Don't Forget to Look Up!

When you walk around an American city, do you ever look up? Maybe if birds are overhead so that you are prepared to dodge their bullets. In general, though, I rarely find myself looking up. Since I came to Perpignan, France however, I find myself forgetting to look down.

After being here for almost a week now I have come to realize all the beauty around me. From the pastry shops and cafes at every corner to the bright, multi-colored buildings, there is always something to look at. Even the local stray dogs running around add amusement and character to the city. But these are all the recognizable aspects of Perpignan that most can't miss. The real beauty, for me, is often hidden, and it's sometimes just overhead. Luckily for me, I was able to discover this quickly.

On our second night in France, my teachers and the other fourteen students studying abroad with me took a short stroll around the town. One of my teachers, Florence Delseny Sobra, who was born and raised in Perpignan, pointed out different qualities of the town. When she told the group to always look up while in France, I gained a whole new perspective on the city. I noticed gargoyles on top of roofs, colorful tiles underneath balcony floors, three-dimensional paintings on the top of what use to be bare walls, and even a little crafted ship gracefully propped atop a building. It was all so unique, nothing you could ever see back home in America. The architecture is also outstanding. There are domes and decorated columns around the city. Again, these details aren't necessarily right in front of you, but are noticeable if you just tilt your head back a bit.

I'm sure I haven't seen all there is to see in the quaint city and probably never will. But while I'm here, I plan to take in as much as I can. It's funny how the first big lesson I learned could possibly be one of the most important lessons of all on this trip, especially since it could apply anywhere. Now I know to take the time and look around me when traveling so that I don't miss a thing. I encourage you to do the same; don't forget to always look up!

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.