From Bonjour to A Bientot!

Review by: Sumeet Gupte

Marketer by Profession | Foodie by Habit | Traveler bu Choise

Destination: Paris

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It is safe to assume that almost everyone, at least once in their lifetime, wish to visit Paris to gaze upon the astounding Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe or the magnificent Notre Dame or for the plain and simple beauty which Paris holds. When given the chance to do the same via a student exchange program there was no choice to be made, it was an obvious yes. I had a chance to not only see few of the most beautiful structures in the world in one of the most beautiful city in the world, I also had a chance to study subjects rarely taught in India.

It started with an announcement “Please report to the baggage claim, Monsieur Sumeet Gupte” (read Su-meaat Gu-pea-tea). We were informed that all of our baggage has been misplaced in Dubai and we would be getting it in the next 24 to 48 hours. So basically they meant to tell us that here we are, in a completely foreign country, with a very limited vocabulary of the local language, with no clothes except the ones we were wearing, no food to cook, nothing to clean ourselves with.

So there we were, freshly recovering from the trauma of having lost our baggage that we get the news that the taxi we had booked is no longer there as we arrived late thanks to the omnipresent formalities! So we are at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, arguably one of the most beautifully constructed airport in the world, with its beauty lost to us as we waited for a call from the cab company hoping to hear the sweet words saying that the cab will arrive shortly. An hour and a half later we are safely tucked away in a warm traveller cab on our way to Deauville, our home for the next 2 months!

The rest of the trip was the much more adventurous. Our classes were a hectic schedule of 6 hours every day of one subject. With subjects like Global Political Economy or International Project Management, we had our plates full with assignments and presentations.

But that didn’t stop us from exploring. Armed with “time-management” skills honed in India we made ourselves ready for another adventure to Brussels, the land of chocolate, fries, waffles, beer and of course the birth place of TinTin! The thrill of going on a trip without parental or any kind of supervision gives us an insane thrill. It may be a road trip to Goa or a nice vacation near the beach. So for me, being in another continent, more than 3500miles away from my home, the thrill was magnified hundredfold. The bad habits we’ve earned over years of living at home do put us to some disadvantages. We boarded the bus to Brussels expecting a stop after a couple of hours as we do in India. Maybe not chai and wada pav, but maybe coffee and croissant? But alas, that also happens only in India and such a wonderful thing it feels! The 4 hour long journey with no food, no water and the girl sitting in front of me chomping on chips all the way did not make the best companionship to this journey. So there we were, 4 hours later, crossing international borders, hungry and thirsty. The entire trip to Brussels was so much more than what I had imagined it to be. Right from the first time staying in a youth hostel to having the most delicious hot-chocolate in the world at Godiva to just roaming around the streets of Brussels eating a chocolate covered steaming crunchy waffle everything was so much more than just a trip! It was an experience, something which will always remain with us. Always!

The entire two months we spent in Deauville were something we will never forget. The hectic class schedule to the amazing Brussels trip to the long walks or the hot coffee on the beach, searching for a new house and amidst all that the tedious yet satisfying task for preparing food was just another lesson for us. I understand why it is said that experience is the best teacher! This student exchange not only taught us the subjects we wanted to learn, it taught us to value things, like a simple ready hot meal, we take for granted. It taught us the importance of adaptability, how important it is to adjust to new and unknown surroundings, to make the best of every situation which is thrown at you and in face of all the problems you might or might not face to just enjoy!

This has been much more than just a Student Exchange, it has been an experience and it ended up making us a little richer. For the wealth of a man, according to me, can only be ever measured in the experiences he has gathered.

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