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This program means so much to me, and by being able to fully embrace the city of Paris and get the cultural experiences of a host family, French classes, and just a regular daily routine in the city. I think the way I go about learning about and interacting with global perspectives will forever be affected. In terms of my future, this program solidified a goal of returning to France after I receive my degree to teach English, work in a gallery, or just in general find a way to be involved in the cultural conversations happening there.
I also want to say just how important it is as a History of Art major to be able to see the work I study in person. One can get a great experience in a lecture hall with slides of images, but to get up close and see the rough texture of a Van Gogh or see the subtle layering of a David is an entirely different way of encountering work. I couldn’t be more grateful for this program as it has totally affected me in aspects both academic and personal.
Truthfully, I think the identity that I confronted the most throughout my trip was my nationality as an American. I don’t really think I was treated that differently by people, but personally I was impacted after seeing the way of life in Paris and having conversations with people from all over the world. I definitely thought a lot about privilege, nationalism, and what it means to travel internationally. For example, having an old, broken-down car was something I took for granted until I spoke with people who were amazed that at my age I owned a car. People were also generally taken aback when I brought up my discomfort with being from the United States.
I recognize my nationality alone comes with privilege but also I found it to be dually important to use that privilege and this special opportunity of travel to be realistic about the US with others who have an idealized concept of the United States. The “American Dream” is a concept that some still believe to be alive and so discussing what it means to succeed and live in the US was interesting. Talking about this obviously just scratches the surface. Talking about the United States and my identity abroad is complex and comes with many exceptions, but overall I just think it was an aspect of who I am that I spent a lot of time thinking about. This was amplified by simply the general experience of living in another culture, too.