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4.13.2023: French Peer Tutor Hazal Writes about Spring Break in Paris

French tutor Hazal writes about Spring Break in Paris, France. Images show Hazal with other students in various locations in Paris.

I had always wanted to go to Paris ever since I was a child and that is one of the reasons I chose to learn French. During spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Paris, France as a student in PSCH 394, “Seminar in Paris: Gender-Based Violence, Racism, and Inclusion in the U.S. and France.” We researched and presented on various topics in collaboration with UPEC, a university in Paris. We traveled to Paris to learn about social services in the city.

My first impression of Paris was how different it seemed from Chicago. There were less cars and more people biking or walking. The metro was very efficient and quick; there was a train every 3-5 minutes and the buses were 100% electric. Paris definitely had the best walkability out of all the cities I have visited. The food was healthier (less GMOs) and the weather was much better than Chicago’s cold wind. In short, I wish I was still there.

I was able to use my French while in Paris. In the mornings, I would go walking around the neighborhood and visit a couple of shops. I was able to greet the shop owner and purchase anything I needed. I also used my French when ordering in restaurants and cafes. Hearing French all around and seeing it written out everywhere was a completely different experience. In the beginning, it seemed very nerve-wracking and stressful because it was a foreign language I was not used to hearing constantly. But, after spending a couple more days outside (walking in parks, eating in restaurants, socializing with my friends), I was quickly able to adjust and enjoy Paris.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit not only the tourist attractions, but also learn about many social services such as Quartier Jeunes (QJ) and Maison des Femmes. QJ is a welcoming and supportive place for young people to visit if they need support. It is led by Mission Locale de Paris, which is financed by local authorities and the European Union. Regardless of their profile, it is open to people between the ages of 16-30. It provides personalized counseling in many different areas, including employment, profession, commitment, health, law, accommodation, and etc. In addition, it holds workshops and provides them with access to the internet and fresh food. In terms of building structure and quality, it is very clean and organized. It is designed to be colorful, open, and relaxing.

Maison des Femmes was founded in 1981 and provides a welcoming environment and access to rights, laws, information, and guidance to women who need it. The main objective is to aid women who face sexual violence and abuse in their families, jobs, public spaces, or anywhere else. It provides many services, including confidential interviews with a clinical psychologist, sign language learning, self-defense classes, and more!
For me, Paris was an amazing experience. I believe that many of the services and organizations can be applied in Chicago, and generally, everywhere. Many students at UIC would appreciate having access to the services of Quartier Jeunes, and having an open and welcoming space for women who have faced violence can be one of the first steps to preventing crime and assault in the city of Chicago.

While I was in Paris, I was able to think more about my future career and how to apply the things I have learned. I realized that, when I become a doctor, I want to be actively involved in social services. I think medical professionals are one of the groups of people who best understand the struggles of not having stable health insurance, or even enough money to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Paris showed me what has been so far, like the Quartier Jeunes and Maison des Femmes, and I believe more can be done. I want to study these social sciences more in Paris and apply them during my future career as a doctor. I want to expand the social services in Chicago and create a better, more stable healthcare system. Until then, I plan on going back to Paris to learn and expand my knowledge about their social services and healthcare system. My French will be very useful to communicate, learn, and form long friendships with others.

I strongly urge people to visit a country that speaks the language they are learning. If you can visit as a student, even better. You will learn how to communicate and be independent, which I think was the best part of my trip. You will also learn that your majors, minors, and career goals can be connected very strongly with the language you are learning. Visiting the country and exploring it thoroughly can help you discover those connections.