This past summer, I wrapped up my time at UC San Diego as an undergraduate with 5 weeks abroad in Paris, France to study Jazz under the direction of Cecil Lytle and the aid of CEA Paris. It was a dream come true to have participated in such a rich program at one of the most romanticized cities in the world.
The whole program was spectacular, from visiting other cities such as Geneva and Venice to seeing legendary sights such as the Louvres, Eiffel, and D’orsay to cherishable slice-of-life moments with my newly-made French friends by the Seine river. I also had the privilege of helping produce a Jazz concert at a local Parisian venue and was involved in developing the program and poster, writing some of the music, performing, and managing things at the venue day of. It was a wonderful experience that I will forever cherish. However, reintegrating myself back into life in the states immediately afterward had proven to be quite a challenging adventure.
I moved directly to New York following my time in Paris which was not only challenging logistically but also challenging on a personal level. I was nervous returning to my home country where I felt like my worth was based on the monetary output of my daily grind, and that a living doing what I love was something I either had to sacrifice or work double time for. I felt such a strong and implicit validation for the arts in the Parisian culture that I don’t feel often in America, and realizing that put stress on me as I looked towards my future.
In Paris, I had learned to love and appreciate culture on an entirely new level; the sea of museums and the historic buildings that are embedded in the urban landscape bring a sensuous air of humanity and authenticity to the city. Being able to walk down the street and see the old dwellings of artists like Picasso or Debussy, to see the grand cathedrals still standing after decades of use, and to see the people of the country proud of their history and artists was a privilege I will never forget. As a budding music composer myself, learning about the impact of artists in the minds of people and in their culture through a class is just the beginning; SEEING the impact that it has with your own eyes through the attitude of the citizens of a nation is exceptionally humbling and meaningful.
In America, I had rarely experienced the latter, and even though I took moderate pride in my own work and appreciated the work of past greats in my own social bubbles, I was often afraid that my work in music was “just a hobby” or justifiably unsustainable in modern day society. This diversion that I felt between Parisian attitudes towards art versus American views towards art (in my experience at least) filled me with a sense of community and appreciation in a culture that was different than my own. Diversifying my cultural experience by studying abroad has given me a new confidence in myself as well as a new goal to work towards. I return to my home country to work not only for my place as an artist in modern day society, but also for others to be able to share their art, culture, and stories to contribute to a better, more diverse world.
Thank you, Paris for teaching me this lesson, and Diversity Abroad for helping make it all a reality!