November in Paris is as magical as it sounds … The weather has shifted from fall to winter, and the yellow and red leaves that once lined the sun-drenched boulevard now float on the streets, getting caught in the evening traffic and swirling around until they drop again. The trees stand bare in the crisp November air, but the people still enjoy the golden streets of Paris and the occasional outside seat at a crowded cafe.

Christmas lights complement the winter weather, as wreaths and holly begin to decorate the streets and boulevards. The department stores, small boutiques and Starbucks alike are covered in Christmas cheer – and I am tickled at the feeling of Christmas beginning to creep!

Learning, growing …
In my final weeks in Paris, I look around in awe of the beauty of this city, as well as what I have learned here and how I have grown. I love knowing the curves of the small back streets, the tricks of a good shortcut or the path that I could now do blind on the metro each morning. I love being thought of as almost a regular at my cafe on the corner or being able to give someone directions to their famous destination – even in broken French!

The Seine River never ceases to amaze me – each day as I walk over the bridges with the hustle of hundreds of Parisians going to work, going to play, or just walking because that is what everyone else does – I look at it in calm awe. And each night as I walk back over, I love to admire the lights of Paris restaurants dancing across the lapping water. The faces and joy of excited tourists taking in their first breaths of this city never cease to put a smile on my face.

I love seeing the thrill on people’s faces as they stand in front of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame for the first time. I love walking along the long boulevards, filled with shops selling clothes, furniture, candles, art and books – and getting lost in stores and back streets for hours – only to find the best sandwich shop or unique bookstore, tucked away with more things for sale than you might think possible.

A city like no other
In the last months, I have experienced Paris in more ways than I could have imagined. My memories only start with adventures of climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower (which is higher than you think and scarier than you might be prepared for), sketching in almost every museum Paris has to offer, walking along the Seine more times than I could even imagine to count, reading for hours in bookstores, attending Gregorian Chant Masses in Notre Dame, staying up all night with the rest of Paris on “nuit blanc,” cheering on the France Rugby team with 80,000 fans in the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, traveling to more cities than I can begin to describe, dancing through the true colors of fall, finding the truly best patisseries, learning how to live through many France strikes, spending afternoons jogging in the famous parks of Paris, or just getting lost in the life of this city and never ceasing to be amazed at how incredible this city will always be.

This semester has been eye-opening and heart-changing. I am beyond blessed to experience this at the age I am, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity that Paris has been. I look forward to getting home in only four weeks, but Paris will forever hold a truly dear spot in my heart and my memories. I could never forget these months that I had the ability to live and grow in Paris – a city that never stops, that never calms, that never is anything but incredible …