Alex Clemence

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My Journey Into the Unknown

My blog about London, Paris, anxiety, beautiful buildings, random observations, and so much more

“To be honest; The truth behind my previous notions”

To be perfectly honest, I was far from excited the days leading up to our departure. I felt this horrible pit in my stomach for days; I almost dreaded leaving. I’m not entirely sure the reasoning behind my feeling, but I have thought of a few possibilities. My first thought was stress. Stress about leaving essentials behind, stress about packing everything I needed into something that wasn’t the size of an elephant, stress about not being prepared enough, even stress about the future work I would have to complete on the trip. On top of stress was an incredible amount of anxiety.  The anxiety of flying with a group of students I barely know to a completely unknown culture, the anxiety of being with a group of people for two weeks that aren’t my family or friends, the anxiety of not wanting to leave a place that I know entirely too well.

I believe my parents sensed this the most as we drove to the airport. My mother kept assuring me I would have the time of my life and continued double-checking that I indeed had everything, but I could barely answer her without feeling like the pit in my stomach would soon turn into tears. I hoped I would become ill in the days prior so that I would not have to leave. When I got to the airport and said good-bye to my parents, the two people that I would love to have accompanied me on such a journey, my hands began to shake and my mind was racing. It didn’t help that upon arriving to the gate my passport refused to work in the “self help” check-in lines. More anxiety appeared as we made our way through the security checkpoint, but that was mostly because I’m afraid of authority and truly believe I am always in the wrong with them no matter what I do.  We waited, and waited, and waited for the time when we could board our plane. Many of the students got food and talked amongst themselves, but my stomach and mind could do no such thing. I tried to calm myself by doing something that was comforting to me, read my book about the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. I know this may sound like the farthest thing from comforting for most, but my fascination into his mind made me think I’m a lot less crazy than I felt at that moment.  Peering up from my book, I glanced around at the vast amount of people that were surrounding me. I knew their faces, I knew a lot of their names, but I barely knew anything about them. I thought to myself “Can it possibly be, that I am the only one who feels like this?” Despite all of my daunting thoughts, I boarded the plane and hoped for the best.

During the plane ride I blocked out most of my thoughts. I could really only think about how amazing the movie selection was and the fact that my joints felt stiffer than ever. Off the plane, we’re in Paris! Ah, but not for long. Our journey continues to Heathrow Airport in London. As I made my way through the windy hallway that came upon us after landing, I felt something. I think the only way to really describe it would be something close to awe. Could it really be that I made it through all of that? This unexplainable feeling quickly dispersed when I realized just how much I had ahead of me.

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Oh the stress (Taken on my phone)

“I will forever remain this tired; Our arrival in London”

“Is this real life?” was my first thought upon landing in London and I assume that thought will continue on with me throughout this entire trip.  After finally getting out of the stressful airport culture, we took a bus tour around the city and ended up at the Tower of London. Although it was incredibly hard for most to stay awake on the bus tour, seeing as we had just had an excruciatingly long trip, the tour was very informative and a great introduction. Next, we have only one hour to take an individual tour of the Tower of London. Once again, the anxiety set in. Not only do I hardly know any of my peers, now I am forced to choose a group of people to follow around this unknown monument. The whole time I worried more about who was around me, am I talking enough, or do these people even like me and I feel like that may have taken away from some of the visit. I did however try some delicious fish and chips and got to talk to a few students while sharing the giant dish. Finally we had some time to rest at our hotel before heading out on our first group dinner where I still felt a bit awkward. I think everyone was still getting used to the group and the fact that we will be spending a lot of time with these people. I got to catch up and learn some fascinating things from my professors at dinner, and after enjoyed a nice stroll through a nearby park with a couple peers.

Now that I am lying in bed composing all my thoughts, I do believe I will enjoy this trip. I am mostly just curious for what will be in my future, like who I will become friends with, the beautiful things I will see, and what I will cherish most. It is very hard to think about anything other than how exhausted I am, while trying to not fall asleep with my computer in my lap. The crime show I am watching is quite interesting though. The main character is an older woman who is the lead detective, which I think is very different than a character we would have in the states. But to get back to London, so far I think it is nice. There isn’t as much of a culture shock as I thought there would be, probably because I can still understand what they are saying. I’m excited to find out the differences and similarities to America and then compare them to France. I believe this trip is going to be a great opportunity, and I’m glad that I am finally feeling a little less anxious and stressed, but that may just be because I have never felt this tired in my life. Honestly, it feels as if I will remain this tired forever, or at least for these two weeks. Tomorrow begins our media visits. Here we go, this is really it!

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Some of the really cool medieval architecture at the Tower of London

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 Just one of the many interesting artifacts we found

“Walking in the London Rain”

It’s a bit disconcerting when you forget you have your own thoughts. While returning from The Guardian, the clouds became darker and suddenly umbrellas appeared everywhere. My mind drifted away. It was the first time I felt like a single entity during this trip. I was unaware of anyone outside my red umbrella. I cherish the alone time in my life and it is difficult to abandon it on this trip.  When I picture myself traveling in the future, I always picture myself alone.  I believe I would enjoy traveling alone for a couple different reasons, mostly selfish reasons. For instance, I could always go to see everything that I dreamed of, enjoy everything through my own eyes, and not be distracted from anything.

Once again, my previous theories have been somewhat proven untrue. I have been working hard on finding the positives in everything we do. To my surprise, I found quite a few positives of traveling with a group. The first is the amount of things you learn. You are accompanied by so many great minds and voices that are able to point out and discuss points you might not have noticed yourself. For example, while enjoying one of the most amazing burgers at a pub called Nicholson’s in London, a peer of mine pointed out something I would have never noticed on the pence. In England, each year they place a current picture of the Queen, so you can see how she has aged. The differences can be quite small from year to year, but if you compare pence from twenty years ago to the ones today, it is an extremely interesting difference. Such a small and unique observation, but now I can share this piece of knowledge onto someone else. Another benefit is the fact that I am able to walk in the rain without a care. Everything is already planned and it allows you to simply enjoy the beauty around you instead of worrying about what street you turn onto. Not to mention, we have an amazing tour guide, Vincent. The amount of knowledge, planning skills, and energy this man has is almost inhuman. The vast amount of benefits such a great tour guide provides is unimaginable.  Not only did I recognize the strengths in our tour guide, a group trip helps recognize the strengths demonstrated by others in the group and myself.  There are peers that are good at directions, good at speaking, good at being leaders, good at dealing with pressure, and especially good at photography. You can learn from each one of these strengths and use them to your advantage. You also realize that you can harness some of your abilities that you may not have realized you had before. Although I may not always enjoy being in such a large group, I am able to recognize the many benefits, and I have made many friends that I look forward to spending the rest of the trip with.

Nicholsans burger

That amazing burger I was talking about

“They Have an Incredible Work Ethic” – Our media Visits in London

A special thank you to all those we met at our media visits that did not appear in this video 
The Guardian
Roger Tooth, Photography editor 
Margaret Holborn, Education coordinator
Bloomberg
Toni Parsons, Producer for Bloomberg TV
Carly Stewart, News and Media Recruitment Coordinator
Sarah Mann, EMEA Recruiter

“Where are all the Overweight People?”- Site Seeing in London

http://youtu.be/yXGFGr-pvuE
A special thank you to Vincent Lauferon, our amazing tour guide, for showing us all these amazing sites. 

“A Fleeting Glimpse; My Life Turned into a Movie”

I don’t really believe any of this is real. I’m simply still sleeping on the train from London, but as I am being pushed onto the Metro I am forced to realize I’m awake. It’s our first night in Paris. The very first thing we saw upon getting off the bus was the massive, breathtaking Eiffel Tower. What was once a silly dream for most girls was now right in front their eyes. I could not think of a more perfect way to enter this city.  The magic really came alive at dinner. Imagine every single thought you’ve ever had about eating at a café in Paris, and then imagine actually being there. As soon as we walked in, an old man playing familiar tunes on his piano gave us a smile. Along with many others, I enjoyed a goat cheese salad, salmon, and chocolate cake. So far, it is my favorite meal. After finishing our desserts, we sat for a while and chatted, adhering to the French tradition of extended meals.

As we left the restaurant, I noticed something. Every single person on the trip was filled with joy and some still singing the old man’s tune. We walked towards the boat we would board for our sunset cruise on the Seine River. While listening to Vincent fill our heads with knowledge, I still saw the joy in everyone. The rest of the night was straight out of a romantic movie. Although it was increasingly windy and cold on the boat, it was hard not to stay on the outside deck to see the views.  The sun setting perfectly as we passed some astonishing monuments, laughter in the background, couples holding hands, and the boat just gliding along carrying us all in our dreams. As we arrived in the port, I found it hard to get my feet moving. I did not want to go. We were nearing the end of our travels for the night, when something amazing happened. We descended the stairs to the metro and stood, waiting, and in that instant I made a connection. Just a fleeting glimpse from a beautiful man on the departing metro, but such a connection I’ve never felt before, and I know it sounds like the corniest chic-flick you have ever seen, and although I don’t quite remember the details of his face, it was a feeling I don’t think I will ever forget. We got on our metro and I couldn’t help but wish the movie scene had continued with me running after the train and he would put his hand up on the window with a longing stare in his eyes and that someday I would see him again. Even though before coming to Paris I had a very negative bias on it, I think that I will learn to enjoy some of it, after learning a couple more French words of course. It seems to me like this city is a lot like New York, but with a lot more beautiful plot twists.

bird and eiffel

 Can you imagine seeing this for the first time?

me on boat ride

That face, it just screams romantic

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 It was simply a dream

“You Speak how many Languages here?” – Our Media Visits in Paris

A special thank you to all those we met at our media visits that did not appear in this video

Paris-Sorbonne, French Media landscape lecture
Juliette Charbonneaux, Graduate Student, Paris-Sorbonne, CELSA Program
Ketchum Paris
Philippe Beteille, President
France 24
Sylvie Rottman, Senior Producer
Françoise Champey-Huston, Deputy Director of English Service
Disneyland Paris
Irma Smits, Press Events and Production
Martine Stuben, Public Relations Director
Stéphane Cunnac, Senior Publicist

“Guy, guys! We are actually in Paris!” – Site Seeing in Paris and Northern France

^ Quote thanks to Tyrone Smith. Not kidding you, he must’ve said this about a thousand times.

A special thank you to Vincent Lauferon, our amazing tour guide, for showing us all these amazing sites. 

Our last night in France

“Goodbye Europe and Thank you”

All right, so I’ve been home for less than 24 hours and I think I’m ready to go back now. If I could just take my family and dog with me, that would be perfect. I know that for the next couple weeks every time I see someone for the first time after my trip I will have to retell all of the amazing experiences I had, and although this is a great way to recap and remember things, sometimes I think that telling a story too much really takes away from it’s awe. You start to forget what exactly happened and you are simply telling a story of a story. With this last blog, I would like to reflect on my experiences: the highs and lows, the farewells, and my newfound appreciation.

For many of us going on the trip, our dreams were met and even dreams we didn’t know we had came true. A lot of the iconic places we went to were simply pictures and stories to us, ones that most of us thought we would never be able to actually experience. For someone like me who never before gave a real thought of going to London or Paris, everything we did was surreal. Every single day I thought about what I would have been doing had I not taken this chance, and my answer on each of those days was sitting at home, waking up late, spending too much time on my computer, and forgetting about how much of the world I have yet to see.  I believe the thing I have taken away from this trip the most is learning to appreciate things more.  Our journey was the most consecutive days I’ve been incredibly happy in a long time, maybe ever. One explanation for this elation could be that I put down my phone, I put away all my distractions, and I was living in the moment. Seeing all these amazing places for the first time was indescribable, and you just had to take a step back and breathe it all in. I forget that there are places I see every single day that are amazing as well, and the fact that I constantly see them shouldn’t take away from their sheer beauty.  I also appreciate people more. I have realized just how much knowledge I can learn from every single person I encounter.

My greatest appreciation, however, goes to the people that support me and allow me to take part in the experiences that will change my life.  So while we are on the topic, I would like to personally thank a few of those individuals. First, my family for always supporting me with every single thing I want to do, whether it be buying me a sewing machine so that I can be a fashion designer or funding a trip like this one and for encouraging me to travel since I was a small child.  Next I would like to thank Helen Fallon. Upon scheduling my classes during the fall, she suggested I go on this trip and without hesitation I said yes, not really knowing just how much this simple suggestion would change me. Also for the travel fund she set up to make it easier for me to attend this trip. A special thank you is owed to our tour guide, Vincent. He made every single day special with his endless knowledge and his patience with our endless questions. Lastly, I would like to thank every single student and professor that accompanied me on this trip, you are all absolutely amazing people with so much to offer. Upon editing my video of our last night on the trip, I began to tear up. The fact that I had so many incredible people around me to share this experience with made the trip unforgettable.  Thank you.

dancer by water

 Special thanks to Evan Schall for taking this photo and for becoming a great friend of mine

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