A Rattler’s semester in Paris

Twenty-four days is all the time I have left in the city that has brought me endless joy and excitement.

I have loved Paris since I visited last year for a family vacation and spent a year preparing to come back to study. I have enjoyed every minute of my experience, and the thought of leaving saddens me.

Aside from the nightlife and public transportation, I will miss the little things the most.

My daily routine is one of them. Every morning on my way to the metro, I stopped at the boulangerie ptisserie (bakery) to pick up two croissants. Every Monday, a friend and I go to Caf du March, a restaurant near The American University of Paris, and order confit de canard (fried duck) with sauted potatoes. Every evening, I stop at the grocery store and pick up a baguette to munch on as I walk home.

The history in this city is phenomenal. Every street has at least one plaque identifying a major person who was born or died there or a plaque that commemorates a major event that took place.

One plaque marks the final home where painter Vincent van Gogh lived in the Auvers-sur-Oise neighborhood in northwestern Paris from 1886 to 1888.

While here, I learned the Notre Dame Cathedral is celebrating its 850th birthday next year. Notre Dame is more than 400 years older than the U.S. I was stunned when I walked through the church and realized how old the building was.

I was fortunate to enroll in a class called Paris through its architecture, which gave me a look at the citys buildings.

Every Monday, my class takes trips to important locations throughout the city.

Our professor has taken us to all of the major sites in Paris, including places I have never heard of. We have visited Les Invalides, glise de St.-Paul and the Bourse.

The architecture is astounding.

Since I have been in France, I have taken advantage of its close proximity to other countries and cultures. I have taken trips to two other countries.

I have seen Berlin and Prague, two cities I have long wanted to visit. Taking these trips has opened my eyes to the diversity in the world. I am also struck by the lingering impact of World War II and the Holocaust.

In Berlin, I visited a museum called Topography of Terror, which houses a collection of Nazi German propaganda from 1933 to 1945. I was captivated by the posters of air raids and the pictures of women cooking dinners on the streets of Berlin after the city had been destroyed.

Alongside the museums outdoor exhibit are the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The Brandenburger Tor and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe are a short metro stop away.

Prague is full of magnificent architecture with buildings painted in some of the most splendid colors I have ever seen.

Climbing to the top of Henrys Tower, I was awestruck by the city sprawled out before me.

My most sobering experience was visiting the Pinkasova Synagoga. The walls in the synagogue are filled with names of the 80,000 Czech Jews who were deported to Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation of then-Czechoslovakia during World War II.

Next to each name is the date of birth and, when known, the date of death. I was almost in tears when I saw the names of four people who died at ages 5, 8, 12 and 19, respectively. The Old Jewish Cemetery with graves dating from the mid-15th century to the mid-18th century is connected to the cemetery.

Even if I had not left France, I would have still been enriched. The international feeling of Paris was the most enjoyable part of studying abroad. On the metro, I heard numerous languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Dutch, Mandarin and Japanese.

I love this city and continent and intend on moving here in the near future to work and live for as long as I can. My French has improved tremendously, and the French people and culture have grown on me, which is a driving force in my return.

This has been a life-changing experience. I have learned a lot about myself here. I have become more direct and stand up for myself more than I did in the U.S.

I learned that I am a stronger person than I thought I was. The people I have met here have made me a different person than I was before my arrival.

I do miss the U.S. and numerous aspects of life that cannot be duplicated in Paris. I am excited to come home in a few weeks, but I am also sad to leave.

Paris, je taime et tu vas me manquer. Paris, I love you and I will miss you.

Rodriguez-Jimenez is the former editor-in-chief of The Famuan. For more information about studying abroad, contact the Office of International Education and Development at 850-599-3295.