Would you ever think a SUNY Oswego student who lives on a dirt road who’s never had a passport, who’s never been outside of the country, or who’s never even been on a plane before would find himself sitting in a street café in downtown Paris, France?
Neither would I. But that’s what happened to me.
Last spring break, I went down to Alabama to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in house construction and thought I couldn’t beat that. But when the possibility of going to Paris arose last fall, I reconsidered that thought.
A lot of people my age have been able to venture to foreign lands and I never understood how they were able to do it. I can barely find enough gas money to drive to Syracuse when I need to.
But they somehow found a way. And so did I.
SUNY Oswego offers quarter courses, a chance to study abroad without actually studying abroad. Students enrolled in these courses study a certain topic about a specific place in the world for seven weeks. Then, they go visit that location during spring break.
Ha, yeah right, like I could ever do that, I thought.
But I started seriously considering it. And I realized that if I was seriously considering doing it, I had to seriously get on it.
I talked to my parents about it. I went to financial aid and figured out a way to pay for it. Over winter break, I went and got my passport. I did all the mountains of paperwork and reserved my airline ticket. I took the class, called “Comparative Media,” which examined the properties of media compared between the U.S. and France. And then, I went to Paris.
I remember in third grade filling out one of those papers the first day of school that gave the teacher all about yourself. One of the questions was “Where would you like to travel to someday?” I wrote “I want to see Paris, France someday.” I’m not exactly sure why but I always wanted to go there.
And then, I was. I saw the Eiffel Tower, I saw the “Mona Lisa,” I saw the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame and so many other things. And of course, since I was there to examine the media there, I was able to visit the French Associated Press, a cinema museum, a communist newspaper and listened to a talk with the French correspondent for National Public Radio. I was also able to walk to the office of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that came under attack in January that captured global attention.
Then there was just being there itself. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Paris, a place I never imagined I’d ever go to, let alone at 21 years old. I was the first person in my immediate family to fly since 1983 and the first person to go to a different country at all.
I understand now why people always say to see the world. It definitely changes you and makes you think differently about the U.S. and yourself. That may be the biggest reason why I wanted to go. I was able to talk to people in a different language. I was able to see what their lives were like everyday. And I was able to witness that with a great bunch of people who also took the class, people that were wonderful to spend a whole week with.
I have absolutely no regrets. It was a great way to start the beginning of the end of my time here. When I applied to SUNY Oswego and moved my things in as a freshman, I never would’ve thought I would fly across the ocean my senior year. It’s just another reminder that SUNY Oswego can surprise you.
I’m grateful and lucky that I’ve been able to see a little more of the world before I’m released to it very soon.