Bonne année, dear readers! I hope you are continuing to enjoy the holiday season.
It may seem odd that I am writing yet another post, particularly this late in the game. But I’m actually not late at all. As of today, my study abroad experience is officially complete. I handed in my last paper to the Sorbonne yesterday evening.
You’re probably thinking Quoi ?? C’est si tard ! And you’re right, it is fairly late. I’ll explain why in a bit, but first let me tell you about my last wintry trip that I promised I’d recount on the blog.
Copenhagen. Stockholm. Harbors. Colorful houses. World-ranked hot chocolate. Christmas markets. Glogg. Cinnamon buns. Lights. Cold. These two cities had it all! In fact, each had everything I just mentioned. Yet they were by no means similar. How can I compare the reflection of sails and pulleys on the water of Nyhavn with the glow of lamps that shimmered on the cobble-stone streets of Gamla Stan? Or Ma Poule’s duck sandwich at Torvehallerne versus the swedish meatballs at Ardbeg Embassy? It simply can’t be done. If I had to link Copenhagen and Stockholm together, however, it would be for their near-perfect English (my goodness we Americans should feel useless!) and friendly, welcoming attitude towards visitors. Emi and Jordan, my fellow travel buddies, and I learned a lovely word in Danish that described our four-day adventure perfectly: hygge. Shout out to Jordan for finding a description of the word:
“A love of or need for hygge is an important part of the Danish psyche. Hygge is usually translated as ‘coziness.’ This is too simplistic: coziness relates to physical surroundings – a jersey can be cozy, or a warm bed – whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.”
I’ve attached a couple slideshows of our wanderings through each city. Take a look, and you’ll see what made my experience in Copenhagen and Stockholm a very hygge one.
The remaining two weeks in Paris were a whirlwind of final papers, conversations on the Seine, browsing for Christmas presents at Les Mots à la Bouche, eating falafel on Rue des Rosiers, drinking my last one-euro bottle of wine from Monoprix, wandering the streets of Montmartre by night, and enjoying the company of those around me. My host family prepared a lovely holiday meal for our last dinner together: foie gras to start, followed by steak and mashed potatoes, and ending with bûche de Noël for dessert. I gave them the Charlie Brown Christmas album by Vince Guaraldi, a Grace family staple for the holiday season. The semester was wrapping up quite nicely, but the end of my time in Paris was anything but conventional.
With four days remaining until my plane would take off for Philadelphia, I learned that my grandmother had passed away. I have always had trouble comprehending the death of a loved one, but this was different. I felt stuck, unable to physically reach out to my family, unable to receive their love in person. Sitting alone with the news, waiting, that was the hardest part. But I had help. I got an extension on my final two assignments (hence my being finished now), and the support from my friends, host family, and Reid Hall administration was invaluable. In those last few days, I really experienced the meaning of hygge. Thus, I left Paris with a mix of emotions: anxious to be home with my family, crestfallen to be leaving such an incredible city, mournful for the loss of my grandmother, grateful and awestruck looking back on what an amazing adventure the past four months had been, hopeful to return to Paris in the future…
Et voilà. There you have it, dear readers. My semester abroad has finally come to a close. Despite the rocky end to it all, I still look back on those fourth months as some of the best of my life. The food, the drinks, the art, the music, the fashion, the metro rides, the side streets, the gardens, the nightly strolls, the morning landscapes, the flashy clubs, the subdued bars, the breathtaking churches, the bustling cafés…but most of all the people, in Paris and beyond. It’s that art of creating intimacy, through language, culture, and the exchange of the two, that keeps us going. I hope to hold on to this lesson, along with the other lessons I re-learned, as I return to dear old Penn next semester.
À la prochaine, chère Paris ! And merci, dear readers, for coming along for the ride 🙂