Featured image: Bern, Switzerland, with a view of the Alps in the background

Now that I’ve spent almost three months in Paris, I’m feeling pretty settled here. It helps that I’m taking care of a plant now. A few weeks ago, I volunteered at a rooftop garden in the city, and left with a slice of an apple tart and a tiny plant. I’ve never been super into gardening – or good at taking care of plants, for that matter – but I figured it’d make for a good story, and it was one of the nicest afternoons I’ve spent here. It was cool feeling like I was creating things as I broke up large dirt clumps and watered some flowers, and I met Parisians who spotted my American accent from a mile away but were polite about it. Something that I loved in the rooftop garden was the view of the skyline. There’s a feeling I get when I see all the buildings spread out in the distance that I don’t know if I’ll ever quite get used to.

I left France a couple of weeks ago to go look at some new skylines during our vacation week from classes. My first stop was Marrakech, Morocco, which had a really pretty skyline (very visible from the roof of our hostel). I drank my body weight in mint tea, went to a museum celebrating rugs created by Berber women and contemporary art from Moroccan women, and got a hammam massage – the most luxurious experience of my life. We also went to a cute, relaxing beach town one day and saw gorgeous views along the drive there.

Essaouira, a beach town in Morocco

After Morocco, I went to Switzerland for a day by myself, which was awesome. I learned that although traveling with friends is great, when you travel by yourself, you can go see all the buildings with interesting architectural designs that you want! Not everyone is as interested in Urban Studies as I am… So I walked around and ate chocolate while looking at the Alps. Afterwards I headed to Germany to hang out with some Vassar friends and eat schnitzel. Berlin delivered on both fronts.

Vassar friends in front of the Brandenburg Gate

My post-vacation blues were made even worse by the fact that it gets dark earlier in the afternoon now. My friends studying in Scandinavia remind me that comparatively, France has a lot of sunlight this time of year, but I still get sad walking out of class into the darkness. But on the brighter side, I’m getting excited for the holidays, especially because I’m hoping the French chocolate in advent calendars is better than American advent calendar chocolate. I’m realizing more and more that going back to the United States and adjusting back to American bread is going to be pretty difficult. I’m also dreading acknowledging my lactose intolerance after months of pretending to myself that I really can eat this much cheese every day…

A cool floor at one of Paris’s opera houses, the Palais Garnier

I went to the ballet this week at the Palais Garnier, Paris’s famous opera house. I really enjoyed it. I felt so grown up and mature, casually going to see a ballet at an ornate building on a Wednesday night after my classes. Study abroad has this weird way of making me feel both like this is my regular life now and I’ve been here forever, but also like I just got here yesterday and I’m leaving so soon. My spatial awareness of Paris has gotten a lot better, and the city feels smaller now that I recognize restaurants I’ve been to or streets I’ve walked down whenever I head out. I recently met up with a Vassar friend who was visiting her friend in Paris. When the three of us got dinner, the fellow study abroad student and I bonded over the quirks of French culture and swapped tips for places to go in the city. It was so nice to feel like part of a community of American students trying to navigate Paris and French society together.

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