Friday the 13th is now one of those days that when mentioned in 20 years will trigger the question, “where were you when it happened?” Much like 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London, the recent events in Paris will be remembered as attacks that changed the world. I will remember it as the Friday evening I had drinks with my course mates to discuss our internships for our year abroad in the French capital.
As our Parisian friends checked in as safe on Facebook and our BBC News apps erupted with shocking statistics, our excitement-ﬁlled plans of a year spent in the city of light were silenced. What happens for us now remains to be seen. With thousands from the UK choosing to do their year abroad in Paris, it’s not surprising that the prospective students for next year are starting to reconsider their plans. No statement has been made by the university or the British government suggesting that our impending move will be disallowed, but, naturally, everyone is wondering.
With Hollande trying to extend France’s national state of emergency to three months, questions are being asked. It is no secret that Cameron wants to increase Britain’s military presence in Syria and with more and more airstrikes over Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold, Western troops on the ground seem like the next inevitable step.
I can hardly deny romanticising my year abroad in Paris. I have spent most of my grammar classes daydreaming of afternoons in the Louvre, fresh croissants and wearing black polo neck jumpers all year around. My rose-tinted view is the result of a life in which Paris has always been the land of liberty, creativity and joie de vivre. The land of weekends with Mickey Mouse, cinema from the Left Bank and boat trips on the Seine. My romantic arrogance was heightened by a blissful week drinking cocktails on the lawn by the Eiﬀel Tower with one of best friends, Marie. For so long, a year on the other side of the channel seemed like a dream.
Yet, as I watched the BBC report from the quaint café-lined streets, the illusion was well and truly shattered. My heart broke for those brutally murdered whilst innocently going about their daily lives in restaurants and theatres. In the space of seconds, Paris became a war zone with random citizens murdered for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On our TV screens, our Facebook timelines and our Twitter feed, we watched an attack not only on a city but on a nation’s way of life. I couldn’t help but selﬁshly wonder how I’d have coped in the hullaballoo of it all. I couldn’t help but think of the foreign students in Paris with few people to turn to in the chaos.
As much as it pains me to say it, I’m now fearful of what my year in Paris might bring. I’ve had multiple friends contact me asking if I still really want to go. “Why don’t you think about university in Canada?” one friend asked, while another highlighted the merits of studying in historically peaceful Switzerland. I’m pretty sure my mum would be quite content if I told her I was changing my plans and going home for the year.
Nevertheless, the general consensus among my Paris-bound friends is that “it will be ﬁne” and that we are going, sans doute. I have spoken to my friends in France and with every conversation, I am moved by their deﬁance and strengthened resilience.
“Paris is still a beautiful city with good people,” one friend said, “and they will never take that away from us”. They will continue to chat over coﬀee on street corners, they will continue to walk along the Seine on a warm Friday evening and we will too.
As obvious as it seems to point out, if we falter and refuse to go, evil has won. If we jeopardise our freedom in the name of security, they’ve succeeded in creating their Utopian society. It’s this climate of fear in which terrorism, extremism and despotism will ﬂourish. We will not let them take our opportunities. Même pas peur.
If you are feeling affected by the events in Paris and would like to talk, you can register through SID for an appointment with the Wellbeing service.