I will never complain again. This is a false statement, of course. However, now that I’m taking on the most difficult challenge thus far in my 20 years, all my worries in the past have been put into perspective. Papers, midterms, finals? Psh! While traveling alone has many benefits, traveling alone as a female in a country where you don’t (or barely) speak the language is one of the hardest tasks. Prior to departure, MIISP talked to us about culture shock, but what I really needed was How Not to Get Scammed/Raped/Killed 101.
Upon my arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport, I was talked into getting in the car with a driver who promised me that he would give me a cheaper fare than a taxi would. I know I was stupid to believe him, but I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and I just wanted to get to my apartment as soon as possible. I didn’t have any means of communication, so I didn’t want to keep the girl who was going to meet me there waiting. I just prayed that someone would be there, and the apartment would be habitable. Along the way, I kept checking road signs and his GPS to make sure he wasn’t driving me off to the countryside to kill me. Thankfully, though I got ripped off, I arrived safely.
My studio apartment turned out surprisingly nice, with its quaint and cozy charm.
After handing over the first month’s rent, I collapsed in bed and slept until 5 am. When I rolled out of bed, I tried to Skype Phineas and my mother, but the internet connection cut in and out. Before I could say goodbye to either of them, the internet died for good. It’s amazing how much of a difference internet can make in terms of feeling connected to the world. Without it, I quickly felt very alone. While I wasn’t homesick, I felt defeated and couldn’t muster the energy to face the daunting obstacles ahead. After lying in bed with my eyes closed for a few minutes, I took a deep breath and willed myself into the shower.
That was the best shower I’ve ever taken in my life. Great water pressure, unending warmth, familiar scents. I was a renewed woman. With this energy, I unpacked all my clothes and made the apartment a little more homey. Then, I set out to find food. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how to let myself out of the apartment due to this hidden button I had to press in order to unlock the front door.
Another 20 minutes and an awkward conversation later, I came back with a baguette for breakfast. I poured myself a glass of milk that was already in the apartment, and ate most of the bread. Now, here I am, only 4 hours since I awoke, yet already tired from the day’s battles. Perhaps I will take a nap, and then head to BNP Paribas (a bank I spotted earlier) to open a checking account and also check out the grocery store. I have a feeling my diet this summer is going to consist of baguettes, milk, and bananas.
Have you ever lived a foreign country all by yourself? What were some of the hardships you faced?