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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Moving, Musing

(all photos by Alexa)

I do a lot of staring into space. I’m supposed to be reading the Bible right now, but that’s not my thing. My mind keeps skipping forward: to my mom and grandma’s visit in a few weeks, to a trip to Norway at the end of October, to winter break in Poland. C’est la vie.

I ran a six-kilometer race, my first one in France, through the Jardin du Luxembourg yesterday morning. Somehow, I managed to steal ahead of a bunch of runners and ended up in second place for my age category. (At least, I’m pretty sure. The French aren’t rushing to get the results on the website, or to do most anything, for that matter.) Regardless, it was a great time. Nervous starting-line jitters gave way to little conversations, en français, and the finish was an all-out sprint to the tune of “Allez, allez!”. I can’t wait until the Semi-Marathon in March, because I’m training with a great team. In fact, two of our strongest runners placed first and second overall. I’m not used to running with company, and I’m always surprised that other people my age run by choice. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have little picnics after our runs, sometimes, and I try to speak French but usually fail miserably. Everyone’s nice about it, though!

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Since Sciences Po is such an international school (apparently half of the student body is made up of exchange students), I get to speak English way too often. Still, it’s cool to compare and contrast cultures: today, my fellow runners and I debated over what exactly “saucisson” is, whether the wine is better in France or in Italy, and what to call a sweater (my Scottish friend insists on “jumper”). I sipped my German beer and stretched in the sun. My medal blinded me when I looked down, so I looked up in favor of my favorite activity: people-watching. On a Sunday afternoon, every inch of the grass is covered in picnickers. Some families boast spreads of tagines, warm bread, cooked pork, fresh fromage, wine, wine, wine — you get the idea. Five-year-olds kicked around a soccer (ahem, foot) ball with striking agility. The athletically-inclined take advantage of the trails, while others just sit around and chain-smoke. Clearly, this is the way to spend a weekend.

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My favorite things so far are the little ones. Like Mexi&Co., a small kitchen-slash-restaurant specializing in tex-mex cuisine at an affordable price. My burrito de pollo doused in hot sauce (finally) was the most satisfying meal I’ve had here so far. And the first burrito I’ve eaten with a fourchette and couteau! I may be in the food capital of the world, but a girl’s gotta eat. The falafel I get from the man in the marché en plein air dans mon quartier is a close second. Vegetarian Indian food wasn’t a bad choice this weekend, either. After a venture with curry and naan, we stumbled upon an Azerbaijan girl singing in her native tongue in a small square. We passed around a bottle of wine until well after the girl had stopped singing — until a policeman asked my friend for a light, then asked us to leave.

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The big things are cool, too. Last weekend, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine. Annual since 1991 in more than 50 countries in Europe, it’s essentially one weekend during which government buildings, ones that are normally closed, are open to the public. You can culture yourself in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Serbia, Ukraine, and way more. But, the event originated in France in 1984. It’s a big deal in Paris, and a big day in general. It would be completely impossible to see all of the sites. There are probably hundreds of things to choose from. My friends and I leisurely decided to visit the coveted Palais de l’Élysée around 3 p.m. last Sunday, which was silly considering most people queue up before 8 a.m. It was closed. Not surprised. We moved on to the less-loved but still just as awesome Ministère des Affaires étrangères. I’m not sure I learned anything practical, but just as I was wondering if I was strong enough to lift the gold-encrusted bathtub, the security guards told me not to touch anything. Buzzkills.

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School is school. I feel busy until I’m not busy anymore. The days feel longer and shorter.

My best friend just called me and it’s like I can smell home just hearing a familiar voice.

C’est la vie.

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Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa studies journalism, media and French at Rutgers University. She is abroad at Sciences Po for her third year of college. Check back every other Monday for a new post and connect on Twitter.

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