Two weeks after finding out I was headed to Paris for my internship, I land in the Orly airport – frantic, frustrated, and with only $300 to my name. During this whole internship process, I couldn’t help but to continuously feel like nothing was going to work out; I was watching my peers land internships all around me, watching their excitement grow at the same rate as my uncertainty, and that feeling only intensified as soon as a landed.

I arranged an Airbnb for my arrival, and I was headed that way. I get to the door, knock, and send a message to my host. He opens the door, says, “I overbooked – you’re out of luck.” And then quickly closes the door. I go for my next best option: the sketchy craigslist ad for a “nice, very good, private one-bedroom”. When I arrived, it became clear to me that the one bedroom he was referring to was just a futon smack in the middle of the living room in a house of 3 men.

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When I declined their offer, I started to feel hostility, so then I quickly left. I went to a restaurant and called Airbnb. They issued me a credit for what I paid, but the problem was that all of the affordable rooms were completely booked. Without the help of my friend – Fatima, and her friend Noor – I would have exhausted all of my funds that ended up having to last me 2 whole weeks, since my Penn disbursement didn’t come in until long after I originally anticipated.

To my luck, a Penn alumni helped me find permanent residence in Paris that I like very much. My roommate is a sweet person who is artistic and kind. She isn’t petty at all – she’s very reasonable. She and I also have a ton in common. She’s an epidemiologist, which is my favorite subject. We have had many deep conversations, which is one of my favorite things in the world, so that has been a real silver-lining for all of my annoyances. She gets me.

Since I keep seeing things about travel that I find to be extremely dishonest and unrealistic, I’m gonna set y’all straight. Through the glamour and appeal of travel, there is a lot that people forget to leave out. Like openly just saying, “I’ve been having a hard time in Paris.” Or just admitting that something can be good and bad at the same time.

So far, I’ve been kicked out of a restaurant for “not eating enough”, a second time for being an American.  I’m an asthmatic, so the smoking culture and the absence of air conditioning has been absolutely obliterating my health. Since there is no air conditioning, I have to sleep with the windows open so that I can sleep at all. So I’m just breathing in nicotine and Parisian congestion 24/7. I’ve been to the doctor once a week since living here. It’s been a rough shift for me, and I would be doing a disservice to anyone considering this lifestyle to pretend that it’s been all roses, although flowers in Paris are to die for:

I’m having to really work at keeping my chin up, and I’m not embarrassed about it. I will never be embarrassed by my honesty. I’m finding all of these annoyances as strength-building. I feel like I’ve been practising with the 3 pound weights and now my muscles are just screaming. In the meantime, I’ll persevere by upping my game. I know it’ll get easier with time. My mind is still really open. Check my next posting, and I’ll probably feel better. It takes awhile for me to warm up. The accessibility of good crepes is helping to soften the blow, however.

 

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I started my internship two days after landing. I was super tired. Jet-lag was a vicious demon in which my body allowed its possession, and I wasn’t busy the first couple of days. I accidently fell asleep during the first important meeting (on my first day) and kept falling asleep during the lunch hour. I’m pretty sure that everyone at UNESCO assumes that I have narcolepsy, but it’s cool.

Now that the work has picked up, I’m really enjoying it. Working at UNESCO has been really intriguing. I’ve been researching all of the literature about TVET and UN Conventions to write a brief, and I feel like I am learning so much about the organization and human rights law. I’m no longer falling asleep during the lunch hour anymore, if anything, the research is keeping me up at night. Also, I have a rad 360 view from my office. (Not too shabby for an intern!)

I’m not as lonely as I expected. I’ve met a lot of interesting and genuine people at UNESCO whose company I enjoy immensely. To me, this is what traveling is all about. Between the other awesome interns and my roommate, I can honestly say that it’ll be impossible for me to feel alone. The interns are super international, too, so I’ve been learning all about this world that I love so much. It’s also good to know that most of the interns are just as frustrated as I am. Camaraderie and unity is all I feel when I am with them. Until next time!

Iva