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to Share my Life Events

My first trip abroad alone dates back to a study holiday in France in Europe. It was the turning point between the family vacations of the 90s and the first trips alone. I do not have pictures of that period because I was photographing only in analog. So negatives and albums remained somewhere in my parents' house. One day I will open the Pandora's box and I will have material to write a vintage post for the rest of the life on this blog.

But do not imagine my study holiday in one of those huge campuses that you see in the leaflets of language schools, were still in the nineties. The college where we were housed was a French public school with beds in dormitories for out-of-town students in the French countryside. The organization resembled more that of a summer camp, but I was in France alone, and the important thing was that.

Part of the epic nature of this study vacation was my first air travel. In practice, it was like traveling alone because I did not know anyone. In any case, during the flight, I was too excited to look out the window than to socialize. I never understood who is afraid of the plane. I immediately could not wait to see the landscape below me become small and capture the clouds!

The first myth to debunk during the study holidays is that one really studies, at least during adolescence. As adults, it is certainly easier to stay focused on studying, especially because it requires a sacrifice of time and money. But before the age of twenty, I think especially the adventure of a trip alone and the multicultural environment. What remains is the sense of freedom and independence rather than grammar.

In my two weeks, I had spoken very little French and the lessons were just a great review of grammar already studied at school. I was tired of listening to romantic songs like Dis Lui Toi Que Je T'aime by Vanessa Paradis that our English teacher, who earlier was teaching in Spain liked so much. Unfortunately, my romanticism was non-existent. Even then I did not feel at all the suffering of the love inherent in the song.

My study holiday was spent between trying to familiarize myself with the other classmates and play ping pong. It is the only sport that at the time I managed quite decently. The best part, however, were the trips to discover France. We were loaded on a bus and taken around Paris, Strasbourg and even Disneyland Paris, which at the time was the best amusement park ever built in Europe not without making the obligatory stop at the Chateau de Chambord castle in the Loire Valley.

Study Trip through Paris in Europe

In the following years, I have been several times to Paris. I have also stayed for work, but my first meeting with the city of lights was a coming of age story during this study holiday. Instead of the city sightseeing bus tour, we had taken a ride on our bus, with the guide to show us all the main monuments and bridges in Paris. We have a boat ride on the Seine while having a macaron.

Study Trip through Paris in Europe

After the tour, we had come down to continue the visit to the city watching live the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Luxembourg Gardens, and the Louvre. Here I suffered my first tourist disappointment due to the small size of the Mona Lisa.

In front of Notre Dame, I had instead bought a keychain with the words Paris written perfectly. I also buy a series of postcards to send home and to all my pen pals to show that I was really in France and precisely in Paris. In the days before low-cost flights, Paris was only a dream journey for many.

Another beautiful trip, whose footprints I retraced in Reims, was the one at the Champagne sites. The city of Reims is, in fact, famous for its establishments open to the public where it is also possible to book a tasting or a visit to the champagne caves. These are the cellars where the wine is produced and bottled according to a well-established tradition. This visit transmitted the French passion for wine and a love for fine champagne that will hardly disappear over the years.

Study Trip through Paris in Europe

In Strasbourg instead, we were greeted by the local administration with a party during which the mayor had told us about the history of the city. Unfortunately for him, we were all more interested in refreshments than to follow his speech. I'm still more interested in pastry than in a political discourse. But at least over the years, I've learned to keep a fake-interested expression on formal occasions.

Our stay in Paris ended with a day at Disneyland Paris. At the time it had a lot fewer attractions than today and it was still an incredible experience.

Our first return flight was canceled. So after a few hours of waiting at the airport, they arranged for us the first available flight. That was how I also felt the thrill of flying with another airline where everything was practically the same except for the colors of the graphics and uniforms of the hostesses. The following year I flew really alone to England, but that's another story.

Kalyan Panja Kalyan Panja Author