LD: Lessons Learned

Rebecca Cao DiplomatThis post is part of Le Diplomate series, in which I will chronicle my travel joys and tribulations as an intern for the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. OECD in Paris.

Most of my friends know this about me: I abhor clichés. Sometimes, I try so hard to avoid following the crowd, I miss out on things that I would have otherwise enjoyed. Ironically, I love literal crowds — wherever tons of people gather to be happy together, that’s where I want to be. Tonight, though, I have succumbed to the ultimate cliché of an American girl in Paris. Tonight I declare, “Paris, je t’aime!”

Of all the things living in Paris has taught me, the most important one is how to be myself. Newsflash: le diplomate no longer wants to be a diplomat. Gasp! Instead, I have finally decided to stop living other people’s ideal lives and follow my passion of becoming a writer. As of today, I am 3267 words into my current novel, and I’m determined to crank out 900 words/day for the next 96 days — 90,000 words in 100 days to produce my first full-length roman. After I wrap up the LD blog series, I’m going to start another series to track my progress (I’m counting on all of you dear readers to keep me accountable!).

Besides this major change of heart, there are countless other lessons learned, and I’ve compiled a list in no particular order:

  1. Love of yogurt. I never got into cheese, but yogurt is such a staple of my diet, I don’t know if I can live without it. Not just any yogurt either — I’m addicted to the Velouté Nature from Danone and I’m absolutely certain that American groceries don’t carry it because it contains no sugar…

    I purchase these in bulk on a weekly basis.

  2. Disdain for tourists. This one is not necessarily a good quality to have, and I’m certainly guilty of Parisian snobbiness, but my God they can be insufferable at times.
  3. Public transportation skills. Once upon a time, I hated buses. Then, I came to Paris and appreciated buses as the lesser evil compared to the metro and RER. After a month of dating, the metro and I began going steady. Ten weeks in, though, I have yet to conquer my fear of the RER.

    No longer a fish out of water!

  4. Open-mindedness. Like I wrote before, the people I’ve met here in France have had such different lives, such distinct backgrounds, and such incredible stories, I find myself unable to judge many things as “right” or “wrong” anymore.
  5. Humility. Everyone around me, from toddlers to the elderly, can do at least one thing much better than I can — speak French. Furthermore, I’ve realized that no matter what I think I’m good at, there will always be someone in this world who is better than me.
  6. Self-love. I’ve also realized that there’s nobody quite like me in this world and even if I’m not the best writer in the world, my voice is unique.
  7. Independence. While some college students revel in their lack of responsibility, I cannot wait to graduate and be free to do whatever I want and go wherever I want. With responsibility comes both independence and liberty, which I believe is well worth any added hassles and stresses.
  8. Goodbyes suck, but it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have cared at all. I’m not only referring to Luc here, but also to the many dear friends I’ve made along this journey. Jean-Michel, IA, Fabrice, Marc, Xavier and everyone else who doesn’t have a pseudonym: thank you for making this so worth it and I love you all!

    Undeniably one of the happiest times of my life.

  9. I want to make babies with a Frenchman. This sounds incredibly superficial, silly, and potentially racist, but hear me out! I’ve learned that there’s nothing I love more than cultures and languages, and I wish to spend my life in a multicultural, multilingual household. Of course, I can do this with anyone who has a different maternal language than me, but I would also like to speak his language, so I’m limited to Frenchmen and Spaniards.
  10. I want to come back. I’m ready to go back to the US and continue my studies in order to establish the foundation for the next chapter of my life, but I’m sure that I will back in Paris or France in the near future. Perhaps the next time I return, I’ll stay for good.

Voilà, that’s all I have for now, though this is just the tip of the iceberg and I could go on forever if prompted. As the end of my séjour nears, it’s terribly bittersweet. Currently, though, the sweet is outweighing the bitter, as I feel incredibly grateful for the lessons I’ll carry with me a lifetime.

How have your travels opened your mind or changed your perspective? When was the first time you lived alone and did you enjoy it?

À la prochaine,



8 thoughts on “LD: Lessons Learned

  1. Salut Rebecca! Have you ever read “Paris Was Ours”? It’s a book all about writers living in Paris. I highly recommend it!!

  2. Also, has your time in Paris influenced your study abroad plans? Do you think you will spend some time studying abroad during your time at U of M either in a French or Spanish speaking country?

    P.S. I didn’t find you on Facebook, because I deactivated mine a couple years ago. Maybe we could connect via email?

    • I actually never had study abroad plans — as a double major, I’m absolutely packed at 18 credits per semester, so I can’t afford to study abroad if I want to graduate in four years.

      No problem, I’ll shoot you an email when I get a chance!

  3. I thought of one more question! (If we ever meet in person in Ann Arbor, you’ll see that I like to ask a lot of questions!) Are you planning on sticking with Romance Languages and Literatures and International Studies as your concentrations or is your concentration changing with you change in career aspiration?

    • Yup, sticking with those two, which is a sigh of relief for me, since I can’t seem to be able to stick with anything else…In fact, I might be reconsidering the career change.

  4. Pingback: LD: End of a Chapter « Rebecca Cao

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