Parables from Paris with Kat Smith


Kat Smith

Kat Smith at a café in Paris

Chloe White, Editor in Chief

Walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain… is this a famous tune or a study abroad anecdote? Only time will tell for Kat Smith, a fourth-year student studying abroad this semester in France’s most celebrated city. When she returns, Smith will have completed a trip abroad for each of her majors – no easy feat, especially for a student whose first three years were marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After completing a Mayterm in Jerusalem in the spring of 2022 to work on her religious studies requirements, she now resides in Paris – the city of light, love and macarons – while she pursues her major in business. Kat’s tales from a new city offer encouragement for new language learners and others daunted by unfamiliar surroundings.

Can you describe which program you’re in? Why did this one appeal to you?

Honestly, I chose this program [The American University of Paris (AUP)] because it fit my major. However, the longer I am here the more grateful I am to be in this specific program. After having two other abroad semesters canceled due to COVID, I really didn’t think it would be a reality for me to spend a semester abroad so I was thrilled (and a little surprised) when I realized I could still make it happen. I love being in an affiliate program, and while it certainly poses different challenges and separation from the Westmont community, it’s been such a rich experience to be a student at a different university for the semester! Also, Paris is pretty magical. 

How is it studying in a country that speaks another language? 

It’s pretty exhausting sometimes. But there are also so many small wins to celebrate all the time. I am in a homestay with a “mom” who doesn’t speak any English, so it’s motivated me to try and learn French as quickly as I can. It’s frustrating to not be able to converse as easily and freely, but it’s so rewarding when I can communicate.

Can you relay one of your best memories since being abroad?

Probably the new friends I’ve made! AUP is a very international school so I’ve gotten to spend time with people from all over the world. Some of my best memories so far have been sitting in cafes or in parks swapping stories from our different cultures and upbringings. Sifting through the language barriers certainly creates a lot of laughter and also recognition of my own language and culture.

What is one thing that has surprised you since being there?

I think living in a city for the first time, especially one as massive as Paris is, is a huge learning curve. Everything takes more intentional planning, from transportation to laundry to grocery shopping and so much more. I feel like I’m still getting used to this aspect and that is a bit surprising to me.

What’s one goal you want to accomplish before the end of the semester?

I really want to be conversational in French! I think talking to locals is one of the best ways to get a grasp on a place, and this is difficult to do in English. Also, it’s a really beautiful language that I would love to maintain. In addition I hope to be a more competent traveler, in the sense that I learn how to travel well in a way that both respects the local culture and provides me insight into what that city truly is!

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