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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Paris: The City of Lights, Love, And Life Lessons

Photo courtesy of Lola Offenback.

Intro- AJ

When we decided to go to France for spring break, all of us just assumed that we would go on a fun trip with our friends. Now that we are back on U.S. soil, we have taken home much more than we originally bargained for, both figuratively and literally (at least the bed bugs didn’t come home with us). Not only did we spend an obscene amount of money on this trip (so long $5000 you will be sorely missed), but we also took home incredible life lessons and memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Food- AJ

I’m not going to lie, the food in France is not all that great. Is it bad? No, not by a long shot, but compared to the sky-high expectations that were set, I was sorely disappointed. First, I am suing everyone who said that I NEED to have McDonald’s in another country. This was literally just American McDonald’s but with cheese fries, I don’t understand what you all have been yapping about all this time. The food isn’t even better; in some cases, it’s worse. For example, the fries are criminally unsalted to the point where they are borderline inedible.

That leads me to my next point, the French are allergic to spice. I don’t know why they hate flavor so much but their non-desert foods are so bland. Heck, even the bread is not all that. No offense to the French people but American food is just better, which is never something I thought I’d say.

Culture shock- Lola

When entering a new country, I expected to experience different cultural foods and ways of speaking, but there were a lot of norms in France that truly threw me and others off guard during our time in Paris. For starters, the French are very quiet. You could probably hear our group from four blocks away because simply put, Americans are loud. Even when our group would split off into smaller groups, I could always hear when someone was within the same vicinity. We also faced this on the trains and subways. Strange looks were thrown our way when our chit-chat got noisy and often we were the only group talking to one another. 

Another shock was when one of our group members got charged 60€ simply for putting his feet on the empty train seat in front of him. The French are very respectful of their public facilities in ways that Americans are not. For us, putting our feet up and leaning while waiting in lines are very normal behaviors, but in other countries, it is viewed as disrespectful or lazy. Neither is right or wrong, it is just a matter of being mindful of what is socially acceptable in the country you are visiting. 

More traditionally, the meals in France were surprising in certain capacities. For instance, when I ordered what I thought was a sandwich (a croque), I ended up with a sandwich topped with melted cheese. The expectation of a small breakfast was also surprising for me. Only being served a croissant and tea in the morning is very different from the traditionally large American breakfasts and buffets I am used to from American hotels. 

Leaving the country for the first time- Lola

Leaving the country for the first time was something I was very nervous about. It ended up being both better and worse than I could have ever imagined. I tried my best to be prepared for this trip by calling both my bank companies and my phone company, downloading WhatsApp to contact my family, and bringing emergency cash/emergency credit cards. 

Despite my best efforts, my phone company did not provide service in France (despite telling me previously that they did), my Discover credit card was not accepted anywhere in the country (despite Discover saying I could use it), and my debit card got locked and I was unable to receive text message codes to unlock my account. All of these factors resulted in one of the worst panic attacks of my life. 

While this may sound terrible, I am actually so glad all of this happened, especially on my first time abroad. Going with a group of students and faculty truly provided me with the community and support system that I needed to navigate this difficult experience. Someone who I had met days prior didn’t hesitate to let me borrow his phone to call my bank and seven people offered to spot me money if I wasn’t able to sort out the issues. 

Thankfully I had brought an emergency credit card and was able to get everything sorted out. Even though this situation was nerve-racking, to say the least, the support system I had was unmatched. 

I cannot recommend going on an Elevate trip more after having this experience. Everyone supported each other, no questions asked. It’s like the saying, “If I jump, you jump.” I know that every person on the trip would have jumped after me. Even almost 4,000 miles away from campus, I felt the Greyhound love more than ever. 

Jetlag- Joel

Ah, jet lag … where would I be without you? I dreaded the idea of flying with a passion, and the fact that we would be time-traveling on top of it really didn’t sit well with me. There’s a six-hour time difference between Bethlehem and Paris, so when we touched down in Europe we had jumped ahead a few hours. Despite my best efforts to conk out on the plane, it didn’t exactly work out in my favor. I have no clue what sky god we angered, but the turbulence we experienced was awful. I couldn’t tell if we were in an airplane or shake weight. The flight there simply consisted of me listening to music and trying to steady myself.

When we finally landed, I couldn’t exactly tell what was going on. I was so sleep-deprived (a common theme for me on this trip) that I wasn’t sure what was a hallucination and what wasn’t. Oh, and then I threw up (another common theme for me … I need help) in the middle of the French airport for everyone to witness. As I was trying to hold back tears of embarrassment, I wondered if everything would be okay after I got to sleep.

I don’t know what’s funnier, my ignorance of the fact that jet lag isn’t something you get over quickly or the fact that I concussed myself in Paris. Oh, you didn’t hear? It wasn’t a big deal, I only smacked my head into the ground and received a concussion for it. A delusional Joel receiving a concussion on top of the worst anxiety of his life? There couldn’t be a better combination!

My concussion wasn’t terrible until the flight home. Beforehand, I was very irritable and moody, but other than that I was fine. On that flight, I was able to zonk out for a few hours while also having the chance to watch a movie (John Wick 4 was peak). It wasn’t until the next day that everything hit me. My head was killing me, I couldn’t stop throwing up, and I couldn’t go anywhere without sunglasses on. Was it the adrenaline keeping me fine in Paris, or was it the airplane that was the final nail in the coffin? Whatever the reason, I felt the full fury of the concussion after landing.

Then I slept for 26 hours in two days. Now that I’m thinking (somewhat) clearly again, I’m able to reflect back on Paris. If I could describe it in one word, it would be regretful. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, just not as much fun as I had hoped. My unfortunate circumstances prevented me from really connecting with my peers and feeling like I belonged. If I had one piece of advice for you, it’s that traveling is not something everyone can do. You need to know yourself and be mentally prepared for it. I wasn’t, and I paid the price. I can’t say I feel closer to my fellow travelers (besides two), which is painful when I realize just how much fun everyone else had. I should’ve been more prepared, and there are a lot of factors, like jet lag, that can negatively affect your experience. This was a tough lesson to learn … but it was a necessary one. Wow, this got depressing, huh?

Monuments- Joel 

Nothing says Paris like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. We got the chance to visit all these locations, plus more. This was what I was excited for, since these monuments are some of the most famous in the entire world.

The Eiffel Tower, the glorified needle that it is, was fantastic. Reaching the top and looking out at the city below is a feeling of power and beauty. Ignoring the wind and stereotypical British people, this was a very surreal experience. The Eiffel Tower could be argued as the most famous monument in the entire world, and there we were at the top. It was, to say the least, an experience like no other.

I was also a big fan of the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. The Arc was a sight to behold, especially seeing it in the middle of the famous roundabout that surrounds it. The Louvre housed the Mona Lisa, which was smaller than I thought it would be. Ms. Lisa’s expression looked like it was mocking me so now I have beef with her.

Other places we visited included the Opera House, Sacré-Cœur and all of the stairs that go along with it, and Sainte-Chapelle. These locations all gave us a glimpse into the history and architecture that went into building this magnificent city, and the images of their majesty will be ingrained in my head for a very long time.

Okay, okay I know I was cryptic earlier, but I’ll tell you the story of my concussion and the experience I had with it. When we went to Fontainebleau, I tripped on the uneven cobblestone and hit my head on the ground. Why I tripped is irrelevant, so I don’t want to see you all asking in the comments! Anyway, I got up and seemed fine at first, but what I didn’t know was that I had a concussion (duh). I didn’t realize something was wrong until that night, when it then became clear that I might’ve had a concussion (I didn’t have the normal symptoms at first, I was just acting strange and wasn’t recalling certain things). So the next day I went to the scariest monument of them all: the doctor’s office.

The doctor in Paris was different and similar compared to the doctor here. Instead of having me waste half my day sitting in the office, I checked in and was given a return time later in the day. This meant that I wouldn’t miss out on activities by rotting away in a waiting room. Also, it only cost around $30.00 without the assistance of insurance. That’s a steal compared to the prices here in the U.S., though that’s a discussion for another day.

When I returned later, the doctor saw me and had me go through an examination to determine what my issue was. Spoiler alert: she confirmed I was concussed. My doctor was super nice, which was a nice reassurance considering that I was one tick away from a mental breakdown.

Getting a glimpse behind the scenes like this was awesome, if not a little pathetic on my part. What’s really great about the places we visited was that they let us see how a culture different from our own operates. We’re so used to American culture, but witnessing how another culture goes about living is fascinating. Part of me wants to go elsewhere to see even more cultures. Although I’m not ready for that so I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Life lessons- AJ

Now, I expected to leave this with a new perspective but I had no idea just how transformative this trip would be. I feel like I left this trip a completely different person than when I first flew into Paris. I am not the only person who feels this way too, everyone else on this trip came back different than when they came in some way.

After this trip, I now feel much more comfortable leaving the nest and making my way into adult life. Navigating a completely foreign city (on a different continent mind you), often without an authority figure around, was not something I really expected to do. Exploring the streets of Paris and immersing myself in the city and culture outside of the guided lens of a class activity was an experience that has left me feeling much more confident in my ability to function as an independent person without the training wheels of school or my parents.

Additionally, the memories we made as a group are something that I will never forget as we were there for each other through both thick and thin, and the sense of community that occurred between this group is simply amazing. I’ve said it once and I will say it again, the Moravian community is one of the closest and caring that I’ve ever seen, and the people on this trip only further proved that point.


Special thanks to both Provost Traupman-Carr and Dr. Appel for running such an amazing trip even through all the trials, drama, and tribulations. You two were fantastic guides and advisors for this trip and your compassion and willingness to help students in need is truly admirable.

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