Blog Goes Abroad: Expectations vs. reality

Mary Kate and Ashley circa 1999, my Parisian spirit animals.

Mary Kate and Ashley circa 1999, my Parisian spirit animals.

I remember the first time I saw Paris. I was 7 years old and, like any girl born in the early ’90s, a huge Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen fan (before New York Minute came out and ruined their straight-to-VHS career definitively.) I had just gotten my hands on their latest VHS, Passport to Paris7-year-old me longed to have a baguette fight on the Champ-de-Mars on the back of Ethan Peck‘s scooter. Needless to say, I’ve grown a bit since 1999, but I still had some dreamy ideas about what my semester in Europe would be like (baguettes and Ethan Peck on a scooter included). However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that most some of my fantasies would never come to be. But it’s okay, baguettes are great consolation food.

Expectation: Immerse myself in the culture, act like a local.
Reality: Conform to buying 2€ wine and calling it a day.

I had a very specific image of what my semester abroad was going to be like: sit in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant (because sidewalk cafés are sooo overrated!), drink house wine, and converse with my neighbor in their native language. Maybe I watched Amélie one too many times before boarding the plane, but the idea of becoming unrecognizable as a foreigner in this country seemed both romantic and plausible. However, I forgot the very obvious fact that I lack basic social skills, and freeze every time someone speaks to me in a language other than English. My “immersion” has consisted of putting on my headphones on the metro to pass as any other angsty 20-year-old, and picking up a bottle of supermarket-brand wine on the way home, speaking to no one throughout the commute.

Expectation: Make local friends.
Reality: … Working on it.

I’m cross-registered at two universities, each with its own different vibe. One is made up of predominantly rich, white Parisians who are too busy chain-smoking to talk to me. The other is made up of every other kind of person who still is too busy chain-smoking to talk to me. I don’t smoke, and have no interest in starting. However, going out for a cigarette during the mid-class pause is where people go to mingle. So I’m at a moral crossroads: to smoke and make friends, or to preserve my lungs and spend the next four months all by my lonesome, Anglophone self? Le sigh.

Expectation: Start a blog about studying abroad, but not like one of those blogs that everyone has. Like, something really original that’s never been done, you know?!
Reality: Start a Tumblr, reblog pictures of dogs in bow ties and things organized neatly, not post anything related to studying abroad.

In case no one has noticed, I really like to blog. So it seemed natural to me to start a blog to document my adventures abroad in Europe and make my friends in Providence extremely jealous. However, I needed to do something different, so as to not be a subject of ridicule among my friends back at Brown. It’s a lot of pressure: picking a URL that was both funny and relevant to me being in Europe, write about baguettes and cheap wine constantly without sounding like an obnoxious American student studying abroad, keep the pictures of me next to famous monuments to a minimum to not seem like a tourist… On top of that, when I got here, I had no WiFi. When I moved into an apartment, I still had no WiFi. By the time I had WiFi, I’d been here for a week and a half and I was too tired from constantly looking for WiFi to actually sit down and write about it AND be funny. Instead, I tweeted about my baguette intake (which any interested parties can follow at #BaguetteUpdate), and started a Tumblr… which is completely unrelated to my experience abroad. Whoops.

Expectation: I won’t miss Brown at all!
Reality: Brown, baby, I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you. Please, come to me with Blue Room muffins.

By the end of last semester, I was ready to leave Brown for six months. I was frustrated by finals and my lack of flex points, and was ready to peace out and go to the land where it’s legal to drink and the wine is cheaper than water. But then… People started posting videos of snow ball fights and other Nemo-induced activities, and I yearned to be on the Main Green building a snow Dean Bergeron. I don’t even like snow. And don’t even get me started on the tease that is the Blue Room Twitter page

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