It has been about a week and a day since I arrived in Paris. I have a fledgling routine now, my feet can find their way to my regular metro stop without demanding my full attention. This city calls out to me in ways I don’t yet have names for, something tells me I will find them in neither English nor French. This is a language that only the body knows. Its words seep into your soles, climb up past your knees, briefly settle in your hip bones (you soon learn that this is a good place to judge your comfort), and finally fling themselves up into your chest. You are reminded that this was actually your first language. Before you could speak, you only knew what the (ir)regular thudding told you. You are still here. Living is something that I don’t take for granted these days.
For the first two weeks of my abroad experience, I have an intensive language course in which we practice our various competencies in French. After a week, I can name a few things that aren’t on the syllabus. I have learned that you can really feel it when you push yourself to think in another language for long periods of time. I have learned that I am far more independent and capable of solving problems than I thought. I have learned that the hardest thing about being away from everything you know is to admit that it scares you.
In just a few days I have made some wonderful friends, and I am grateful for my habit of finding people who challenge me as much as they comfort me wherever I go. But I have also had to confront my first friend here. This is probably the most obvious study abroad cliché, but I have realized that there are certain things about myself that I will never be able to escape. I don’t yet have names for them either. But they are there, resting in the spaces between my ribcage, the hollows of my shoulders, and the ridges of my spine. You carry yourself wherever you go.
For this coming week, I hope to spend some more time establishing a rhythm for my life here. Every city has a dance to learn, and I am trying to be an eager pupil.