"Everything reminds me of the fact that I am in Paris"Gabrielle Brucciani

As a third year MMLer, I start this article with the well-rehearsed line: I am currently on my year abroad. Yep, I’m one of those people who keep flooding your Instagram with pics of pretty places and yummy pastries. You know the type. I have spent four months studying in Bologna, Italy and am now in Paris doing an internship in Financial Advisory. Why am I telling you this? Because for the sake of the article it’s important to understand that I am not in the ‘Cambridge bubble’, instead I am sat with a view of the Eiffel Tower in a café full of fake plants.

Why is this last little detail significant? Location, location, location. As I sit in this café, French chatter in the background and Macron’s face on the TV, everything reminds me of the fact that I am in Paris. There is even a picture of a croissant on the wall. The whole place screams France without the faintest whisper of Cambridge. Yes, I get the odd moment of FOMO or the occasional pang of jealousy as I see my friends having fun together (thanks Instagram), but it’s rarely more than fleeting. It seems that as I have been living abroad, I have also been forgetting Cambridge.

“Living la dolce vita in a new city that I absolutely love has helped me realise that I don’t actually like Cambridge as a place as much as I thought I did”

I went back to Cambridge for a long weekend in November. I loved seeing everyone and finally getting to have a proper catch up, but as they began talking about “Cambridge things” I didn’t really feel like I was missing something. It was an unsettling feeling and I felt a little guilty. I had loved living in Cambridge and your years at university are supposed to be the best of your life. As my friends carried on living the uni experience at home, why didn’t I feel a sense of loss for not being there? I still want to spend time with them, and I still miss them, but I don’t miss Cambridge in the way that I thought I would.

My first instinct is to say that I have gone into survival mode. If I were constantly thinking about Cambridge and home, I would have cried enough tears to fill a swimming pool by now. I have pushed them back into a corner of my mind and focused instead on what was around me. As Lao Tzu says: “if you are at peace you are living in the present”. To be “at peace” therefore, I have been trying to focus on the present which, like it or not, comes at the expense of thoughts of Cambridge.

It was hard at first: I didn’t feel like making new friends because it reminded me that I was missing my friends back home. I wanted to explore my new home with them, not with a bunch of people that I had just met. But making new friends doesn’t mean forgetting the ones that you already have. Everyone knows this in their head but sometimes the heart just doesn’t listen. Fortunately, persistence is the key and soon I had a second group of best buds.

“My little taste of life outside of the bubble has been a breath of fresh air and a well-timed reminder that the bubble is not everything”

I also realised that I was failing to make an important distinction between ‘Cambridge-place’ and ‘Cambridge-people’. I could miss the people without missing the place, just as our friendship didn’t rely on the place to keep it alive. Living la dolce vita in a new city that I absolutely love has helped me realise that I don’t actually like Cambridge as a place as much as I thought I did. When I went back in November, I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place as I wandered through the colleges. Cambridge isn’t my home right now, Paris is. I can feel just at home abroad as I can in Cambridge, a reassuring thought for when I will have to leave for good.

Working rather than studying is proving to be a refreshing change. At the time of writing, I am barely a week into my internship so maybe my stance on this will change, but so far I am enjoying it. I like the structure, I like having my work place away from my living space and I like working on something that will actually be used by other people. Some extra income is always a bonus (newsflash, just being alive is expensive folks). Constraints on my time are something that I’m a little less fond of but it’s been good for teaching me how to stick to a routine, a skill that I hope to use in my fourth year.


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My little taste of life outside of the bubble has been a breath of fresh air and a well-timed reminder that the bubble is not everything. There is a life outside of it that is neither scary nor dull but actually pretty nice. I have not lost my Cambridge friends like I was scared I might , nor have I been unable to cope with basic things like renting a flat. Cambridge is pretty nice, but I like it outside the bubble too.

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