Foreign Land

April 19, 2012
By Anonymous

I visited Paris, France this past fall; it was my first experience outside of the country. I was so worried about leaving the comforts I knew in America. I thought that once I went over to a new, unfamiliar territory, I would be out of my element: lost. My biggest fear was not to be seen as an unknowledgeable tourist, but was not being able to communicate with the French-speaking people in Paris. I did not want to come into a country that was not my own, where I don’t speak the native language, and act like the typical overbearing American tourist.

My first experience did nothing to alleviate my fears of the language barrier. Just after we arrived in Paris, from the airport we hopped in a taxi where, of course, the driver spoke French. I speak little to no French; the only words I know how to say are bonjour, bonsoir, and merci. Obviously knowing so little French did not help me try to communicate with my driver the directions to where my hotel was. The driver could not understand what I was saying, while I could not understand what he was saying to me; it was chaos. We got horribly lost; my driver became frustrated, all the while fueling my fears of both not being able to communicate easily and of being seen as a crazy American tourist. Finally, after many minutes of worry and miscommunication, we arrived at my hotel. Thus concluded my first experience in a foreign country, and after that traumatizing scene all I wanted to do was go back to the comforts of the good old U.S.A. where the only French things were croissants and French fries from McDonald’s. Thankfully I did stay because the rest of the trip changed my life.

The best thing that I learned about Paris was learning about their different culture. Being able to stop at picturesque corner bakeries and to buy a baguette to eat as you stroll along the street was so unfamiliar to me because in America, we just do not do that sort of thing. Seeing great cathedrals tower over you, or admiring the Eiffel Tower during your stroll through the streets in the city of Love. My most precious memory from my trip to Paris will always be when I visited the Saint Chappelle cathedral. As I walked through the church, these giant stained glass windows showered down a cascading rainbow of colors all over the room. It was a surreal experience that I fully believe that I could never have had in America.

Looking back on my first trip out of the country, I am so glad that even though there were ups and downs, my fears that seem so insignificant now did not force me to miss out on learning so much about a new culture, which is an invaluable gift. My trip to France made me brave, teaching me to not fear things that are new, but to embrace them, because you never know what you could miss out on.

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