Arriving in Paris: Exploring Museums, Monuments, and More

Two weeks ago, a group of small group students said goodbye to their parents and close friends, toted over- or under-packed bags to the local airport, and boarded planes all headed to the same destination: Paris, France.  We sat anxiously for hours, half-heartedly watching movies in a futile attempt to calm our nerves, yet all the while, wondering what the next few months would hold.  None of us even considered how much could happen in just fourteen days abroad.

The group atop the Eiffel Tower

Arriving in Paris in the morning, we were on the Seine by three o’clock.  Two hours by boat afforded us a week’s worth of sightseeing by foot.  The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Musée d’Orsay and much more flowed by during the warm September afternoon.  During the next few days, we would become more acquainted with these landmarks as we ran after our surprisingly quick program director.  Marie, an ex-Parisian, believed that we should cram as much possible into our four days in the City of Lights, and that we did.  Versailles: check.  The Louvre: check.  Luxembourg Gardens, Père Lachaise Cemetery, a detailed introduction to French table etiquette, Shakespeare & Co., a glimpse of Nicolas Sarkozy (yes, that Nicolas Sarkozy), and a pleasant night view of the capital from atop the Eiffel Tower: check.  Marie eventually was the one trying to keep up with us.

Then on the fifth day, our fatigued, yet very fulfilled, group left Paris and boarded  the TGV (train à grande vitesse, the high-speed rail) for a three-hour train ride through the countryside and into the French Alps.  Once in Grenoble, we were looking forward to some rest.  We should have known better by now.  We met our host families, moved into our new rooms, hiked across mountains, swam in alpine lakes, found nearby waterfalls, attended a student party in the 18th century Bastille, navigated the local markets, took exams to determine out placement, began classes, were late to classes, maybe missed a class, learned to use the tram system, and adjusted to Europe’s slower pace of life.


At the beginning of our third week, we are finally settling into some type of routine.  The days are getting colder, classes are becoming challenging, and we are assimilating to the habits and schedules of our host families.  Paris and the US are now just happy memories.  We are starting to realize that we are actually here.

This post was written by Jacob, an Aspire by API student who is currently taking part in a gap year program in Grenoble, France.  He will be updating the blog periodically throughout his time abroad.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

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