Imagine the smell of chocolate and coffee wafting through the cobblestone streets with people laughing and talking in some language you’ve had 10 years of experience, but never like this. The orange glow of street lamps give the space a cozy vibe and makes you fully aware of the fact that you’re in the dark in foreign place. Yet you strangely feel comfortable. This was my experience in Paris with my AP french class.
The eight of us students have been together since the fourth grade, taking French and swapping sarcastic jokes amongst ourselves for 6 years. Every year at my high school, the AP French class traveled to Paris for spring break. I saved up for this trip since the fourth grade, as soon as I knew it was possible for me to go. I helped plan the trip with my friends and my beloved French teacher, who was born and raised in Paris.
When we got there, we attempted to speak French all the time (we weren’t as successful as we hoped but we tried). Everything we did we did as a group. We made meals together in the kitchens of our hotel rooms right in Saint-Germain. We walked through the streets and people watched. We visited the classic stops on any Paris trip, like Notre Dame or the Louvre as well as hidden away parks, small churches, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. We visited a Parisian high school on our first day and attended class as well as explored the campus. I held full length conversations in French, something that concerned me due to the fact I did not have a lot of experience speaking outside of school. I liked getting to know the students and what their lives were like.
One of the most bizarre locations we visited was the Catacombs.My friends and I had to practically beg to get our teacher to take us there and we fortunately convinced her to take us. I wandered where Robbespierre is buried and millions of others. Even through the cramped walkways and damp musty air, I tread along the old paths, enamoured by the craziness of it all. Underground and surrounded by bones did creep me out a little at first but after awhile, I grew more comfortable and could enjoy reading the Latin and French stone signs adorning the walls, barely separated from the bones themselves.
Towards the end of our trip we hiked our way over to Le Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre. We walked past several art vendors and small shops. At the end of the evening, I decided to stop into a small ceramic store. A blue and orange ceramic chicken caught my eye. I had to purchase this incredible clay fowl. I named her “courgette”.It seemed fitting. I carefully wrapped her in my coat and placed her on my hotel nightstand for the rest of our time there.
Besides the cultural exposure, I gained some skills and experiences that will influence the rest of my life. My years of planning and dedication to this trip allowed me the opportunity to create budget and look ahead instead of just living moment by moment. I also got the chance to become closer with my classmates and my teachers. I spent three hours in the park with one of my best friends and it was absolutely incredible. Exploring the park with her was a highlight of my trip and a special memory I will cherish forever. I know that I will be back to France again. When is the real question. But I have many other places to check out, too.
When I packed for college a little over a year ago, I rummaged through my possessions trying to decide what was most important for me to bring to school (besides the essentials, of course). I looked at my dresser and saw Courgette and knew what to do. Whenever I had a rough day during my first year, I just touched my ceramic chicken and remembered the hard work and the wonderful experiences that lead me to Emory.