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Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, France

Blog entry 5 – When did you last put a chestnut into your pocket?

To be honest, I am not entirely sure what I expected of this city before my arrival. Surely not that it would tire me so much. Next to the beautiful streets, cafés, viewpoints, and parks there is also the noise. Everywhere there are cars, lights, people and so many impressions that hit you at the same time. Then the new language and the challenge to connect. During the third week I also got infected with Covid and spent a week in isolation.

“Overwhelmed” was the word that best describes my mood during that point of time. And even if there were many people around me, I somehow felt alone. It is very easy to get to know new people, for example at parties, in bars or at Erasmus-Events. To develop friendships out of these acquaintances takes patience and work though, because here your paths do not spontaneously cross. Welcome to the big city!

After a month, within all this trouble I hopped on a tram and went into the forest. I forgot how much I need nature and how I draw energy from it. The forest is a safe haven for me, where I can recharge and calm down. Here is a short excerpt from that day’s entry into my diary:

Paris, February 13th, 2022:

“I put the chestnut into my pocket. For me, it is a piece of forest that I carry with me every day. An anchor to which I can hold on when I am about to sink in the floods of the city. A piece of mindfulness, calmness, and deep breath. A piece of me.”

The chestnut has been in my pocket since that day. It helps me to better navigate through overwhelming situations (for example when you cannot turn around anymore in the metro, because there are so many people stuffed into it or when you spend 20 minutes trying to find the exit of the massive Gare du Nord), to take a breath and keep going. If the city is a sea in whose floods I am about to sink, I have now learned to surf on its waves.

Another turning point for me was a sentence a French friend of mine, whom I got to know here, said one evening at a bar as we were talking about Paris: “There are always good and bad sides and it is good to focus on the positive.” I only thought “Yes, girl! I want to be around people like you. I can learn so much from you.” In fact, she became one of my best friends here. Thanks to her, I found connections in the city, experienced the city from new points of view, improved my French massively and created memories that last.
I am about to fall in love with this city.

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