Mariangela at a familiarly named restaurant in Paris
Voices From Abroad is back, and this week we’re stoked to feature a unique perspective on life abroad from Mariangela Bucci, a junior feb who’s been studying in Paris, France this fall. In Paris, Mariangela is studying political science at the Pantheon-Sorbonne, in line with her poli sci major at Midd. Mariangela is from Bermuda, though she’s not new to Europe, as she lived in Italy for four years when she was younger, for a year after high school, and spends several months in Italy everywhere. As Mariangela would say, “I was born in Bermuda but live between Bermuda and Italy.” While we constantly hear about all the awesome aspects of life abroad, Mariangela presents an extremely refreshing outlook on the often bleak and less-satisfying features of a semester overseas. So read up, and if you are a Middlebury student presently living or studying abroad, please consider submitting writing of your own (absolutely any format is welcome) to Voices From Abroad! Here’s Mariangela:
In typical Middlebury fashion, all students studying abroad in Paris are required to create a list detailing their motivations, goals and fears for the semester abroad. First on my list, escape the bubble and return to Europe.
At Middlebury, I dread the impossible division of the scholastic from the personal. Unless you are a fan of the great outdoors (which I am not), there is little chance of real detachment from being constantly surrounded by your peers. Middlebury is the most open space I have ever lived – with the greenest grass, the freshest air– and yet it is the most suffocated I have ever felt.
Like any lover separated from their beloved, I blindly romanticized Europe in all its metropolitan greatness. I chose to study in Paris to lose and reclaim myself at once, to disappear into the city’s anonymity and assert my independence in its vastness.
After completing my list of Paris hopes and dreams, the final hurdle between my European freedom and me was a safety talk on how to survive the big, bad city. The talk was administered by the director of the Middlebury School in Paris and two policemen. However well intentioned, their advice was as infantilising as it was offensive. Beyond universal reminders to students that leaving their belongings unattended invites thievery, special attention was paid to female students. As a sort of grand finale, the trio performed a dialogue to illustrate how the fairer sex might successfully discourage unwanted male attention.
“Please, you’re so beautiful. Just one drink.”
“No thank you. I have a boyfriend.”
Now although I have not been at Middlebury long enough to learn to take offense at how heteronormative the example was, I was bothered by the suggestion for obvious reasons.
Beyond the fact that I am 21-year-old woman, I know Europe fairly well; I’ve spent half my life in Italy, and already attended university in a European city. I’ll be fine I thought to myself.
But before I had finished unpacking, I learned that Paris was a very different sort of Europe, and that I, a very different sort of European.