by August Kissel Web Editor
Juliette Rodriguez is a Manhattan College senior who just spent her year studying abroad in Paris.
You did just spend a year in Paris, how did you originally get immersed into that culture?
Going there was actually pretty easy. I have always loved Europe and the culture over there, it is something that is familiar to me. When going there, you’re always ready beforehand because you are so anxious and you’re so excited to do something like that, something you have always wanted to do for so long. You mentally prepare yourself, you just dive into the cold water. It was actually pretty easy to adjust in the beginning.
What were some oddities that you didn’t expect or were different from living in the United States? What’s something that belongs to American culture that you craved?
You know what, I didn’t find many things where I thought “I wish Paris, I wish France had…” Except for the way that administrations worked. They are very old school. A lot of times, if you wanted to hand in some paperwork or anything it couldn’t be a form online, it had to be documented on actual paper and if you went anywhere to hand it in sometimes they would just tell you to mail to their office. You would say “So I’m going to be mailing this to this address even though I have the paper in my hands, right here?” and they would reply “Yes, that’s just the way we process everything.” The structure of the administrations and the way that they give things, it is very behind and it’s not very technology based.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I loved the food there. I loved the people, they were just so cool. Of course the fashion there is awesome.
What’s something, you mentioned fashion and food, that you felt you identified with more when you were in France?
Food wise, I loved the fact that they used a lot of natural products and a lot of locally grown products within their food. As a person who is very sensitive to a lot of artificial ingredients that was so great because my body was reacting so well. I was living my best life in terms of what I was eating when I was out there.
With fashion I loved how everything was a mix of casual while also always being professional at the same time. People are always so well dressed and ever if they have their ratty old sneakers on, they will still wear their blazer with their freshly ironed pants. The style of how they match pieces together, you would think you would look so bad or even just different but when it is put together and actually being worn, its inspiring, it drives you to want to experiment.
They make everything look effortless because they always have those finishing touches. Its an underlying professionalism in everything.
How did it feeling missing the time here at Manhattan?
That was a little bit tough. Even though I didn’t miss many things back at home, I missed the people. My running thought was always if I could just wrap up and package everyone I love over here and bring them over there that would be the ideal because I would be in a really amazing place but I would also have amazing people. Missing the time here it was rough, because you do grow away from some people unfortunately due to distance and you do miss out on a lot of things. If you have FOMO, it’s going to be hard coming back.
While you’re there you have to realize that you’re doing something so amazing. When I first went I was only supposed to be there for one semester and it was probably my fourth day in and I was thinking I have to find a way to extend it for another semester because when else are you going to be able experience something like that? When else are you going to be able to do something as adventurous? You lose some, but you gain so much in another way. You grow so much and you have to remember you are reaping something from this.
Now that you’re back, how was the culture shock?
It’s worse than going over there. You hear once or twice that “yeah, going back is the hardest.” You don’t realize how hard it is. Especially when you’re really having such a great time. Coming back was the hardest because when you’re living such a different life that you have fallen in love with, it’s hard to realize what once was. What’s most difficult is you grow to become a type of person that you really want to be, and then when you come back your friends and family know you to be one type of person and then you’re suddenly trying incorporate those two people into one body. Aspects of those personalities have to drop, it’s either parts of the person that you grew to become or part of the person that you once were. It’s creating an understanding and working with that upon coming back home.
They understand you to be one thing and it’s not that they want you to change but you have grown so much because of the life experience. You want to bring everything that you once were over there but adapting to that is so different because your way of life is different, they way you interact with people is different, it’s a transition in everything you do.
You come back and you feel as though nothing has changed, you feel as though you are picking up where you left off, but you’re not, you missed this entire chunk of time. It’s almost as if you were travelling on different time lines.
Absolutely, it is so true. It coincides with what do you miss when you’re not at Manhattan College? You miss out on growing with people and you grow in different ways. This isn’t a bad thing but it’s a shocking thing.
If you were going to put your experience in a little box, as your selling point to study abroad what was your memory that you cannot wipe the grin off of my face when I tell this story?
I think it was the fact that when you wake up every morning to know that this is a completely new life and I have my own little family here and I am so free to be whatever person whenever. You are completely on your own, you can do anything in a new city with really no one else but the people you choose to surround yourself with. The croissants were great, the late night walks in Paris where amazing, but it’s really just the freedom and the choice to do whatever. To be anything you want to be. That is what I loved so much. It was a different kind of responsibility that I had when I was over there. There was an academic responsibility of course, but there was one where I really had to account only for myself and I had to opportunity to experiment with life in general, which is just so wonderful. As a result of that I tried so many things, I have started so many new hobbies, I have seen so many new things, and I learned so much.