Before I came to Bristol, I had my life all planned out: Continue interning in PR until graduation, then get a PR job right away in San Francisco. While it's likely that I'll end up back home in California eventually, being in Bristol these last few months has changed my outlook on a lot of things. I am absolutely loving my time here, so much so that it's made me consider what my life could be like if I moved out of the country or deviated from my PR plans for a little.
The truth is, no one can predict what will happen in the next few years, but I know that my time abroad has opened my eyes to new possibilities. I'm still extremely career-motivated (just like most GW students) and know that I'll most likely start out a career in public relations, but I think that I'm a little less hard on myself now. For example, last summer I applied to countless internships and would get so upset at rejection. Now, I'm a little more go-with-the-flow. I see it more as "If it works out, it works out, and if it doesn't, that's alright too."
At GW, students are so insanely career-motivated: the pressure is always on to have a great internship and be one step ahead of the pack. At University of Bristol, students are much more easygoing yet still focused on academic success. It's nice to get a taste of the latter, if only for one semester.
The beauty of 'the future' is the fact that it is never set in stone. Everything is malleable because we are constantly evolving, growing and learning new things on a daily basis. In the short time that I've been here, Bristol has allowed me to grow, mature and enjoy the day-to-day. My ideal future three months ago looks a bit different from my ideal future now, and that's okay. If who we are is a sum of all of our experiences, then I'm certainly glad that my time in Bristol is a part of it.
Until next time -
Before studying abroad I generally assumed that most Europeans had a fairly poor opinion of Americans. Last semester when I was studying in London, I got a mix of reactions, but on the whole a great amount (a surprising amount!) of positivity, especially when I said I was from Brooklyn. In Rome the reaction hasn’t been quite the same. It isn’t that people have the poor opinion of Americans, like I initially expected—more that they are completely used to Americans inundating their city. This past week was my spring break and my friends and I traveled to Budapest, Vienna and Prague and I got to see the perception of Americans outside of Italy.
In Budapest we went to a concert in the big Basilica one night and the man selling the tickets asked if we were students and where were studying—we said Rome, and at first he thought we were Italian. When he realized we were American he told us we didn’t need to be ashamed, continued on to swear a bit about President Bush but then said that President Obama was an alright guy and we looked like we had democratic faces.
It had never really occurred to me before how the U.S. president’s international reputation could personally affect me. Whatever your politics though, it is clear that President Obama is much more internationally popular leader than President Bush was. As silly as it sounds, that has probably, in some small way, made my study abroad experience a bit easier.
In Prague we encountered a man who heard us speaking English and bemoaned the lack of Czech being spoken in the country anymore. It’s true that in all of these cities we went to (not knowing a word of Czech or Hungarian and only a few sparse phrases in German) we were perfectly able to get by only speaking English, even in the less touristed areas. The fact that English is considered a common language in Europe also means that French, German, and other European tourists will also speak in English to waiters and salespeople. It must be very sad for so many people to hear more English being spoken in their cities than their national language, but it is a fact of the globalized world we live in today.
I will say though, that despite these somewhat more mixed reactions to our American and English-speaking selves, we also had a very sweet encounter with a woman working at a coffee shop in Prague. She asked us where we were from and when I said New York she smiled and said New York was her dream. It was so sweet and it made me hope that if she ever did make it to New York, the city would welcome her and really would be the city of her dreams.
I wrote this article in Terminal 3 of Charles de Gaulle with a feeling of nostalgia and relief to be leaving Paris. It’s the first time I've felt this way leaving the City of Lights and I think I know why. For starters my high-school level French is almost non-existent, making it more difficult than ever to communicate with the already reserved Parisians. While awkward conversations build thicker skin, knowing that you can’t express your sentiments makes me quite hesitant, which isn’t my personality at all.
Another first was traveling alone with my brother. Man, does that make any situation fun and lively. Even though he is 17, I still act like the protective older sister; a feeling I’ve come to realize will never cease. For this reason, I was constantly on alert looking out for him more than I was for myself. I naturally went along with what he wanted to do since he always finds cool places to visit. At this point it’s in my instinct to do so. Thankfully his interests didn’t take us to the touristy parts of the city, which made me see Paris in a different light.
And although we walked around a majority of the city meeting up with friends along the way, I felt as if something was missing. I think the best way to explain this is by sharing artist David Douard’s way of understanding the world. His exposition in the Palais de Tokyo, Mo’Swallow, shows random pieces of everyday tools and resources (water, plaster, cages, lights, etc.) and mixes them together to produce “art” (I put this in quotes because many people would think his art looks more like garbage pieced together). The whole point of the exhibition was to prove that everyone’s understanding of the sculptures would be completely unique because we all live in our own “pseudo-environments.” While languages connect people, each individual can interpret the meaning of a word differently based on the experiences they associate with it. By communicate our interpretations of things we, in turn, define the use of it until it is accepted by all. In other words, things could have a different purpose if we defined it another way.
This could explain why I feel so different about Paris this time around. To clarify, the way I see Paris is how I see New York. They are two cities that are aesthetically beautiful because the buildings are almost exactly the same. That creates a perfect order, but the people in it make it quite chaotic. The people define it, which takes away from the beauty and calm that is constantly present if you look away from the streets. I think this is why I’m nostalgic and intrigued by both cities—there’s something more to it, but I haven’t found it yet. That is why I prefer to leave and stay nostalgic about Paris because if I were to stay, my romanticized vision and intrigue of the city would definitely disappear.