For six weeks over the summer of 2017 I was given the opportunity to study the French language in Paris, France. The first two weeks were spent on a tour of Northern France, from Strasbourg to Ěätretat, and through the chateaus of the Loire Valley before landing in Paris for the last four weeks. The tour featured some of the highlights of French tourism, including memorials and battle sites from World War I and II, as well as medieval relics like Mont Saint Michel.

Our time in Paris also provided many opportunities for sight-seeing. Though the hot and crowded day I spent at Versailles was not my favorite part of the trip, I was surprised at how touched I was by the Eiffel Tower; or, as I prefer, La Dame de Fer: the Iron Lady. Most often, those edifices which loom large in our mind fall flat in person; however, what I thought would be another tourist trap turned into one of my favorite spots on earth. There is a reason why so many pieces of poetry, literature, and music are dedicated to La Dame de Fer: she is striking.

To stand under her gave one the impression of all the history of that ancient city, yet it also brings to mind the relentless machine of progress. This was especially true with the twinkling lights that come on at night. I sat and gazed at her in awe of my ability to be in another part of the world, yet feel completely at home.

My entire experience in Paris, though a wonderful global experience, reminded me of how small the world is. I had waited so long to go abroad that France had adopted a mystical aura in my mind. Once I was there, I realized how many things were similar to those at home: I saw rolling hills of farms that brought to mind the medieval fiefdoms of France, but also the Midwestern landscape I see when traversing I-29 through Missouri on my way home to South Dakota. I left France understanding just how close all the peoples of the world truly are, and how little separates us. I also left knowing it would not be long before La Dame de Fer and I meet again.

Maya Van Nuys is a junior at the University of Kansas with majors in Global and International Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies and minors in French and Economics.