It’s been over a month since I arrived, but needless to say, it has taken a while to adjust to being back in Paris. As an undergrad studying abroad (for what almost seemed like eons ago), I was ambitious about checking off things on my long list of places to see and food to try. This time, there were some more hurdles to overcome than simply trekking my luggage to my new home for the year when I first got here.
Opening up a bank account, getting a student metro card, choosing a good phone plan, successfully signing up for classes, and learning to not buy more groceries than I could physically carry all took some time. However, once these were more or less taken care of, I began to enjoy the life that I had almost daydreamed about just months ago.
Getting my occasional treat of pain au chocolat at the local boulangerie, which smelled so good that it was hard to resist when passing by. Taking long walks on my way to class or a meeting, and stumbling upon a peaceful park or a 15th century cathedral by accident. People-watching while sitting at a street-facing café or even on the metro, where one is bound to see interesting stories unfold.
Though taking Master’s courses was not part of my original plan, there have been a lot of interesting things I have learned thus far. Reading social theory going back to Emile Durkheim and Marc Bloch. Learning how to do observations and interviews from a sociological perspective. Asking questions about the French healthcare system, everything from its financing through the T2A to strategies of the pharmaceutical industry and their relations/negotiations with the French governing committees responsible for assessing the new products to be released into the market. I had heard that French courses were heavily lecture-based, but I was pleasantly surprised that my professors welcomed interruptions during the course for questions (though it doesn’t come as a surprise that Americans tended to be the more outspoken ones in the group).
For the most part, I dived into my research as soon I got there. The first Monday after my arrival, there was a conference put on by my research group, where I was introduced to some of the organizational partners of my projects. Thereafter, my time has been divided into chunky portions of reading to catch up on the literature surrounding my research topics, meetings (on research study design and how to get the data we need), and in some cases, actually getting to work with the data (woot!). What I have come to realize is that the French academic community (or rather the health economics-focused research community) is quite well-connected, as folks all seem to know one another. In some cases this actually helped me when I had not able to get an email response from someone whom I’ve contacted with for the third time but to no avail.
There have definitely been some roadblocks and challenges—at first mostly with the French language itself as mine had gotten rusty—but I really hope to continue and immerse myself in my adventures here. Pourquoi pas?