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Alumni Stories

Reflections on Paris

by Emily Andreasson

Paris smelled like adventure and like home. The hot July air reverberated between the ancient buildings tossed by the energy that coursed through the streets. An energy that hit me as I hauled my tiny suitcase up the endless steps of the metro and stumbled out onto the sunlit street in front of the Foyer des Étudiants Internationals. A language, a vibrancy, and a way of being that I didn’t fully understand and yet felt familiar swirled around me. Even as my jet-lagged and bewildered brain panicked and struggled to make sense of my surroundings, I had a profound sense that my choice to move to Paris for a month to study with KIIS was exactly the right thing to do.

I hadn’t planned to study abroad as a freshman in college. I didn’t know any of the other students or professors on the program. At the time I wasn’t even minoring in French; my fascination with the language and culture was more like a recreational obsession. I had applied to the KIIS Paris II program on a whim, submitted my application literally minutes before the deadline, and had not expected to find myself on a plane, three months later, flying to a foreign city. What was I doing?

Instead of searching for things that felt safe and felt like home, I embraced the unfamiliar and determined to take even more risks and make the most of this chaotic decision and incredible experience. Every day in Paris was an adventure. I remember waking up early to sit in the Jardin des Tuileries to do my homework among the flowers and the fountains and the trees while the city was still quiet. I remember walking for hours through the city, just listening to the babble of French around me, trying to catch words, phrases, maybe even conversations. I remember losing whole afternoons in the cool, quiet galleries of art museums, or getting lost on the street sketching the dramatic architecture all around me. I remember discussing French theatre in cafés with people I could never have imagined meeting otherwise. Unlike many other students on the program, I wasn’t ready to leave Paris at the end of July. The city, the language, and the culture had stolen a piece of my heart and I felt a greater sense of belonging in Paris than I had anywhere else in the world. I also couldn’t imagine going back to drinking American coffee after tasting coffee from Parisian cafés.

The following fall semester I declared a minor in French. A year and a half later my minor became a double major in French, added to my existing degree in Interior Design. My design projects took on a more global perspective. My career planning shifted to explore international opportunities. I started to realize my experience had changed me in other ways too. In both my personal and academic and professional life I was a more confident person, more adventurous, and more empathetic. I increasingly thought about internationalism, foreign cultures, and the influence of language on thought and on experience.

This spring I completed my undergraduate degree in Interior Design and French and Francophone Studies. My design capstone project, Ellipsis, was inspired by my experience in Paris, my love of the city, the awareness that it gave me about the diversity of human experience, and the passion it kindled in me to transcend barriers of language and culture through my work. I am moving forward to pursue a master’s degree in Fine Art in the United Kingdom to continue to explore how visual media can be a vehicle for trans-cultural and trans-linguistic connection and empathy. I don’t know where I will be in the next few years, but Paris will always have half of my heart and I will always remember its ancient streets as a familiar embrace.

To view Emily’s explanation of her design capstone project, Ellipsis, please click the video below:


Emily Andreasson

Interior Design & French
University of Kentucky

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