Choose Your Own Path: I Left My American University To Live In Paris
I’m a nomad, a deviant, an outlier. I’m considered all these things for leaving my four-year private university to follow my dreams in Paris.
It’s not the norm nowadays to leave a prestigious private four-year university to pursue dreams elsewhere. People tend to undermine my choices by asking questions implying I’m making the “wrong” decisions, like “Are you really sure you want to move to Paris? (Insert prestigious school here) is just an incredible opportunity, how can you give it up?!” It’s gotten to the point where I just keep my life plans to myself, because it seems like everyone has their own opinion on what path exactly I should be taking to find their idea of success.
I always said to myself and my friends while growing up that I’d live in Paris someday. I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by the lovely and easygoing French lifestyle, living life as a stranger in a city where the act of ordering a cup of coffee is always an exciting and unpredictable feat to be conquered.
However, based on the direction my life was headed, I feared this dream would never be a reality for me.
After two years at one of the most politically-active schools in America and finally accepting that I will forever be politically incorrect, I’d had enough. Even when I was offered transfer admission to a highly-ranked university, a school my parents would have loved for me to attend, I’d had enough. I’d had enough of drinking Natty Lite at frat parties when I was dreaming of traveling abroad and I’d had enough of taking the predictable route to the prized cubicle. I’d had enough of caring about what rank U.S. News & World Report thought my school was worthy of and I’d had enough of worrying about how I was going to make my dream of living in Paris happen one day if I was offered a job fresh out of college at an American company.
Somewhere between shuffling from politics classes to internships in government branches, I found myself thinking, this is not what I thought my life would be as a young adult.
I decided it was time to reroute my life. I applied for my visa, enrolled in a university and moved to Paris.
I know so many students at other universities who are dreaming of something bigger. I know so many students who are paying full tuition for a private institution and yet don’t know their passions or strengths or skills.
However, we’re pressured to stick to the status quo, to stick with the system of high school to university to stable job. It seems like the only accepted path to “success” now is through enrolling in a prestigious university, obtaining as many competitive internships as possible, and ultimately landing a stable job so we can provide for our future families and fluffy dogs.
I know my worth. Of course I’m afraid to veer off the path less traveled, and I’m terrified of the guilt and regret that may arise in the worst case scenario if I end up working in a job I’m overqualified for after my parents selflessly financed my education.
But I do know that I can pave the way for success for myself while enjoying my life along the way–I didn’t have to endure living in a city I hated to end up in a job in a city I hate.
The best piece of advice I can give you from my recent years in finding my path is to take responsibility of your life. From a girl who’s changed majors at least five times and transferred from a private university to a community college, I cannot be happier with where I am today. I used to feel like I was being shuffled along from point A to point B, my silence affirming my lame complacency. After deciding to take time off to find my path and ultimately transfer to a university in Paris, I don’t feel like I’m being shuffled along anymore. I’m actively choosing where my life will go. I choose to live the life I’ve always dreamed of.
To those of you who are struggling with your own major life decisions right now, I want to forewarn you: everybody and their brother’s mother has their own opinions about what you should or should not do. I remember casually mentioning to a woman who worked at U.S. News & World Report, the organization that publishes rankings of universities every year, that I had chosen to attend my relatively unknown school in Paris over the prestigious and well-endowed university I was offered admission to this past semester. Without having heard any explanation as to why I chose to move abroad, she chastised me for my poor decision and told me it was the wrong choice if I wanted to be successful.
Just because something isn’t “conventional” doesn’t mean it’s not the best choice you’ll ever make in your life. I have several peers who’ve left or transferred schools to pursue dream job opportunities, take time off, or simply withdraw to pursue careers in their true passions of art, music, or technology. You know what’s best for yourself, and no one can predict where your life will go, not college counselors nor our parents nor our peers. If you decide that what’s best for you might be stepping off the path most traveled, you’ll be happier knowing that you are where you are because of your own actions, and not anybody else’s.
Do what makes you happiest, and the rest will fall into place.
I’m going to eat a croissant now.
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