“Are French people mean?” is the first question that I’ve been asked during a presentation about France in a high school. So, are French people mean? My reply was that life is very different in cities like Paris from cities like Salem, so you just don’t meet the same kind of people in Paris and in Salem. I know that Parisians have the reputation to be rude. But, the fact is that, when you live in a big city like Paris, you’re always in a rush, trying to catch a bus or the subway, running here and there because the places are far from each other and you don’t have time to waste. It’s the everyday life. In Salem, life is very different…
Let’s say that it’s more peaceful. It’s a small city so, you don’t have to run to be sure you won’t miss the subway (and there is no subway, even better). Life at Willamette University is also different. It’s like a small bubble. You have everything you need on campus, and within good distances. One minute from my dorm to my workplace, two minutes to go to the library, three minutes to go to Goudy… So, you just wake up and do what you have to do without any stress. You run into people on campus, you stop for a few minutes to talk if you have time or just for a hug if you don’t have time. People are different depending on where they live. Now, I have a question for you: do you think that people make places or do places forge people?
In this last issue of Willamette World News, we’ve been asked to write about our general experience abroad. I feel that I’ve learned a lot since I arrived here last August. One of the things that I realized here is that places are not very important: people are. A city is a city, wherever it is: Paris, London, New York… People make cities memorable. It’s with them that you create memories. In my opinion, those memories are what link you to a city or a place. That’s what makes you love or hate a place.
I would like to talk about three “places” that have an important meaning for me, personally. They’re all here, at Willamette.
—Do you see those lions? They’re located in front of the Theater Playhouse. I had to meet with a friend and we didn’t know where, so I suggested the lions. He said that there were no lions on campus. I explained to him where they were and we met there. “Oh, those lions… It’s the first time I have see them”: that’s what he said (and he’s been studying at Willamette for three years). This person was once important to me so, every time I walked towards the lions, they reminded me of him.
—Have you ever noticed those benches in front of Goudy? Probably. You walk toward them every day. But for you, they’re just benches. Stone and brick: simple benches on which, logically, you can sit (this is the main function of a bench). For me, one of these benches is more than that. It’s the place where I had a conversation with a person I cared about. So, this bench is somehow special to me. The person I had this conversation with said then “It’s a nice spot”. Yes it is, but probably only for us. For others, it’s just a bench in front of Goudy.
— Belknap… It is THE place where I lived for the last ten months. When we all (the language assistants) arrived in Belknap, we heard a lot of things about this dorm, and not all were good. Let’s be honest and say that they were mostly pretty negative. I even heard that Belknap is called “the dungeon” (?!) The thing is that Belknap might not be the best dorm ever on earth but…. it is for me. I spent so many good moments there with my friends. The picture that you see above reminds me of one of those good moments: all the language assistants meeting around some ice cream. I’ll terribly miss Belknap and the people I’ve lived with there.
That’s my point: people help you create memories in places; they make the places. So, when people ask me what a girl from Paris, the great city, is doing in Salem, Oregon, here is what I say: a city is made by the people who live in it and I met wonderful people in Salem, Oregon. So, this article is for them. I’m grateful to them because they made me love Salem. They made me want to stay (even if, unfortunately, I can’t) and come back later (that’s for sure).
This is my “thank you” to the amazing people I met here. Valerie, Janie, Kazue, Jia, Holly, Shehrazad, Marta, Amadou, Patrick, Françoise, Janet, Alethia, Sean, Kevin, Lisa, Jose, Nate, Emily, Erynn, Mirella, Dan, Megan, Jessa, Kyle, Chris and David (and to the others that I didn’t mention but that I don’t forget): thank you and, à bientôt…