A small fish in a big pond, and very glad to be one
By: Margaux Trexler, Wasserman Global Peer, NYU Paris
After living in Baltimore, Maryland, for my whole life, the idea of moving to Paris for a year was undeniably daunting. Not only did I not speak French, but Paris is about four times larger than my hometown, with a population surpassing two million. I feared getting swept up in a city of unknown faces speaking a foreign tongue, as unfamiliar to those around me as they were to me.
My premonition rang true as I started my first semester at NYU Paris. I found myself being jostled around in the metro, knowing practically no one as I did my grocery shopping or went to the gym, aside from the group of friends I made during orientation week. This was a huge culture shock for me, since back home, I usually ran into at least five people I knew every time I left my house. I struggled to communicate basic sentences to native French speakers, such as “do you have almond milk?” and never failed to say “sorry!” instead of “pardon” when I bumped into someone. Time and time again, I was unable to execute basic tasks that would be second nature back home and grew more frustrated with myself as the days went by.
But as the weeks went on, I realized my outlook on my new life in Paris was terribly flawed. It wasn’t me, it was my mind that was keeping me from thriving and taking in all I could amongst these new challenges.
After living in Paris for four months, I’ve realized that living in a new city is bound to present obstacles, and it is unrealistic to assume that one can manage to defeat every problem presented. I still find myself unable to say everything I want to in French and do once and a while fall back into my very American “sorry!” But even though tribulations may arise, by finding a community where you feel you belong, and people that support you, I believe you can make yourself a home in the busiest of cities.
Through my work with the Wasserman Global Peers, I found that the best way to make a new place more familiar is by helping and working with others. Through my preparation for my Cover Letter and Resume Workshop, I talked to students I had never spoken to before while I gave them advice on their career planning and their future. As I want to be a journalist in the future, communicating with others would be a huge part of my job. My work as a Global Peer strengthened my confidence in doing so tremendously.
I also started volunteering with some other NYU students at an organization called Serve the City, where we distribute food to the local homeless around Paris. Through my time with Serve the City, I made connections with people I would never have met otherwise, heard countless life stories, and spent my time doing something meaningful in my new home. I may be a small fish in a big pond, but small fish can still do a lot of good. And those people who I thought were strangers? They aren’t so different from me, after all.