Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: On Shin Splints, Quicksand, and Staying Put

There is something to be said for drastically altering your life.

I’m talking about my shin splints, and the fact that I haven’t been able to go for my usual seven-mile run lately. At first, like any runner, I was devastated. I went through the stages of grief in a single day. I even cried a little bit in public.

Then I woke up one day, wasn’t tired, and found out that there is a world outside of running. Lo and behold, Paris is so much more beautiful when I’m not limping out of a metro car. (I actually had to sit down a few times because the jerking motions became near-excruciating. I never sit down. There are people who need those seats and I think it’s rude to steal them.)

I walk now. I walk for more than an hour every day to get to school. I walk from my hood down the hill that is Belleville (inhaling straight boulangerie-fumes), across and along the Seine (covertly posting for camera-toting tourists), all the way to the most expensive part of Paris (feeling sweaty and underdressed and happy).


My shin splints taught me to slow down. Paris doesn’t rush. Where was I trying to go, so fast like that?

The phrase “burnt out” is not limited in its application to pot-smokers.

I went to the outdoor market at Place des Fêtes yesterday morning. I hadn’t been there in weeks because of various footraces and footing practices. As I struggled through mouthing out the French words for avocado and apple, I realized that my French hadn’t improved all that much since the last time I’d been in that queue.


It’s almost December. I frowned inside. I should be fluent.


I think my problem is incredibly high standards, or something.


In other news and to completely switch the subject on you, dear reader, let’s talk about my second trip outside of Paris (the first being Giverny).


I went to Mont-Saint-Michel on Saturday. When you’re twenty, you don’t really think twice about an eight-hour round-trip bus ride as long as it’s free and so are you. Thanks to MICEFA, which is (from my understanding) a program that works with various U.S. universities to enroll their students in various Parisian universities, and thanks to the fact that Rutgers is a university partner, I didn’t have to pay. Even though I’m not in the MICEFA program. Sweet deal, eh?


I reconvened with a bunch of the MICEFA-Rutgers students and met a bunch of MICEFA-other-university students.

The day began with a four-hour bus ride that required me to wake up at a groggy 5:30 a.m. But the ride was beautiful. We drove through the countryside that seems to be the entirety of France, outside of Paris, as the sun rose. We got to the island around noon, had lunch, and walked freely for two and a half hours. Then, a patient French lady handed out audio-tour guides to each of us, which was very nice of her because I think we were more than forty. The abbey was gorgeous. So much bigger than I thought. We walked around in there for an hour. I found the prayer book and added my surname to the endless list of international surnames. We fed the impatient seagulls and sunk our feet into the medieval quicksand. There were a bunch of guys in wetsuits wading around in the deeper parts. Apparently, quicksand-wading is très chic. (There is probably a name for quicksand-wading. Someone should tell me what it is, because I’d like to try.)


The thing nobody tells you about studying abroad is that it’s exhausting. The day was great, but the four-hour bus ride back was an achy, boring sleepfest, broken up only through games. My favorite was a lateral thinking puzzle, narrated by a Russian girl. It goes like this: “A man enters a restaurant, orders duck, eats one bite, and kills himself.” It took four of us and almost half an hour to get the answer.


Some of my friends are leaving in a month and it’s really unbelievable. I’m trying not to think about how I might never see them again. I’m thinking of going to the Olympics in Rio next year as a graduation gift, or something, because I have friends in Brazil and I need to see their faces! I miss them already.


But I’m so glad that I wake up here everyday. I’m so glad it’s not over. It feels like it just started.



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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