Volunteering in Paris
By Aparna Nutakki, ’14
While I was studying abroad in Paris during Autumn 2013, I volunteered at Générations 13, a senior citizen association. My main interest in volunteering stemmed from realizing that traveling not only offers a chance to see new places, but the opportunity of meeting and understanding new people with different (or similar!) ideas, values, and practices. I went to the senior association once a week as an English conversation tutor. During these sessions, I encouraged the students (as they liked to call themselves) to speak in English about topics such as their past, their daily activities, their favorite places in Paris, their travels, and more. We also watched American television shows in order to improve their English comprehension. As the program progressed, I became very attached to the students, and was even invited to dine at one of their homes. Although I was their “teacher,” it seemed like I was learning more about French customs from them. Having the autonomy (and ample time) to become familiar with Paris itself, coupled with integrating myself within the French society, gave me a sense of comfort and pride that I was actually living there. Lastly, it allowed me to reflect on the differences between my lifestyle and those in Paris, thus further broadening my knowledge as well as inculcating more enthusiasm in traveling and meeting new people.