I received my NYU acceptance email while touring another college. I only read up until “congratulations,” then proceeded to close the email and go about my day. At the time I was somewhat set on going to college in Southern California, where many of my friends would be studying. A full 12 hours later, at the request of my mother, I read the email in its entirety. It said something like “Congratulations, you’re accepted to NYU on the condition that you spend your first year studying at NYU Paris in the Liberal Studies Core program,” and then I was like, bye mother I’m going to France it’s been real.
Fast forward almost one year later, I’d just come home from a year in Paris, and I had two problems: A) I desperately needed In-N-Out, and B) I couldn’t seem to put my time in Paris into words. At that point, I didn’t know how to describe what it meant to me, what I took away from it, and why other people should consider this program. After eating a profound amount of animal style fries (again shoutout In-N-Out),
I sat on my roof in suburban California, thinking about Paris.
To this day I am firmly against resorting to the stereotypes about study abroad: “It was eye-opening”… “It’s a different world”… “It changed my life” etc. Not that these are completely false—for me Paris was undoubtedly an eye-opening experience, full of growth and memories. Regardless, I find these study abroad stereotypes vague and unhelpful.
In an attempt to be as un-cliché as possible, the following is a list of things I walked away from my year in Paris with:
Language Skills and Cultural Knowledge
Unsurprisingly, my French skills drastically improved after living in Paris (I later tested for fluency, and now hold C1 DALF certification in French). I also learned so much about the inner workings of Parisian culture—I still feel like I know the métro in Paris better than the New York City subway.
A Tight-Knit Group of Friends
Regardless of where you spend your first year of college, the people who you live with/near tend to become some of your closest friends. The entirety of the NYU Paris first-year class was in a single residence hall in the 13th arrondissement, so it was low key a cult—but a good one.
Moving to a foreign country at 18 will foster an immense degree of maturity and comfortability with who you are (être bien dans sa peau). Living in Paris as a young college student means exploring questions of identity, travel, a new found sense of freedom, and a plethora of unique cultural situations.
At the very least, this experience is a great talking point for interviews. Studying away your first year of college requires high levels of adaptability, flexibility, and a multicultural perspective. Almost every interviewer has asked me about NYU Paris: in this increasingly globalized world, cross cultural competencies are in high demand, and my NYU Paris experience helps set me apart from other applicants.
I know I said I would try my best to avoid clichés, but in this case they’re mostly true. I have an endless amount of stories from my time in Paris, some profoundly happy, but some sad ones too. Without a doubt they all have contributed to the person I am today. So on that painfully cheesy note, I will leave you with the story I always tell when I give tours of NYU…
… After my first month, I felt myself wanting to escape the Anglophone bubble of the NYU community in Paris. I decided to join a French club soccer team (l’équipe, elle s’appelle Paris Alésia). As the only American, I was super nervous. At first, I had trouble understanding my teammates because they spoke very colloquial French (beaucoup de verlan). Little by little, I began to understand what was happening. By the end of the year I understood everything spoken on the field, and I was affectionately called “hamburger” by some of my teammates, a fitting nickname for l’américain. Without a doubt, this was the most authentic part of my experience in Paris. My teammates helped me grow as a soccer player, a French speaker, and an 18-year-old still trying to figure out how to live on his own.