Twelve summers ago, I was whisked off to the city of love following my eighth birthday for a vacation that would change my life forever. Perhaps a little unwilling at first, since I had no say in my parents’ vacation plans as a kid, I boarded the thirteen-hour flight from Shanghai to Paris and landed in an unfamiliar city. The sudden change in surroundings baffled me; although travel was not a foreign concept to me, it was my first time in Europe, facing a culture that was nothing like my own. While visiting the Louvre, sailing across the Seine, walking down the Champs-Élysées, and looking at the whole city from the top of the Eiffel Tower, I developed a love for the city that I couldn’t shake away even after I returned home. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but something about Paris drew me uncontrollably to it.
Therefore, I did the unthinkable: I asked my mom to sign me up for French lessons. This was different from the piano and art classes that I was forced to attend— I showed up for my first day with excitement and passion for the language I was about to learn. These emotions from my childhood stayed with me throughout middle school, accompanied me as I moved across the globe from Shanghai to California, and grew with me as I stepped into adulthood. Even with the complications that arose during my language-learning journey as I moved schools, I never abandoned my love for France, and I was never abandoned either.
And now, as I type this in a hotel room in Paris twelve years later, I can confidently say that my love for the city has not faded in the slightest. As I visit the Louvre, sail across the Seine, walk down the Champs-Élysées, and look at the whole city from the top of the Eiffel Tower, I feel like I have returned to my childhood. It’s a nostalgic feeling, and now, I understand what it is about this city that captured my heart at a young age. It’s the little things about Parisian life that made me yearn for it, things that you could only experience on a trip to the city yourself.
À la prochaine, Paris.