey, who is doing a study abroad program in London (and will be covering the Olympics there this summer - so proud!), was just the medicine I needed. It was nice to know that, even with our different lives abroad, when we were reunited, we just continued our friendship where we left off. This definitely helped me with any fears I had of integrating back into my Boston life post-semester abroad. Not to mention, familiarity is just a comfortable feeling.
Casey and I at Trocadero which, in my opinion, is the best view of the Eiffel Tower!

Despite slight hiccups after coming down off the high of my first month or so in Paris, I always come back to the same conclusion – Paris is amazing and I am living the dream, right now.

While here, I have discovered the new alternative to Taco Bell or T. Anthony’s for drunk food – nutella or jambon-fromage crepes! Specifically made by our lovely Algerian friend, Karim, near Bastille who has golden hands when it comes to making this French delicacy (#teamkarim, unlike “fetch,” this phrase will happen). I have learned that mojitos with your girls is the best solution to anything and, if all else fails, Pierre Herme macarons will surely do the trick (I recommend the praline or rose bud flavors, absolutely to die for).

I have unfortunately learned that, when it comes to a foreign language, you need to be pretty positive about what you are saying; otherwise you might get unwanted results. For example, when trying to tell someone I felt hot and used the direct translation, “Je suis chaud,” I realized I had actually told them “I am horny.” Unfortunately for me, these French men found my friends and I absolutely charming after that and wouldn’t leave us alone for a bit. I guess you can say that this is a new way of making friends?

I am learning lessons each day. I am creating memories each second. I have come to the realization that being homesick is sort-of like emotional multi-tasking. When you are away from those you love back at home, you are able to appreciate your new experiences, while still thinking about and loving those you left behind, sensing their absence.

Life abroad is all about finding balance between your home life and your foreign life (which often time feels fake because it’s so unbelievable). Right now, I think I have my equilibrium steady.


Monday, January 30, 2012


Simply put, Paris is a city of inspiration. Everything I see has its own appeal, from the looming Tour d’Eiffel peeking out from all corners of the city, to the put-together and stern appearances of the native Parisiens, to the perfect golden crust of galletes and baguettes in the windows of the countless boulangerie-patisseries, even the way that the language bounces off my ear drums like a song (that I sometimes have to focus too hard to understand).

Paris is everything you read about in stories. It is everything you imagine when you close your eyes and listen to the croon of Edith Piaf (just as I am now, admittedly!). And what is more amazing is that I am painting myself into the picturesque image of Paris each and every day!

This past Sunday, Kortney and I were the subjects of Janey’s photoshoot at various locations in Paris – the RER stations, the colorful tile mosaic of the St. Michel Notre Dame stop, the love-lock bridge. We put on our best “model behavior” faces and stepped in front of the lens. Here are some of the results:

My favorite location was the lock bridge. This is one of those things that really is a testament to how romantic a city Paris really is. The idea is as follows: you go to this bridge, which is suspended over the scenic Seine, with a lock that adorns the name of you and your lover, and you attach it to the bridge and throw the key into the depths of the Seine. There are so many locks that it is rumored that the bridge has started to sag from the weight! I, of course, had to do this for my boyfriend, Bryan, and I. Mainly because I am a hopeless romantic and with the idea that someday we could return and find it. It was something I could do while he is far away from me in the United States, working hard in Norfolk, and I am in France missing and loving him. This was my way of bringing a little piece of him to Paris so that he can feel like he is here with me.

It was really fun to be the subject of Janey’s artwork (you can find her photography blog here: In a city where people-watching is acceptable and encouraged, it was cool to know that, for one day, I could have been the subject of what people in Paris wanted to watch. Maybe they will think about the silly American girls posing for a camera and laughing self-consciously later in the day. Maybe it will inspire them, just as this city has inspired me to learn the language, to take good photos, to fit into the culture.

So many greats – Hemingway, Dali, Van Gogh – and their works were driven by everyday life in Paris, la vie quotidienne. They would simply sit in cafes, watching life go by and documenting all the beauty that their keen eyes could see. So as I explore, I try to look at it through an artist’s eye. What small, uncovered thing would they have found beautiful? Can I discover something new? What about Paris will inspire me?

I just want to let Paris stir me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trials and Tribulations

NB: I will be including photos I have taken throughout my time here from now on. I am not the best photographer, but I have decided to work on improving my photography skills (by enlisting the help of my friend and photographer extraordinaire, Janey). This is of the Roue de Paris at the end of the garden of Tuileries next to the Musee de Louvre.

Someone should stick me in the chokey like Miss Trunchbull did to Matilda to teach me a lesson about slacking on my posts. I guess I can't really blame myself - I hope you don't either - because every day is a constant spiral of activity and new experiences. It is hard to catch my breath sometimes, let alone sit down and gather my thoughts enough to reflect on recent events in my Parisienne life.

Well, the coolest thing that has happened to me in the past week is that I have solidified my plans for spring break! My "study abroad BFF," Kortney (, and I are going to be schlepping ourselves to Prague and uncovering everything that the Czech Republic has to offer. Beer, hearty & meaty meals, and medieval castles? I am so there. Not to mention, there is an old Cold War-era underground nuclear bunker that has been turned into a quirky night club. I am going to be creating so many memories, it's hard to believe that my brain has enough space to store them all.

It has taken almost three weeks, but I think it is safe to say that I have comfortably settled into my life here. I have my group of friends (or 'salopes') that I surround myself with, I have the art of feeding myself down, and I am definitely beginning to get a grasp of Parisian night life. It is definitely different, coming from a college town like Boston, where everything is catered towards students, but still closes before the party even had time to develop. In Paris, the fête doesn't even start until after midnight, yet the Metro still closes around 1:30am! This is France's way of saying: "You either go hard, or go home because, here, we party until the sunrises and the Metro starts running again. D'accord?"

Hey, at least it's safer. Walking around the streets of Paris at 3 a.m. is a sketchy proposition. As Ted Mosby's mom says, "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m." I can attest to that - one of my many interesting late-night French encounters included a strange man frantically chasing my friend, Janey, and I into the Metro station, propositioning us for a ménage-à-trois with him for 50 Euro. Come on, man! No one is that cheap! (Kidding, kidding)

Every day here is like another step into adulthood - I am learning things, whether it be the easy or the hard way. A lot of times, it's the hard way. Like thinking we were buying bottles of alcohol for under 2 Euro, when really we just read the price tags wrong and they cost 10. Or being nice to a crepe-maker man just because he makes the absolute best crepes, so much so that he gives your group of friends his number, and then complains to you that you didn't text him when you return to his creperie because you cannot live another day without his crepes with Nutella (#awkward). Or even getting fined by the RATP police because you didn't read the fine print on your Navigo monthly public transportation pass about attaching a photo to your card and, with my luck, being singled out during one of their random checks. Such is life as a foreigner. There has definitely been a fair share of these...unfortunate times, but I value each of them as much as the good because I learned.

To be honest, I now understand how foreigners feel when they are in the US and I sometimes (heartlessly) laugh at them and their mistakes, the solutions to which seem self-explanatory to me. But, being in a country where you aren't fluid in the language, the culture is different, and being ripped away from the comfort of having Mommy & Daddy help with everything (although, they still try to do their best from across the large pond), has catalyzed my maturation.

I'm still far from being a true Parisienne woman, but I am definitely a few steps closer to being a self-reliant adult.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

La Vie Parisienne

The first week in Paris has flown by in a whirlwind of baguettes, fromage, and sight-seeing. It has practically slapped me across the face how little time I actually have in this beautiful place and how fast it is going to slip through my fingers.

This week has been, first and foremost, a discovery through my taste buds. I am proud to say that I have found the most amazing boulangerie with the freshest baguettes just down the street from me. I have reacquainted myself with my love for Nutella...on absolutely anything. My diet consists mainly of bread products and cheese. Oh, and crepes, let's not forget crepes. My liquid diet has been a learning process, as well, as I have grown a taste for wine - the most famous French produce- and am in the process of learning how to distinguish between the numerous types. In France, a good bottle of wine can be cheaper than a soda, and definitely much more exciting to drink. Whether sipping on a glass while doing tedious grammar lessons, or pairing some Bourgeuil with a fresh baguette and Camembert, wine is exactly what I need to warm my Parisienne-in-training belly.

If there is one thing I have learned so far in terms of la nourriture it is that you must always have a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine on hand. After that, life will be good.

Classes have begun for me as well, which has honestly been a struggle. It is bad enough motivating myself in Boston. But now, with a whole world of things to explore, I feel like a prisoner in my Marie Antoniette-esque study lounge, doing homework rather than uncovering every nook and cranny of Parisien life.

A positive, though, is that in this week or so, I have definitely seen my French improve. After being acquainted to lectures entirely in French, signing a contract that prohibits me from speaking English at any point on the BU Paris premises, and just striking up conversation with the locals, I am inching toward my ultimate goal of fluidity in French. (Although, I'm sure the Franglish I speak with my friends here is totally not helping. i.e., I need to prendre un douche).

As each day passes, I find my worries slipping away. I have already been offered a possible internship, I am starting to master the metro, I am working my way up to solidifying the Parisian girl "bitch face" to deter creepy men, and I am making a life for myself here. I have found that I am a pretty adaptable person which, without this journey, I would have most likely never been able to see. Of course, there are people and things I miss back in the States, but at this moment, I think la vie Parisienne is suiting me just fine.

<If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. -Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paris, j'arrive.

Well, after a long day of travel and fighting valiantly against jet lag, I've made it! I am in Paris, at The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, in my own private room overlooking a beautiful French park and Boulevard Jourdan. I can honestly say I am living the sweet life right now.

Of course, today has been somewhat of a struggle. Between an eight hour flight with the world's heaviest luggage, the longest wait at the baggage claim, to the slowest taxi driver on this side of the planet, having to remember how to form sentences in French, and showering in a douche where you have to constantly be pressing the button in order to keep the water running, I am definitely beat. So, I find myself in bed at 8 p.m. (or 20h00, if we are trying to be French), with plenty of time to reflect on the day that just passed.

The main thing I observed: I am in desperate need of brushing up on my French. Conversations can get uncomfortable when you are always looking up, trying to rack the Rolodex in your brain of French vocabulary buried under an inch of dust. I need to get on this pronto if I want the fatigue of formulating sentences to disappear. But, I am loving being immersed in this language, having it reverberate in my ears. It is so beautiful and musical! I cannot wait to just be able to rattle it off my tongue without a second thought.

Making friends was a lot easier than I initially thought it would be. While it was never a primary concern, it definitely was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I might spend my first few days alone in a foreign country with no support system. Luckily, I have connected with a few girls on the trip staying at the dorm with me, adding a certain umbrella of comfort over me as I explore my new home. This is definitely one of the things that has made this drastic transition on my first day enjoyable - being able to laugh with friends who have the same concerns as I do. It makes me feel a lot less clueless.

As I sit here in my bed, exhausted, I still feel like I am itching to go out and explore Paris. There is so much to discover, more than I can cover in four months, and I can't wait to do it. Every second, the mental scroll of things I want to do is expanding and I feel like I am never going to cover everything I want to do. It is making me somewhat anxious because I have so many expectations for what I want to get out of this trip and I am afraid I am going to disappoint myself in the end. I'm just hoping that this very early feeling will propel me forward to be the best adventurer I could be.

Tomorrow is going to be my first day on Paris' public transportation - although, the Tramway is eerily similar to Boston's T - and my first day at BU's Paris Center. Every new thing I learn, even the most basic thing like how to buy the monthly Navigo pass, is an exciting milestone. I can't wait to add more facets of Parisien life under my experience belt tomorrow.

But, for now, I am going to read on my iPad until I drift off to sleep, dreaming about the baguettes I will see, the art I will ponder, and the culture I will soak in each and every day I'm in Paris. I cannot believe I'm here!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quatre jours

I've been dreaming about this since I was in kindergarten. It seemed like a given, or a milestone that I would eventually reach because it just had to be in my destiny. Studying abroad in Paris is something that I set in my path but, until now, I had been taking it for granted.

I had visited Paris once before several years ago, in a whirlwind tour through six European countries in 20 days. France did not receive the special attention it deserved, so I plan to do it justice.

You hear all of these amazing things - it's the center of fashion, the food is fresh and rich in taste, the wine is unbelievable, the language is like eighth- and sixteenth notes dancing off a staff, the artwork is diverse and plentiful. My biggest fear as I am about to embark on this journey to Paris is that I won't live up to it's expectations for me.

It has taken me until today, four days before my departure, to realize that I am leaving. And not for Boston, but for another country. Another continent. I have yet to earnestly start packing, I have yet to say my goodbyes, and I have yet to really grasp the reality of this dream come true.

I can't really place my finger on what's holding me back. Am I afraid of being so far out of my comfort zone? Am I afraid of missing those I leave behind - my supportive family, my loving boyfriend, my loyal friends? Am I afraid that when I get back to Boston, everything is going to have changed - and I will have changed, too - so much so that I can't integrate back into my old life? All of the above. But, I need to put this all behind me because this is truly the opportunity of a lifetime. It fits every cliché and I don't hate it.

When I set foot off that plane, I cease to be simply Gabie, the BU student with dreams of Paris. I am going to be Gabrielle, the Parisienne-in-training with the City of Light in my palm and a desire to discover in my belly. I call this blog "Demain il fera jour," or "Tomorrow is another day." This will be my motto as I explore Paris - tomorrow is another day to learn about the city, the culture, the people and, most importantly, myself.
"Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I'd never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I'd forgotten or something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness, because I felt alive. Yes, alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fall in love with me." - Paris, Je t'aime