To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Reflecting before Paris

As a precursor to my year studying abroad in Paris, I have tried taking the time to sit down and analyze and appreciate what being from New York and living in America means to me. As a growing adult, it becomes more and more apparent how we are all products of our environments. It was our childhoods, the experiences we had, the people that we were surrounded with and the places we come from that have shaped us. It is what gives us our perspective. Coming from New York, I have become so much more appreciative for how much this city has done for me. 

From my earliest age living in Queens, I had been exposed to ethnicities from South America to Africa to Asia, every race, extreme poverty and extreme wealth. I have seen and lived the struggle immigrants face in navigating an American system that hides pitfalls at every opportunity. I have become accustomed to seeing people and engaging with people that do not share my identities as this has always been daily life. I have been made aware of the extreme exploitative wealth found all over Manhattan and the deep generational poverty found in neighborhoods all across New York City. I was raised as a New Yorker, with the principles of freedom, opportunity and hustling. I was surrounded by constant work, constant energy and an internal drive to fight for what is right and achieve what I need to achieve. This is what has made me, me.

 As I encounter people in college from different cities, different states and different countries, I can feel the difference. I can see how living in suburbs has left people growing up in their bubbles, bored, and entering into an American lifestyle of work and overindulgence, but where they also enjoy a slower pace of life. And I can see how living in a city where crime and dysfunction is so normal made me learn to accept it, expect it and even seek that chaos in my life. 

The more work I do to distance myself from my experiences in my childhood and learn from it instead of internalize it, the more I realize other people are on that same journey. It is this difference in perspective, in self and world placement, that I want to see and understand in Paris. I want to experience new people with a background and foundation so different from mine, they could not possibly think alike, and I want to see what I can learn from it. I want to see how much more my own perspective can grow when it then includes the worldview from France. How much can I change and grow when I can see what the outside world, that always existed all around me, has been thinking all along? This is what excites me so much, the inevitable culture shock of seeing how millions of other people live, think and understand the world.

As I get closer and closer to my departure, I welcome this change in my mentality and I am excited for what more of the world I have yet to understand, experience and internalize. 

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