June 04, 2020
My name is Katy, and I’m an Intensive Psychology Major. I studied abroad in a multi-city experience called “London and Paris, Global Cities Urban Realities.” In classes, I learned about each countries’ food, culture, history, and more, over the course of ten short weeks with five weeks in each city. I chose a multi-city program for three reasons. The first is that I’ve always wanted to live in London, so I pursued a program that allowed me to be there for an extended period of time. The second reason centers around a missed opportunity in high school. I was supposed to visit Paris on a high school band trip, but due to a devastating terrorist attack a few months prior to leaving, I had to pull out. The third reason is that I am a three-year student, so having the opportunity to travel to two different (but amazing) cities during spring quarter was something that really interested me.
Studying abroad as an Intensive Psychology student was an enlightening experience as I got to observe cultural behaviors in globalized metropolitan cities. One of my favorite ways to explore these behaviors, especially in Paris, was to people-watch. In our classes, we joked that people-watching is one of Parisians’ favorite things to do- and it turned into one of my favorite things to do too! I got to observe how tourists acted towards one another and the city; watch locals enjoying the warm afternoon sun; and, of course, witness many couples deeply in love in the city of love. Although my classes abroad did not focus on Psychology-related content, learning about the culture in each city allowed me to analyze and compare human thought, behavior, development, emotion, motivation, and more. It also allowed me to learn more about myself and what sparks joy in me. For example, in Paris, I delighted in walking along the Seine (which was a mere 500 feet from my apartment) and getting a baguette every day at my local boulangerie. In London, I managed to see 17 different West End shows for much cheaper than any ticket on Broadway. Beyond Paris and London, I was able to travel to six different cities across Europe on short trips in order to explore and engage with the many different cultures that encompass Europe. Although there wasn’t nearly as much time to people-watch during these excursions, my roommate and I often went off the main pathways to discover smaller, quieter areas where the city felt more at its best. My favorite trip outside of my program was to Athens, Greece and Rome, Italy because of the amazing ruins and stunning history.
One of the most challenging and shocking experiences I had while abroad was the night of the Notre Dame fire. A couple of weeks into my time in Paris, I was relaxing with friends in my apartment when we learned of the fire online. At the time, we wanted to see something that would be important to history, so we left the apartment and walked the mile down to Notre Dame. However, when we got there, it was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had in my life. The people of Paris were singing their sorrows while holding each other and everyone felt somber at the sight of the burning building. First responders blocked off the streets surrounding the great cathedral, but we could feel the pain of the building burning from far away. It’s cheesy, but this was a life-changing experience for me as I could feel Paris grieving for weeks afterward. I’m very glad I experienced that night because, for the first time in a long time, I felt a true community coming together. It built a deeper connection with me to Paris, even if it wasn’t the happiest memory I have.
Another challenging situation I faced in Paris was the language barrier. Although I would argue that Paris is a very English-friendly city, there were times that I needed to use French in order to communicate properly. For example, down the street from my apartment in Saint Germaine was our local boulangerie. I went every day for a fresh baguette and tried my best to only speak in French. During one of the first weeks, I went with my roommate, and we were chatting in English before we gave our order. Although my French wasn’t perfect (as I was just learning the basics of how to order bread at a bakery) the Parisian instantly lit up and responded “Vous parlez Francais!” This is one of my fondest memories of using French abroad as I could see the appreciation they had when I tried to speak to them in their own language rather than using English like the rest of the tourists. It encouraged me to try for the rest of my program, even if I had to stumble and use some English words to support along the way.
One of the best parts of studying abroad was the opportunity to learn and respect other cultures. I had only traveled outside of the states once before when I was young, so I was out of my comfort zone at first. However, the longer I was in Europe, the more excited I was to explore, to branch out, and to move past that comfort zone. I got to explore a part of myself that I didn’t know existed as I reached out to experience both the comfortable and the uncomfortable. As I enjoyed myself in each of the cities, I got to experience and observe bits of the world I never knew existed, even if I didn’t understand them at first. It helped to complete my UC Santa Cruz journey, and reflecting on it now, it was by far one of my favorite quarters as a student.