Oui, une semaine passée à Paris. It’s hard to believe!

Mostly because for me, the transition from finishing spring semester in Philly to starting my summer internship was very quick, it feels like I was working on final papers only a few days ago (which is kind of true) but I have already worked at my internship site for a full week. And at the same time, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a week because so much happened! So, what did I do during my first week in Paris?

  1. Settling down…

Arguably the most important part, I would say! We’ve heard too many stories of struggles with finding housing in Paris so I had to be extra cautious with finding housing. In a nutshell, those coming to Paris were discouraged from making any commitment prior to coming to Paris and looking at the places ourselves. I happened to be a lucky exception as I was able to find a reliable place via a Korean community board. It’s not like I didn’t expect it but still, the studio’s miniscule size and old-building vibe did surprise me initially. But once again, despite the building being rather old, the person who originally lives here took a good care of the studio so I actually think I got a great deal for the price! I’m 20 minutes walking distance away from my office, and I doubt I could get a better deal for a studio in Paris!

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Small but cozy studio

For the weekend I arrived and the evenings after work, I have walked to different parts of the neighborhood to get a sense of the area. I now have my go-to grocery stores for different occasions, cheap eatery places in case I’m too tired to cook and most importantly, boulangeries! The colleagues I have met in the first week have provided really useful information (like where I can find small dehumidifying patches… it is a rather niche item) and I’m forever grateful for all their help!

  1. Let’s talk about business

Walking into the headquarter building for the first time on Monday morning was actually quite daunting. First of all, the building was HUGE. Secondly, that Monday happened to be the first day of a conference so a lot of people in really nice suites all entered the building at the same time as I did. But initial intimidation soon aside, I met with my supervisor in the foyer, and things rolled really smoothly and quickly from there on. My supervisor and I spent the first hour taking care of administrative tasks and discussing my very first assignment.

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View from my office!!!

In June, the team that I work for will be facilitating a two-day workshop on employing Media and Information literacy (MIL) for Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) in a Central Asian country. My supervisor asked me to come up with a programme for the workshop by Wednesday and prepare outlines for the presentation slides by Friday. Yes, I’m talking about just the first week, and I’m not exaggerating. In a way, I was very fortunate to have a very concrete task to carry out in the very first week of work as it allowed me to feel more in place and sense of belonging. Some of the colleagues I shared the work space with definitely agreed with that. At the same time, yes, it would be a lie to say that there was absolutely no moment of feeling overwhelmed. But I was very very fortunate to have a super helpful supervisor who provided a lot of resources that I could consult and was always there to listen to my ideas and provide feedbacks. Because the assignment had to be completed in a rather short span of time, it was really helpful being able to drop by my supervisor’s office briefly whenever the door is open, rather than having to schedule a meeting for each agenda. In many ways, I think I have the best supervisor that one could ever ask for (a sentiment shared by many of my colleagues that I shared the office space with!), and honestly, I think that’s what enabled me to successfully survive through the rather overwhelming and hectic first week of internship.

Aside from preparing for the workshop, I have attended several virtual meetings with regional offices to discuss their progresses and future plans for media and information literacy initiatives. I even had a chance to work as a team as another consultant and I were asked to review the progress report on a project and identify data and information we would need to ask for in addition to plan the next phase.

On Thursday, one of my colleagues told me, “it feels like you’ve been here forever! Like… you don’t look lost – you always have something to do and are very busy. You look like you know what you are up to so it’s hard to believe that you’ve been here for less than a week.”

Well, that was possible mostly thanks to my supervisor who had faith in me and assigned me with a lot of tasks while scaffolding to make sure I don’t feel lost! On top of that, my previous experiences in event planning and some concrete skills and knowledges I have gained through coursework (for instance, distinguishing activities, outputs and outcomes) helped me a lot in the process.

Also, another perk about being at a headquarter is that there is always so much going on! On Friday, there was a conference on blockchain, and I was able to attend a few sessions and talk to a few attendees during the reception that took place in the evening. Networking is always hard but it can get even trickier when you have to do it in your third language! I really look forward to having more opportunities like this and hopefully, my professional French will improve…

  1. La vie parisienne

I have to say, I personally am not super excited and impressed by the European urban sceneries because I have already lived in two European cities and visited Paris during those stays. Yes, I do see the Eiffel tower on my walk to work every morning, and that’s pretty cool. But the delicate and artistic façade of buildings and the scenic view of Seine and small parks scattered throughout the city do not come off as something new. Many friends from home have been telling me how jealous they are of me but in all honesty, I think I was more preoccupied with making this studio more feel like home for me, get used to the lower wifi speed, etc.

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Who doesn’t get to see the Eiffel tower EVERDAY during their commute… right?

Regardless, Paris indeed is a city with endless list of cultural events, and I was able to take advantage of that. This Saturday was La nuit européenne des musée, which meant that some of the museums in Paris offered free access from 6 pm to midnight. With a colleague, I headed to Musée des arts et métiers and saw artefacts like Ford Model T 1907 and Foucault’s Pendulum.

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One of the very first airplanes flown in France

Another kind of Parisien cultural event: some of my colleagues and I went to one of the quais of Seine, and shared drink over baguette, cheese and jambon on Wednesday evening to make the most out of the beautiful weather! Getting to know my colleagues outside the work space was awesome, and I feel so grateful to have great people around me for the internship!

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On our way to le quai!

Only one week, and I feel like I have already done so much! This first week was such a great start to my internship journey, which makes me look forward to the following nine weeks all the more!

P. S. — May in Paris can be cold. I have been wearing my winter cardigans every morning to my work yet I have not sweated… at all! It drops all the way down to 8 degrees celsius. If you start your internship early in Paris, do pack some of your winter clothes!