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Experience in a French Airport

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A plan of the terminals at Paris de Gaulle Airport

Imagine this: You're running on two hours of sleep in the past 36 hours, everyone around you is speaking a foreign language, and you have 30 minutes to navigate an enormous airport to make your connecting flight...

You guessed it, that was absolutely me in Paris de Gaulle Airport.

After taking a red eye from Boston Logan to Paris de Gaulle, I stumbled off the plane into a sea of French-speaking travelers. The airport was huge—and all of the boarding signs were in French (including the times—which were displayed in military time). I must admit that converting every time I saw military time to a comprehensible 12-hour time I was used to seeing, added about ten minutes to my trip overall. But I still made it!

I walked from the international wing where I arrived, to the domestic wing on the other side of the airport. This involved looking up what gate my departure was, asking an airport worker (in broken French and panicked gestures) where the shuttle to the appropriate terminal was, and dodging a lot of travelers in order to get to my gate in time.

I also stopped to order a Starbucks—if you have ever been far away from home, you know the comfort of seeing something familiar—also I just really needed caffeine. The barista was French, and it was the first time I had ever actually spoken French to anyone besides my parents and French teacher..

“Je..je prend ou je voudrais” I asked, not sure which verb to use.

“Tu voudrais” the barista responded with a smile, "tu es Américan?”

“Oui," I replied, with more confidence.  

“Je voudrais un latte caramel avec le lait d’almond!”. English translation: I would like a caramel latte with almond milk.  

The stress and adrenaline of interacting in a foreign language made me both nervous and excited for what was to come. For the first time, I realized my life was about to change for a while, and that the future would require lots of adjustment, learning, and perseverance. 

P.S. For reference, if you look at this post's cover photo, my flight landed in Terminal 1, and my next flight departed from Terminal 2E. 

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